Day 130: May 10, 2014

Today's Reading(s)

Romans 5:1-5
1 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, 4 endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. 5 This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.



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Suffering Produces Endurance, Character and Hope
by Gayle Haywood, Senior Adult/Congregational Care Minister, Brentwood Campus

Paul begins this third passage on the purposes of suffering with words of encouragement. He reminds us that once we were out of touch with God and had lost our rightful relationship. But even worse, it had become a relationship of enmity and hostility. Because we as sinners refused to acknowledge God’s laws, we were actually fighting against Him.

But God took the initiative to break the deadlock. He established a new relationship with us through Jesus Christ, His Son. We who were once enemies are now friends. Through Christ, a new relationship of peace is possible. We have been justified or acquitted, declared righteous, through Jesus’ death for our sins and in our place. Believers are now reconciled, through grace, into a love relationship with God with no barriers between us. We are now in a place of undeserved privilege and peacefulness.

Christ has also given us access to God through faith. And if that isn’t enough, we can now glory in tribulation, not because we are martyrs, but because we know God is using hardships to produce endurance, character and hope in us.

For character to be revealed it must be tested and proven. God works to develop character qualities and virtues that will strengthen the believer and draw them closer to Him. The result is a fortified hope in God and His promise. We have this confidence because He has poured out love through His Holy Spirit, who constantly encourages us in our hope.

The journey of a disciple is not always an easy one. To safely navigate precarious spiritual terrain, we must know the pitfalls and what to expect along the way. Paul explains a very difficult concept. It is a two-sided reality.

One, we are complete in Christ. Our acceptance is secure in Him. Two, we are growing in Christ, becoming more like Him. In this two-sided reality, we feel the presence of Christ and the pressures of sin. We have the status of kings, but the duties of slaves. We have peace with God but face daily problems that help us grow.

If we remember these two dimensions of the same coin, we cannot grow discouraged as we face hardships, suffering, and problems. We’ll learn to depend on the power of Christ through His Spirit and bask in God’s love poured out through His Holy Spirit. We can rejoice in these things, knowing God is disciplining us for greater holiness.

As I reflect on the purposefulness and value of adversity, I wonder if the person who penned the slogan, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” had read Romans 5. This catchy slogan reminds me that life is sometimes sour and tart, but I do not have to be bitter and resentful. I can choose my attitude. I can choose to make a bad situation better and relish and enjoy life’s lemonade instead.

Two people can face the same situation but have entirely different responses. One can be driven to despair and the other to triumphant action. Theologian Kenneth Barber says, “The tutelage of suffering fits us for God’s eternal fellowship.”

May we be good students by acknowledging God’s presence and purposes, while allowing Him to change our perspective on any given situation. It is impossible to stand in the presence of God and be a pessimist. Very simply put, “No God – no peace. Know God – know peace.”

Praxis

  1. Can you recall a time when life gave you lemons? How were you able to make lemonade? Share your experience with someone who may be thirsting for encouragement and relief today.
  2. What kinds of things make you joyful? Sing a song of joy and praise to God.
  3. Write a brief paragraph on how suffering for Christ has produced character changes in you, or perhaps what changes you would like to see developed within you. Remember, we are a work in progress.
  4. Write a prayer of thanksgiving. Thank God for the opportunity to grow and to deal with suffering and adversity in His strength. Ask God to help you endure, build your character and live in hope. 

About JourneyOn Today

Today's devotional series accompanies the Spiritual Practices Foundations Curriculum which deals with 24 different spiritual disciplines. We will break for an Advent series in December and continue the second half of Spiritual Practices during the first quarter of 2015.