These past few weeks have been difficult in many ways for our church and community. We have had youth involved in accidents and three deaths in our church. Jason and I have made numerous hospital visits, and he has had a part in all three funeral services. Not to mention those dealing with family struggles, job issues, and financial challenges. With the weight of the world on top of us, we can feel as though there is no hope. There is hope in Christ, however. There is hope in the Scripture. In times like these, we must confess our need for the Savior, our comforter, and our friend.
I was reminded by my dear husband through one of the funeral messages that there is not just one verse of Scripture to turn to during these times of hurt and pain. All of God’s Word is a source of comfort and encouragement. This is incredibly true. I want to share a particular passage, however, from Romans that holds the key to where our hope is found. Romans 5:1-5 reads, “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Also through Him, we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” I do not know about you, but these verses bring me to tears. It’s almost like sitting in our Father’s lap as He holds us, strokes our hair and speaks these words of truth over us.
Paul is proclaiming to the church at Rome that salvation comes through faith alone in verses one and two. We can only be made righteous and enter heaven through trusting in Christ by faith. Christ is the difference in our eternal destination. Paul is inspired to make this clear because there were many who believed that it was faith plus something else that restored one’s relationship with God. The Jews were constantly focusing on their works as a way of pleasing God. Not just here in Romans, but in many of his letters to churches, Paul establishes through the power of the Holy Spirit that is by Christ that we have righteousness, peace with God, access to grace and hope for the coming glory of God which is eternity in heaven.
I love that God does not skip over the obvious trials of a life on earth. In verse three, Paul is prompted to pen that we should also rejoice in our afflictions. This is a wonderful verse to quote when the seas are calm, but we usually refrain from saying such things before people who are broken and weary from the fight. Yet, those are the very times when such words are needed. God is not neglecting the hurt or pain of our circumstances. He is reminding us that they do have a purpose no matter how difficult it may be to see it at the time. We rejoice in our pains because we know that God will use them for our good. Not that He has caused them, but that He has allowed them. He is in control. Verse three continues by telling us the result of afflictions. They produce endurance. Afflictions result in the ability to bear them. We are able to continue to last, with patience, through hard times. That endurance, in turn, breeds proven character. The implication of the word character in Greek is trustiness. Our character is proven to be trustworthy. We are found reliable, solid and blameless because we have been refined by fire. Isaiah 48:10 says, “Look, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” The impurities of our lives have been burned away leaving only a clean heart.
We go through trials, and the result is the ability to endure them while proving ourselves trustworthy. Finally, Paul says, through inspiration, that the ultimate effect of afflictions is hope. A proven character produces hope. Again, I am no Greek scholar, but the word hope that Paul chooses denotes an expectation and a confidence. We are able to have faith in what God will do because we have seen what He can do. I could give numerous examples of God’s faithfulness in mine and Jason’s life. He has come through on every occasion without fail in spite of the doubt I may have had sometimes. He has provided for us, allowed us to be a part of His amazing ministry, and sustained us no matter the circumstances. The previous victories of the Lord in our lives should allow us to have confidence in our current time of struggle and the unknown. I adore the beginning of verse five: “This hope does not disappoint…” God does not let us down. We have to remember how Paul began here. He began by affirming that our hope was in the glory of God. We have eternal security and a restored relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Christ is our ultimate hope. We can not rely on this world to provide solace of any kind. We were created for eternity not earth. Thus, the greatest demonstration of God’s faithfulness was through giving His son Jesus Christ to die for our sins as a means of bringing us back to Himself.
The passage closes with the reason that this hope, though born of suffering, does not disappoint: “…because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (verse 5b) Do not forget that God loves us. In the beginning, He created mankind to be with Him always (i.e. the Garden of Eden). When that relationship was broken because of sin, God did not abandon us. He pursued us through the cross of Christ. He sent His only son so that we would have a means of restoration, sanctification, and glorification. We would have peace with Him. We would be righteous before Him through the blood of Christ. We would have eternal life. After Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension, again, He does not forsake us. He sends the comforter; the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). God has given us Himself over and over again throughout time. He has continually poured His love out on our hearts. We need only to receive the love and comfort He provides. We can trust Him with our lives.
I do not know what difficulties you may be going through or what burdens you may be carrying, but let me remind you, ever so gently, that Christ is there. He is our only hope. He is the one we can put our confidence in. We can trust Him through the valley we are in. He will build us up and take us home. May you find favor with God this week as you renew your relationship with the one who gave it all for you. Be blessed.