THE JOURNEY 1/26/2020
In the same way that an attorney double-checks pertinent facts and strategy before heading to court, or a business owner takes the time to thoroughly evaluate resources before an expansion, or even like the soldier who makes a last-minute check of his weapons in anticipation of an imminent battle…the great Apostle draws from his experience to remind us to acquaint ourselves with a group of assets and practices essential to our success, which he outlines in the first five verses of Romans chapter five.
First of all, let’s remind ourselves of four critical assets that our faith in Christ has given us:
*Justification– “right standing with God”
*Peace with God- “not a truce but a treaty” we are no longer at odds with Him!
*Access to grace- His favor and provision are ours to enjoy.
*Rights of participation- sharing in His glory now and forever are to be considered as our heritage.
And then, following those four he adds a word of instruction based on what he has learned from his journey. We didn’t see this one coming…
*Glory in your sufferings- This unexpected piece of advice prods us to grow beyond the “why me” attitude and encourages the adoption of a more trusting and forward-looking attitude that asks instead, “what can this produce in me?”
The reason this is such an important topic is that an uninformed believer is likely to fall prey to the deception that opposition or persecution has occurred because we’ve missed the will of God or that He is displeased with us in some way and that He has, as a result, departed from us. This can lead to bitterness and even anger at God!
In verse 3, the unsettling phrase we read as… “tribulations” or “suffering,” actually translates as…“pressure”, “oppression,” “anguish,” “adversity,” “affliction,” “squashing,” “squeezing” or “distress”.
This word was commonly used to describe the crushing effect of presses designed to obtain oil from olives and juice from grapes.
Paul was not alone in his teaching on the subject. The Lord Jesus, Peter, and James all left us with words confirming the same concept (John 16:33, I Peter 4:12-16, James 1:2-4).
We would be wise to consider these “un-welcome” aspects of life on planet Earth as potentially powerful catalysts in our development as followers of Christ, instead of automatically bemoaning them as confusing interruptions and hindrances to what, in our opinion, is what a believer’s life is supposed to be.
If you’ve stuck with me this far, you may have gotten the impression that becoming a Christian is simply a quick way to raise your misery index! But nothing could be further from the truth!
The big story here is not what may occasionally happen “to” us but what is happening “in” us!
There are two points of understanding that I feel are critical to being able to benefit from life’s “ups” and “downs”!
#1 I need to accept the fact that peace with God does not always equate to peace with a man! When Jesus informed the disciples that they were not of this world even though they were still in it, He was letting them know that the culture of the unbelieving world is largely antagonistic toward the Kingdom of God. Vastly different perspectives and priorities are the results of the clash between a Holy Spirit initiated mindset and that of the unredeemed and often demonically inspired human mind. These drastically divergent worldviews set the stage for the inevitable conflict. (Ephesians 6:12)
Jesus made the point that by saying “if they have hated Me, they will also hate you also”. Our takeaway in all this is to not be shocked when it happens but to approach life with an understanding and awareness of the type of conflict we are engaged in and deal with it accordingly.
The original use of the word “access” offers a word-picture worth remembering as we seek to engage God’s grace to meet the many challenges life brings our way. Originally, “access” was used to describe the process of “bringing a ship to a landing by stages.” This process always requires practice, patience, and trust!
Look at the process as Paul lays it out…
Scripture is telling us that as we deal with “tribulation,” we need to be armed with the knowledge that grace is available to see us through the trial and produce some by-products that need to be added to our walk with the Lord!
An essential “by-product”, that He desires to develop in us is called “perseverance” which is defined as a “steadfast or patient endurance or the state of “remaining under without running.” At this stage, most of us need to know that there will be a return on our investment, or we will be likely to focus the vast majority of our attention on removing the source of the pain and frustration or just running from it!
Then as we develop the trait of perseverance, it matures and builds a quality in our lives known as ”character,” which is defined as “tested value or integrity.” An unknown writer described the process this way;
“Putting up with more than you should become more than you are.”
Then, moving past that milestone, we will find ourselves beginning to experience the enviable state of heart and mind called “hope.” Here we begin to experience what is defined as; “a confident, pleasurable expectation based on a solid certainty.” Having seen the results of “accessing” God’s grace at every stage along the way it greatly benefits our mindset as we face the future.
“And hope does not disappoint”… this process produces a kind of experience with the love and power of God that removes much of the anxiety normally encountered in the inevitable ups and downs of life!
It’s here that we realize that our scars are worth more than we had ever thought possible! They declare that we have survived and served as constant encouragement to others that they can do likewise!