How would you respond to these kinds of life-changing moments? Or if one of these did happen to you, how did you respond? Did this incident bring out the best or the worst in you?
If you've never gone through trials or difficulty, it may be easy for you to think that there's nothing to it. That somehow you will remain strong and persevere through the storm. But for many, it turns their lives upside down. I think all of us would agree that, if given the choice, we would most likely avoid these situations as much as humanly possible. These are never easy circumstances to go through emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually.
The question, however, is why? Why do we go through these struggles? The simple answer is sin. Because of sin, the world has been thrown into disarray. It seems odd that a single decision back in the Garden of Eden actually would do more than change the relationship dynamic between God and man. It affected the whole world, man and beast, ground and sky, everything created by God's hands.
As a result of this "disarray," we can respond in one of four ways. We can let the circumstances of sin, that has permeated the world, paralyze us and cause us to fear and despair and do nothing. We can also respond by ignoring all the bad stuff that is going on and live in ignorance. Or we can choose to hope in something, anything, that makes us feel better about our situation (this can be seen as false hope in money, career, fame, power, etc.) and our lot in life. Or we can put our hope in the One who can rescue us from our dilemma.
I believe God has a purpose for taking us through these difficulties in life. Not to dig too deep into this theologically... Though I believe that there are those that God has predestined to receive mercy, this goes far beyond my understanding. This is my feeble attempt at understanding and explaining God's purpose. God already knows our circumstances, our beginning and our end, and how we'll respond. Part of the reason God uses these events in our lives is to test us and let us see how we'll respond. Will we turn to Him by faith? Will we seek His answer for our problems? Will we truly follow Him, even if it doesn't make sense to us on a human level? These are certainly questions to consider. In the text below, I believe we'll see another purpose in God's plan.
Previously, throughout Romans, we have seen how God has brought us into a relationship with Him through His Son Jesus. We learned we are justified by faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross and not by anything we did. Jesus took our sin and gave us His righteousness so that we can be made right before the Father. Among the many other lessons Romans has taught us so far, we also see that God has given us a precious gift by including us as heirs in the promise of His Son. So now we take a look to see how else this truth is manifested in our lives.
Peace and Joy
1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through 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. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10For 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! 11Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Going back to our discussion regarding the trials we endure because of sin (as I mentioned at the beginning of this post), we need to understand another important concept here in regards to the consequence of sin. Something that goes beyond the disasters and tragedy we discussed. One particularly dismal consequence is that we became enemies of God. It's true! In verse 10 of this text, Paul says, "...when we were God's enemies..."
An amazing thing happened though. Despite our rebellion, despite our sin, and even despite ourselves, God brought peace between Him and us through Jesus. Undeserving as we were, God gave us the faith in order to be justified and to gain access to His grace - unmerited favor! He brought us into a new relationship whereas we can now be at peace with God. How can we not be in awe of this kind of love that God has shown for us? Verse 2 says "we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God."
But then Paul says something very peculiar. He says, "...we also rejoice in our sufferings." How does that even make sense? On the surface, it does seem to run counter to common sense. But just as earthly parents allow a baby to cry, or a son to learn how to deal with a bully, or a daughter to learn she can't always have her way, our Heavenly Father allows circumstances and events in life to occur in order to teach us something. Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
For the believer, Romans 8:28 is an amazing promise. Consider how God accomplishes this. In the text above, in verses 3 through 5, Paul says, "...that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. 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." Does anyone enjoy suffering? Of course not. However, if we look forward to how God can use those circumstances in our lives (for the good of those who love him,) we know that there is a far greater reward when we endure and persevere: God pours out His love into our hearts! So when He accomplishes this by giving us the Holy Spirit, we can then say we have hope.
Paul, of course, takes the time to help us understand this a little better. In verses 6-11, Paul seems to explain again what God has done for us here. While were were yet powerless, Christ died for us - the ungodly (verse 6). And in case we somehow think that this was no big deal, Paul emphasizes in verse 7 that though "very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man...for a good man someone might possibly dare to die." The point is, none of us were good. (Romans 3:12 "They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”) But then Paul exclaims that even after all of this, that "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Isn't that amazing?!?!
The last part of the text seems to expand on the hope that we now have in Jesus. "9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10For 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! 11Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." Think about this. Paul's saying that on one hand, we have been justified by Christ's death. Reconciled through His death even! But then Paul says that even more than the death on the cross, there's the fact that we will be saved through His life! That is no small thing. Paul points out the only obvious response that we can have, since there's really nothing we could have done to contribute to this anyway, is to REJOICE! Rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, the One who reconciled us to God the Father!
Now I ask you, is there hope in tragedy? Is there anything to look forward to when life seems to be falling apart? There may even be other questions on your mind. Like, does it seem fair that one person should experience heartache and pain when another seems to coast along in life? On a human level, there will always be these kind of questions and very few answers. But that's why faith is what it is. Faith is believing in God and placing your hope in His Son Jesus, when what you see seems to contradict hope. Let me reassure you, if you don't have faith in Jesus, you don't have hope. Hebrews 11:6 says, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." Him being Jesus! So, if you do have Jesus, let me then encourage you...THERE IS HOPE!