Going Deeper 6-13-19

The second reading for Trinity Sunday...
Romans 5:1-5  Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

This text starts off with a very positive and joy-producing truth: we are justified-- that is, declared not guilty and gifted with a right relationship with God by faith in Jesus, "through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand."  Beautiful!!  But then the text declares something I find to be incredibly challenging. 

I realize this is radical, but I believe it is quite possible that the greatest weakness of Christians and the church in the western world is that perhaps we simply do not suffer enough.  It seems as though suffering is necessary for the strengthening of our faith.  Suffering launches a process: suffering--endurance--character--hope.  Can we grow without suffering?  It has proven to be difficult for me.

There are some who read this and think: What are you talking about?!  I have had way more than my share of suffering!  And you may be right.  Some people I know and love have had to endure a whole lot more heartbreak, pain, and suffering than I have.  But as a whole-- at least compared to much of the rest of the world, the majority of us have it pretty easy... at least in terms of not having to worry about food, shelter, relative safety, or the threat of being violently persecuted for our faith.  

It may even be true that we have so many material comforts and such a plethora of distractions that it ends up working against us.

I am not suggesting that we hope and pray for more suffering.  It is possible to grow in faith when things are relatively easy and pain-free... it's just a lot more challenging.  But I would suggest (as Paul will write about several times in his letters) that when suffering comes, we can embrace it as bringing with it the potential for important growth.

As the writer of James puts it at the beginning of his letter, "My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing."

With You in Him,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor
Zion Lutheran Church
Wellington, Colorado

"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."