The Best of Things – September 12, 2021
Old Testament, Romans 5:1-11
September 12, 2021
We’ve spent a couple of weeks now in the book of James. And I was considering the next chapter in that book for this week, chapter 4. But as I started to read it, I got only as far as verse two and I read this. “You desire and do not have, so you kill! You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and wage war!” And I thought, “Well, that’s not very uplifting!” Then I got to verse 4, and that started out, “You unfaithful creatures!” And it was about then that I thought it was time to pick another passage! Not that we don’t need passages like that from time to time! And James can be very harsh!
But I got to thinking that we’ve been through a lot the past year and a half with this pandemic. And we’ve said a lot about it. And we need to continue to address it as we move forward. Because there are a lot of things being said about it these days by a lot of people. Some days it seems even the scientists can’t agree. And that can be frustrating! And the whole thing has taken on political overtones, and that can be even more divisive.
So, I don’t think we can talk enough about unity and understanding. Lots of different voices are trying to pull us different ways. And I know it’s hard, but we need to try keep perspective. We need to try to see the big picture. We need to try to hear all sides of the issue. And we need to make informed choices, while at the same time striving to respect the choices and opinions of others. That’s often the hard part, isn’t it? That’s a lot of juggling! But I really believe we need to be doing that!
But in all the uncertainty of our times, I think we need something more. It seems to me that what we need is hope. We need to know that we will get through this. We need to know that, whatever happens, there is a light at the end of that proverbial tunnel. And we are moving towards it! Because, without hope, the uncertainty leads us down the road to despair! And that’s what despair is. It’s the opposite of hope!
So, that’s what I’ve been thinking about this week. And the scripture I felt led to is this wonderful passage from Romans. Listen again to Paul’s words.
“Therefore, since we are justified by Grace through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this Grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” Hear that again! “We rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God!”
We need to have that hope. That’s what helps us move forward in difficult times. And we can move forward, knowing there is glory ahead, not gloom and doom!
I was also thinking this week about one of my favorite movies, “The Shawshank Redemption.” Have you seen it? It’s about two men in prison. It’s about one man, Andy, who was wrongfully convicted, but, despite going through terrible experiences in prison, he kept looking forward. And it’s about his friend Red, who saw nothing more than life behind prison walls. And in the end, Andy wrote these words in a letter to Red, from which I shamelessly stole the title for this sermon today. He wrote, “Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
Do you remember that? I love that line! “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things!” And I wonder how people, without hope, live through tough times – times like these! I’m sure there have been times when we’ve all felt like that during this past year. Or maybe we’ve felt like that during other times in our lives. We’ve all known what it feels like when we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve felt the despair rising within us, when whatever hard times we were going through seemed like they were never going to end. That’s not a good feeling, is it? One of the things I say to people who are going through that is, “It’s not always going to be like this. It feels like it. But it’s not.”
We know what it feels like when our hope is fading. And that’s when we need to go back to this passage. That’s when we need to remember that we do have hope, “hope in sharing the glory of God.”
And that’s one thing we can show the world! Because there are many people out there who have lost hope. Remember the words of Peter. He wrote, “Always be ready to give answer to anyone who asks about the hope that lies within you.” (I Peter 3:15). Notice, it’s not “the faith that lies within you.” That’s another thing. They may or may not see that. You might have to tell them about that. But they will see the hope that lies within you! So, ask yourself, is that hope evident in your life?
I love what Paul said as he continued here in Romans 5. And these are the words that might be familiar to you. “More than that,” he wrote, “we rejoice in our suffering, 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.”
Maybe that should be on our refrigerators during these difficult times! And notice, we don’t just “rejoice in our sufferings.” We’re not some kind of spiritual masochists! We’re not happy when things are all gloom and doom. And there are people who are like that! Maybe you know someone like that! They seem always seem to want to focus on the doom!
But no, we don’t rejoice about our suffering, or because of our suffering. We rejoice even in our times of suffering. We rejoice, because we know, no matter what, that God is with us! We rejoice because suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces strength of character. That’s what Paul means by the word “character.” Endurance produces strength within us. And that strength of character leads to hope. That’s the end result. And we rejoice knowing, that, no matter what, we have that hope of sharing the Glory of God. (I was thinking that “Sharing the Glory” would have been a good sermon title, too!)
So then, do you rejoice, knowing that you have hope in sharing the glory of God? Do you rejoice, even in times of suffering? Do you know that suffering produces endurance, which produces strength of character, which produces hope? And do you know that hope does not disappoint you, because God’s love is not just “given to you,” it has been poured into you through the Holy Spirit?
That’s another reason we come to church. We come to be reminded of that. We come to remind each other of that! No matter what, whether we happen to feel it at any given time or not, God is with us. And we have his hope within us!
Eternal God, we thank you that you have called us, through Grace, to be your people. We thank you that you have poured your love into us through the Holy Spirit. Help us to know, every day, the hope we have in sharing your glory. And we give you all glory, honor, and praise, now and forever, world without end, Amen.