What would life be like if we never had to deal with any hardships? You ever watched Full House? What about Family Matters? During the 80s and 90s, sitcoms followed the following plot line. A character would face a difficult issue, but by the end of the show, it is all worked out and wasn't really that big deal to begin with. Usually a misunderstanding, that was nice and neatly tied up at the end.
What if the life would be like normal, except everything would work out in the end. Of course life is not like that. Because of the fall of man, we have a life that is full of suffering.
Listen to what Paul says in Romans 5:
Rom 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Rom 5:2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
Rom 5:3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; Rom 5:4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. Rom 5:5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (NIV)
Rejoice in our suffering. Perseverance. Character. Hope. Rejoice in our sufferings? Suffering produces perseverance? Perseverance leads to character? And out of all this-we get hope? What does this have to do with the cross?
Paul starts out saying that we have been justified through faith. In other words, we are declared innocent of the sin in us as a result in our faith in God through Jesus Christ. So when Paul says that we can rejoice in our suffering, he is not saying that suffering does not exists. He is not saying that our problems will fade away or that they will simply cease to exist.
So many times, whether through bad theology or through bad teaching people get the suspicion that once you become a believer, everything is going to be okay. There are preachers out there who thrive on a "Health and Wealth Gospel" except they call it living in the abundance and fullness of God's blessing. If you believe hard enough for something to happen that it will. If you have faith in God, you will not suffer. Where do we get that? Where in the Bible does it say that when we become a follower of the Way, that everything will be all peachy keen great? If that is true, then maybe we are all just screwed up. And maybe that is where the sermon should end…
But I don’t think so. I don’t buy into that, and this is why:
Mat 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.(NIV)
Mark 13:13 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.(NIV)
Luke 6:22 Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.(NIV)
Luke 6:27 "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, Luke 6:28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.(NIV)
What are these passages about? They are about suffering. They are about going through hard times. Think about it. Nowhere in what we just read, does Jesus say everything will work out. He doesn't say to live like you want while you follow me. He doesn't say that men will love you because of Jesus. Nor does he say that you will not have enemies. NO! We are going to know suffering. To carry your cross isn't some easy burden because what Jesus is referring to inn Matthew 16:24 is echoed in Romans when Paul says to offer your body as a living sacrifice.
Being a believer means that you are going to suffer. That you will suffer. You will be hated, despised, rejected, abused, shunned, made fun of, etc. Jesus doesn't promise a rainbow in life-He promises that he will see us through the storms of life. In Romans 5:1-5, Paul is saying that even in the midst of the trials that we go through we can have peace and rejoice inspite it. This is reflected in the song "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus."
Let's go back to the chorus of that song....Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace. (Helen H. Lemmel)
When we "look" with our lives upon Jesus-depending on him, totally focused on him for everything. Our sufferings don't look the same. We see things differently. They don't go away necessarily, but we are able to go through them, and as we do-they grow dim for we are allowing Jesus to guide us through them.
Can he do it? Yes, and this is why:
Rom 5:6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Rom 5:7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. Rom 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Rom 5:9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! Rom 5:10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Rom 5:11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.(NIV)
If you believe that Christ can save, then why not believe that he has the power to see you through. I want to invite you, to encourage you to take this in and put it in the front of your mind this week. How can you rejoice in your suffering and it lead to perseverance, character, and then hope? What is one tangible way you can do that to your enemies? Friends? How can you reflect the words of Paul in your life?
All it takes is for you to turn your eyes and look full in his face. Now may you be blessed to experience suffering that enables you to have hope.
So what do you think?