“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through 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.” Romans 5:1-2; Lent 3; March 15, 2020
A man approached a little league baseball game one afternoon. He asked a boy in the dugout what the score was. The boy responded, “Nine to nothing—we’re behind.”
“Boy”, said the spectator, “I’ll bet your discouraged.”
“Why should I be discouraged?” replied the little boy. “We haven’t even gotten up to bat yet!”
Hope…that’s what this little boy had. He had hope, and it is hope that carries us on in the face of some of the most difficult circumstances in the world. Dale Carnegie, the pioneer in public speaking, once said, “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all. The poet, Emily Dickinson wrote, “Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tunes without words, and never stops—at all.” (It sings the tunes without words and never stops at all.) That’s hope. Maybe you have seen hope on the face of a loved one. It’s an inspiration to everyone around.
In our text from the book of Romans, St. Paul writes about the joy of Christian hope. It is the fuel that keeps us going against some of the greatest obstacles of life. Satan, this dark world, and our own sinful flesh keep presenting obstacles in the path of life, and St. Paul encourages the Roman Christians to stand firm in faith, and hold fast to that blessed hope.
As St. Paul wrote this text to the Roman Christians there were a great number of things that were trying to tear away this hope from people’s hearts. First, opposition to the Christian faith was on the increase. Satan had deluded the Roman emperor, Nero, into believing that the Christians were the cause of problems in their empire. By the time that this letter was written in 57 AD Christians were beginning to face imprisonments, beatings, and even death in Rome. More and more persecutions were to come in the years ahead. And Paul, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit wanted the people of God to be prepared.
But, there were other things to be sure, pressures in society to give in to the pagan ways of life seemed to be on the increase. It seemed easier to be sure to live like the rest of the world, than to live as a Christian. There were less hassles, less troubles. In addition, at times, the Christians in Rome had a hard time getting along with each other. Particularly troubling was the relationship between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians. The Jewish Christians felt that they were more deserving of a close relationship with God, because they had the Old Testament heritage, and the Gentile Christians felt that the Jewish Christians were going about this relationship with Christ in the wrong way.
Arguments and factions within the church, the allures of a more fashionable lifestyle in high society, the fears of what others might say or do to us, when they know that we are Christians. These all sound pretty familiar don’t they? Sometimes these roadblocks have a way of trying to take the wind out of our sails. But, Paul would say to the Roman Christians and to us as well. Stand firm. For your hope is not based on thin air. This is not a “pie in the sky” kind of hope. It is hope based on the certainty of Jesus Christ.
We have hope first and foremost, because of the grace of God, in Jesus Christ, who came to this evil world precisely because it was filled with sin. He came to save sinners. He came to a world full of emperors who stood opposed to Him. He came to people who loved their sinful lifestyles, and wanted others to join in with them. He came to people who hated each other, and fought each other tooth and nail, and yet they were blood brothers and sisters. He came to a world literally sick with sin, spiritually blind, and enemies of God. And yet, he didn’t turn His back on them. He had compassion on them and He has compassion on us. The book of Hebrews tells us, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning it’s shame, and sat down and the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” We have hope because of Jesus Christ.
Just look at the way He spoke to the woman at the well. He didn’t come to the well to condemn her. It’s clear that He came to save her. He pointed out that He knew about her adulterous life, but He had compassion on her. He pointed out that faith in Him, was “the spring of water welling up to eternal life” The same can be said for the way he dealt with Nicodemus, and the tax-collector Zaccheus, and all of the rest who knew Christ in the Bible. He took their burdens and placed them on His shoulders, and took them to the cross. Isaiah writes of Him, “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”
In Christ, we are healed. We are forgiven. We are made whole. We are justified, in Christ. And that gives me hope. As your pastor, it is my calling to remind you that we have hope in every circumstance of life. It is not just my job. It is what God has called me to. And I believe it with all my heart. There have been times when I have struggled, when there has been some type of crisis or trial in my life or the life of our church. But, God has always provided the inspiration at just the right time. It’s hard for me to even count the number of times I have opened the Bible to read and it brings comfort and hope for just the exact problem that I had. And now it is perfectly timed to speak to us for this corona virus emergency.
But, this is not just “Why I have hope.” It is why each of you has hope in every circumstance of life. God will provide for you because of Jesus Christ. Do you have problems in your classroom? Problems in your school? Problems at work? Problems in your community? Problems with your children, or your parents? Problems in your marriage? Problems in your church? God will provide exactly the right remedy. Have you brought the problem to Him? I remind you are precious to Him, through faith, in the power of baptism. He will provide.
God will provide for you even when you are suffering and troubled in life. That is why St. Paul writes, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, and 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.” Are you suffering or troubled right now in life? Maybe you know someone who is? Remind them to stand firm in faith in Christ. God will certainly provide endurance, character, and hope, that does not disappoint, for you. He will lift you up in due time!
Dear people of God, one of St. Paul’s favorite examples of hope is Abraham. Just right before our lesson to the Romans, Paul said that “ Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations.” Abraham was blessed to be a blessing. And today, it is my prayer that you would take that blessing of hope out into the world, into your homes, and families, in your work place and school, and in your community, so that you would bring a blessing of joyful hope to others.
God grant it…