“(1)Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (2) through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (3) And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulations produces perseverance; (4) and perseverance, character; and character, hope. (5) Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
(6) For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. (8) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(9) Much more than, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (10) For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (11) And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” (Romans 5:1-11)
This is a section of scripture that is very timely for me to hear. It is also one I have to really pour myself into the very depths of, to drink up every last drop, and saturate my very soul in the depth of what these few sentences are saying. I want to rush right into the hope spoken about in verse four. I want to go there, grip there, and hold there. But I know if I rush to the hope, and skip over everything else my grip will be weak, my hold will be shallow, and at the first shake I will lose what is in my hands. I need to start at the reason for my hope: reconciliation.
Before I become a Christian I had no clue I needed to be reconciled to God. I had heard Jesus died for my sins, but I didn’t get the whole “wrath averted” aspect of it. It was a very little gesture to me. This was back when I thought I was a good person. I had never killed anyone. I didn’t cheat people. I wasn’t a liar. I didn’t hurt people. I didn’t steal. I didn’t break the law. I worked. I paid taxes. I was a nice person. People seemed to enjoy my company, so why wouldn’t God? I didn’t get it, at all.
I had gone to Church on Sunday since I was a child and I never once heard that I was an enemy of God. No one told me that I was a sinner through and through, and thus I was at war with God. I was on the losing side. No one had ever told me I was deserving of God’s wrath. The anger He poured out on Sodom and Gomorrah, His displeasure that came with the flood, and the righteous fury He will devastate the world with in Revelations is all something I was worthy of enduring. I had earned such treatment. No matter what justifications I could come up with, all of them will fall short of the Glory of God. There was nothing I could do. There is nothing I can say. And it is a terrifying thought to sit in, to look at. To know that I was against God, I was His adversary, I was His enemy. Even though I thought I was good person. Despite all my good deeds and good works I would still be destroyed. I would still endure His wrath.
With that pulsing in my heart I look at the cross with new eyes. I get what Paul was saying in Romans. It is hard to find who will die for a righteous man. Only a very small handful of people would even die for a good man. We all like to say “I’d die for you” to the ones we love. Some actually do this. And we lift those people up, as we should. Jesus commends the giving of our life for a friend. But how many of us would give up our life for our enemy? How many of us would be willing to get tortured, and then put to death for someone you are at war with? Picture your enemy in your mind, bring that person’s face into your mind. The person who hates you, persecutes you, ridicules you, and makes your life a living hell. How many of us would give up everything in our lives to be tortured and put to death so that person could live? I know I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t have the strength. It takes a supernatural strength to do something like that. It takes the Holy Spirit.
Jesus did that for me. I was His enemy. I was at war with Jesus as a non-believer. I was in the crowd shouting “CRUCIFY HIM!” I was the soldier who hammered in the nails. I was one of the guards who held the whip to scourge Him. Judas betrayed Him for 30 silver; I would have done it for less. I know all of this in my heart. Jesus knows all of this about me in His heart. And Jesus thought of me when each one of these happened. He thought of me as He suffered. He suffered each one of these things for me, His enemy. He died the shame of the cross to reconcile me to God, to Himself. So that when I stand before God I do not stand in the shadow of His wrath. Instead I am bathed in the brilliant red light of Christ’s blood. When God looks on me now He sees the righteousness of Jesus because I believed in Jesus and what He did. All the wrath I have accrued, all the wrath I will accrue, was poured out on Jesus on the cross. And Jesus went there willingly in my place, with me in mind, so I wouldn’t have to.
Through my faith in Jesus I am now justified. I am cleansed. I am now at peace with God. I am in His good graces. He poured out His grace on me through His only Son Jesus, and now I am able to be drenched to the core, full up and overflowing with, His grace if I only believe and trust His word. The word above. If I can hold to the truth of the scripture I read today in Our Daily bread. Which is really hard for me considering I am going through the very thing it speaks about in the third verse. My Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is coming back. I have a lot of extreme, intense pain to look forward to. I might lose more nerves in my leg. I might lose my ability to walk again. My foot is already swelling to the point that my shoe is hard to put on. I will again have to be put on morphine, oxycodine, and gabapentin. I will again lose the facilities of my mind. I will again have to rely on other people to take me places because of my inability to drive. I will have to rely on other people to help do every day things. I fear the pain. I am frustrated at the helplessness I know will come. I really don’t want to do this again. I don’t want this tribulation.
But just because I don’t want something doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a purpose and design through it. Jesus didn’t want to be crucified, but God used it to save everyone who believes. I know if I can trust the Bible that the world was made in six days that this should be no problem. To worship God through tribulations does teach me how to persevere. It also gives me a chance to understand a small portion of what Jesus went through. It gives me a chance to draw closer to my Lord and Savior in a way others who don’t suffer can’t. Because when I can’t walk, when I am weak, He is there to carry.
And I don’t know if that will help me build character, but it will help me grow and nurture a relationship with my Father, and with my Savior. It will help me cultivate a prayer filled needful relationship with the Holy Spirit. It will force me to rely on Them, rather than myself. It will give me a more godly aspect to who I am, it will help draw me into Their intimate relationship in a way I couldn’t do if I wasn’t going to go through this again. So maybe that is what Paul is talking about when he mentions character. And if this is what he means he is right when he says this will lead to hope.
Hope is where I want to be. Hope that it will be better. Hope that I will be better, from the inside out. Hope that people will see what the Lord is doing for me on the inside, rather than what I am experiencing in the world on the outside. I have a hope that I can cleave to scripture and the truth of these words and others like that. That when I am at my weakest, Jesus is my strength and He is strong enough. Hope that I can trust in that without faltering and giving into my ‘what ifs’ or the here and now of pain. Hope that my focus can remain vertical on all the good God is doing for me…..and I can shine His glory to the world…..rather than having my focus be horizontal and worldly and glow with the ache of circumstance.