Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Recipe for Hope

More than that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
-Romans 5:3-5

As I pondered over this passage in Romans, it jumped off the page like a step by step recipe for hope! And maybe it was a different read for you, but here's what happened for me.

Step 1:
Rejoice in Suffering. Sounds.... miserable and difficult? Well, yes. And that is why we need the power of the Holy Spirit to produce the fruit of joy through us.... especially when we reach difficult valleys in life. My example of rejoicing in suffering would be not having a current relationship with my dad. For a long time I looked at the "wallet size" picture rather than the "8x10" BIG PICTURE. I can rejoice in the midst of having a dad who chooses not to have a relationship with me, his only daughter, because God was able to use that to draw me closer to him. I now cherish my relationship with my Heavenly Father in ways I would not even be able to imagine if I had a flourishing relationship with my earthly father. So, with God, I have been able to find and experience joy even when circumstances are grim.
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and God rests upon you. -1 Peter 4:13-14
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake. -Philippians 1:29
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. -James 1:2

Step 2:
Endurance. Through suffering, endurance is produced. When I think of endurance, I think of the cross country girls I work with, or my friends who have run half marathons. In order to finish races, endurance is required! Even when the pace is slowed or a run turns to more of a walk, the finish line will be crossed with endurance! To endure is to continue on when it seems difficult or even impossible. Being a wife for only about a year, I am no marriage expert. But, marriage is a great example of a place where endurance is necessary, yet unfortunately not greatly seen in our culture. Hear me when I say, I love being married to my best friend and the love of my life... but it is challenging! And he would tell you the same thing. We have to (and ultimately want to) bear with one another and endure together, no matter what! When you have gone through a period of suffering, endurance is the bi product, because you are then made aware that you can "get through anything!"
But the one who endures to the end will be saved. -Matthew 24:13
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy. -Colossians 1:11

Step 3:
Character. When I hear that word, the descriptive word that comes to my mind is "integrity." A person of character is the same whether in public or behind closed doors, they are often well-rounded individuals (hence their past suffering and endurance), and from my experience, these are the people you want as friends. Those with character, hold themselves to a standard and often times welcome others in keeping them accountable to that. The verses below emphasize the need of God in order to have the kind of character that is referenced in Romans 5. In Deuteronomy, character is tested and seen in obeying God's commandments. In Philippians, character is produced in you by Jesus. Character is not something you can go pick up at your local store. It is developed.... through suffering, endurance, and most importantly the power of God.
Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commandments. -Deuteronomy 8:2
May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation--the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ--for this will bring much glory and praise to God. -Philippians 1:11

Step 4:
Hope. The hope that is produced through character, is that which requires faith. It is the hope in a mighty God who saves! As Christians, we have put our trust in a grace giving God and we have placed our hope and trust in Him. It is an essential part of the Christian faith... being hopeful that God will ultimately save us, renew us, and rise us to life in heaven. And once a person has suffered, endured, and established character, where they place their hope is easily seen.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation at Jesus Christ. -1 Peter 1:13
He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. -2 Corinthians 1:10
For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. -Galatians 5:5

I love the description in Romans 5 after hope is placed. There is no shame for those with this hope!
Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. -Psalm 34:5
Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. -Psalm 119:6

So, after all of that going through my mind.... I rested on the fact that I need the power of the Holy Spirit. I need to rely on God. I cannot possibly rejoice in my sufferings, endure through anything, have the character God desires, or place my hope correctly, without relying on Him alone. In my strength, I cannot do it and neither can you. Stop trying. Trust me, it is freeing!

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