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Hope for the Weak and Wounded

Sermon by David Felker on Mar 9, 2014

Romans 5:1-5

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Please turn with me in your Bibles to Romans chapter 5.  It’s on page 942 in your pew Bible; Romans chapter 5.  And before we read, something to consider - I shared this story a few months ago, but last April, my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and she now comes to Jackson every three weeks and she does her treatment at St. Dominic’s Hospital.  And when she was in town for treatment in January, she did her treatment, and afterwards we were at lunch and she said that as she was leaving the hospital one of the nurses said to her, “Susan, take care of yourself.  Susan, take care of yourself.”  And that’s a phrase that, again, we all say.  But she, in a way that only my mom can say it, she looked at me and she smiled and very much trusting Jesus she said, “I have ovarian cancer.  I cannot take care of myself.  My body is broken, I’m on chemotherapy.  I’m utterly exhausted.  I cannot take care of myself.  I have to have other people take care of me.”  And when she said that, I said, “Thank you, I needed an illustration.”  But that is God’s gift to her that she can see that.  We desperately need other people to take care of us, body and soul.  We need community.  We can’t walk that road alone.

And when you’re in the middle of a great suffering there are just all kinds of things that can happen inside of you, but a big one is that you lose heart and that you despair.  And Paul here, what Paul provides us here in Romans 5 is he says there is hope.  There is one hope that is immune to every illness, every sickness, every sadness.  There is one hope that is outside the range of every weapon and every trial and it’s the hope of glory.  And you see a reference to the hope of glory in verse 2.  Paul says that “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”  Now throughout Romans 1 to 4 Paul has shown that God’s promises are obtained by the empty hands of faith and he has stressed the doctrine of justification.  And he said even in chapter 4 verse 5, “To the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” 

And now in chapter 5 this is a turning point and Paul, he really is, drawing out the implications of that wonderful truth for the believer.  And that is evident, it’s signaled four times by the phrase in chapter 5, “how much more” or “much more.”  He says in verse 9, “Since therefore we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”  He says this in verse 10, “For while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more now that we are reconciled shall we be saved by his life.”  Just over and over.  You see it in verse 15 and in 17 - “how much more.”  And that’s why one commentator said that chapter 5, he titled chapter 5, “The Rich Overflow of Grace.”  And so with that, let’s jump in.  Before we do let’s look to the Lord in prayer.  Let’s pray.

Father, we give You thanks for time together under Your Word.  We thank You for Your promises.  We thank You that You promised that a bruised reed You will not break, that You’d bind up the broken hearted, You heal our wounds, You love the fragile. Father, we pray that You would give us hope as we read Your Word.  Work through my lisping, stammering tongue to glorify Your name and to proclaim the riches of the Gospel.  We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Romans chapter 5.  This is God’s Word:

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  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.”

Amen.

We’re going to look at three things, three aspects of hope that we have here.  First, the source of hope.  Second, the mystery of hope.  And third, the guarantee of hope. 

I. The Source of Hope

And so first, the source of hope, verses 1 and 2.  This passage makes an assumption.  If you look down at verse 1, “Therefore, since we have been justified.”  And so again, the context is that Paul has just explained justification by grace received through the empty hands of faith in chapter 4 and now he’s turning in chapter 5 and he’s communicating the privileges, the benefits that flow from justification.  He’s building on what he has written before. And he’s answering the questions, “How do I know that these things are true for me?  What does it mean to have been justified?  How do I know that God will stick with me, that God won’t give up on me?  Is there a real sense of hope here in justification?”  Everyone wants to know that there’s security and assurance in our relationships.  That’s what Paul is pressing home here.  He’s seeking to give them assurance and security, so that’s the backdrop.

Hope grounded in the Past Benefits of Justification

And Paul here shows us that the source of our hope is grounded in the work of Christ, His entire work, that our hope is grounded in the past, in the present, and in the future benefits of justification.  And so just look with me.  Notice the tenses.  Paul brings us to our past in verse 1.  He says, “We have been justified.”  In verse 2, “We have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.”  And so past, with present and future implications.  But verse 5 he says, “The Holy Spirit has been given to us.”  Then there’s the present, verse 1, “We have peace with God.”  That’s present with of course past, present, and future implications that we have peace with God.  Verse 2, “We rejoice.”  Verse 3, “We rejoice in our sufferings.”  Verse 4, “We suffer, we endure, we grow in character, and then we hope.”  And you see also these future realities.  He says, verse 2, “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God,” and verse 2, “This hope does not put us to shame.”  One commentator said that “to connect these three realities - past present and future - is the key to the Christian life.”  And so let’s just walk through these.

First, you have these past benefits.  He says in verse 2, “You have peace.”  And this is not a subjective experience; this is not a feel.  This is not, “I feel a peace today.  I feel a peace about this.”  This is a peace of status.  This is a justification peace - that God, through Christ, has reconciled us to Himself, that the way between God and me is over.  And we need to hear this because regret can torture us.  That thing in your past that you cannot undo and there’s a heaviness, there’s a weight to it that maybe you did or maybe it was done to you, and we can put our head on our pillow at night with a lot of guilt and a lot of condemnation.  But Paul here says that our past is settled because of what Jesus has done, that the war has ended, that the power of shame is broken, all our guilt is gone, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.  And it’s important for us to remember because all of us are prone to look back at our personal history and to interpret where we have been with a meaning, that our past says something, that it makes us who we are, for good or for bad.  And Paul is saying that in justification Jesus comes along and He rewrites that script and says, “Your past did not mean what you thought it meant.”  That, “Your past, no matter how messy, how broken, how ugly, your past has been healed and brought into a bigger story.”  That there is peace.  And so there’s past benefits.  We have a past hope.

Hope grounded in the Present Benefits of Justification

Then we have present benefits.  Paul goes on to say, “You have access into this grace in which we now,” present tense, “stand.”  So it’s not just for Christians that you have past hope and past benefits, that you have been justified, that you have peace, but verse 2 that, through him, you have now been made to stand immovable in his grace.  Romans 6:14 tells us that “sin will have no dominion over you, for you’re not under law, you’re under grace.” That for the Christian it’s not simply that you have these past benefits but you have been brought now into the favor of God and you will never leave it.  And this is important for us to hear.  For the Christian, you’re not standing on thin ice.  God is not getting tired of you.  It’s not up to your character or your performance. You stand on His merit; you know no other stand.  He will never leave you or forsake you; He will never fail you or forget you.  He will never cease to actively care for you.  He doesn’t slumber or sleep as He watches over you.  There are present benefits.

Hope grounded in the Future Benefits of Justification

And then he moves to the future and he says there are these future benefits and he goes on to say that “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”  Now David Robertson talked about this last week, a little bit, and said that we have this future hope because of Christ’s work.  And it’s a sure hope.  I mean most of us think hope is, “Cross your fingers.  Wish upon a star.”  I hope my team wins.  I hope that when my baby boy is born in a few weeks I’m still going to get some sleep.  That’s what I hope.  I hope that when the college basketball tournament starts in a few weeks, I hope I can fill out a perfect bracket.  We have those hopes, we can have them, we do have them, but there is no certainty that they will come to pass.  Paul is talking about a sure hope.  There is a certainty to what God is doing.  In Hebrews, hope is called “the anchor of the soul,” that it provides security, that it provides security when circumstances are shifting.  Tim Keller defined hope in the Bible.  He said its “life-shaping certainty of what you’re going to have but you don’t have it yet.”  That hope is “life-shaping certainty of what you’re going to have but you don’t have it yet,” that there will be one day, some day, a future restoration, that all things will be made new, all things will be set right.

One of our closest friends lives in Fort Worth, Texas.  Her name is Leigh Anne Salter.  And Leigh Anne’s husband was the RUF campus minister, my wife’s RUF campus minister, when she was a college student at TCU.  And his name was Dustin.  And Dustin died in an accident almost a decade ago now.  And Leigh Anne has been raising these three children, Jacob, Nathan, and Meredith, now for the last eight or nine years.  And they were able to come and they stayed with us over Christmas break, but the last time we were at her house in Fort Worth I looked on her fridge and she had this quote by R.C. Sproul and I wrote it down and he said, “Hope is called the anchor of the soul because it gives stability to the Christian life.  But hope is not simply a wish - I wish that such and such would take place - rather it is that which latches onto the certainty of the promises of the future that God has made.”  And so you see, hope is a powerful thing because it’s not rooted and grounded in circumstances; it’s rooted and grounded in God’s promises, in His faithfulness - past, present, and future.  And so that’s the first thing.  The source of our hope is rooted in the benefits of justification - past, present, future.

II. The Mystery of Hope

The second thing we see is the mystery of hope.  Paul says in verses 3 and 4, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”  Now this is an amazing statement.  I think it’s somewhat of a shocking, surprising statement.  I mean I wonder really how that lands to someone who is experiencing severe pain and severe suffering, that I’m supposed to rejoice in my suffering.  And so what is Paul saying here?  Let’s follow Paul’s logic.  He starts at the end of verse 2 and he says, “We will rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” but then what does that enable you to do, verse 3?  “To rejoice in suffering.”  And then what does that end with, what does that conclude with at the end of verse 4?  More hope.  And so hope in God’s glory is the bookends of suffering with joy.  That hope in God’s glory is the bookends of suffering with joy.  But it’s a mystery.  I mean you would think that Paul would say you hope, you suffer, and not that you would have more hope, you would think of course - you hope, you suffer, you have less hope.  But Paul says the opposite.  So let’s unpack this.

One pastor said suffering, we could define it saying that “it’s favorable circumstances going away.”  That suffering is favorable circumstances going away.  And what the world calls happiness, he said, is “getting control of your life so that you can keep your circumstances favorable.”  But the main point is, Christian hope is not happiness.  And as we see here, it’s not based on circumstances at all.  And so how can you rejoice in your sufferings when your circumstances aren’t favorable?  How can you suffer - how can you hope, suffer, and then have more hope?  And I think our answer is in verse 11.  Paul says that “we rejoice in God.”  And that’s important because God is not subject to or enslaved to circumstances.  That Christian hope, unlike worldly happiness, not only can be maintained when our circumstances aren’t what we want them to be, but it actually grows according to Paul.  And that’s because suffering drives you to God.  Suffering, in suffering, you’re forced to go after the feast that your soul really longs for and really needs.  There’s one minister named Burk Parsons and he said, “We run to God in the midst of a trial only to learn that He was the one who sent the trial that we might run to Him.”  That “we run to God in the midst of a trial only to find He was the one who sent the trial that we might run to Him.”

Suffering yielding to Rejoicing

Now I think that we would all say, “I want to run to God.  I want endurance, I want character, I want hope.  I want these things but on the condition that I don’t have to suffer.”  And the challenging thing to us is that’s the very condition that Paul is laying down.  The way that you get these things, the way that you get these precious gifts, I mean they’re so valuable - endurance, character, hope - they’re so valuable, they’re worth so much, but the way that you get them is through suffering.  And the thing that we want the least is to suffer.  I mean we want comfort, smooth sailing, predictability.  We want the life that we’ve constructed in our dreams.  But what’s the reality?  The reality is, as Wiley prayed, everyone bumps into suffering, everyone experiences sadness, no one is bullet-proof.  Everyone experiences suffering and it hurts, it wounds, it’s painful, it’s lonely, it will come unannounced, unexpected, it will be inconvenient and it will be life changing.  You will be going along in life and, maybe as a parent, you get a phone call from a child who has experienced something traumatic.  Or maybe you will get a phone call from a parent who will tell you to sit down so they can talk to you about your bloodwork.  Or your family will fall apart.  And the pleasure, the joy, is not in the suffering itself.  Paul is not saying rejoice for your suffering, but he’s saying rejoice in your suffering.  The joy, the delight, the rejoicing, is in what God is doing in it as you run to Him.

A couple of years ago it was my last year in seminary and Guy Waters preached on this text at RTS chapel.  And he said, I still remember, he said, “Suffering is the laboratory of glory.”  Suffering is the laboratory of glory.  And that gets at what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4 that “our light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory.”  You see what Paul’s saying?  He’s saying that suffering and glory, I mean he’s not merely contrasting them, but he’s saying they’re actually married, that suffering and glory are interrelated and inter-connected; they’re interdependent according to Paul and that’s the idea - that you can’t compare what you will be, the beauty, the glory that you will have in the future, in the long future, to what you’re going through here.  God loves us enough to bring the changes that we need, to burn the dross away as we run to Him.  1 Peter chapter 1 verse 7 says, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while if necessary you have been grieved by various trials” - why?  He says, “so that the tested genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that perishes, though it’s tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Last time I preached here a few months ago I opened with an illustration, it was an SEC football illustration, and so here’s a “Downton Abbey” illustration for you.  We’re balancing it out here.  Earlier this season, if you’re a “Downton Abbey” fan, there was a powerful scene that involved two of our favorite characters.  I mean, who doesn’t like Mr. Bates and Anna?  And it was a powerful scene and it was a scene where Anna came to Mr. Bates and she had been afraid, she had been frightened of how he would respond because she was the victim of a terrible trial; she was the victim of abuse.  And she finally goes to him and she tells him what happened and she says to him, “I am spoiled for you and I can never be unspoiled.”  And her husband, Mr. Bates, replies, “You are not spoiled.  You are made higher to me and holier because of the suffering that you’ve been put through.  You’re my wife and I have never been prouder, nor loved you more than I love you now in this moment.”  I cannot confirm or deny that I was teary when I watched that.  “You’re made higher and holier because of the suffering that you’ve been put through.” 

Suffering and Treasuring Christ: A Hope that Cannot be Quenched

But like Anna, when you are in the midst of a trial, when you’re in the midst of suffering, when you’re walking through affliction, you feel like damaged goods.  You feel spoiled. You feel out of gas.  And you feel lost and ruined by the fall.  You feel weak and wounded.  And I know many of you that I could call out by name, you’re in the midst of a tremendous suffering and you feel like damaged goods.  You feel spoiled.  You feel weak and wounded.  But Paul here in this passage is saying that there is a preciousness, there is nothing more precious than seeing a Christian suffer with endurance and with character and with hope.  There’s nothing more beautiful than seeing a Christian suffer well.  John Piper, in an article a few years ago said this.  He said, “The world does not deserve the gift of Christians suffering but God gives it anyway.  How are these suffering saints a gift to the world?  Their Jesus-sustained suffering embodies the Gospel truth that Jesus is more valuable than all that life can give and all that death can take.”  And he goes on and says, “This truth is the most precious gift that a Christian can give to the world.  The world does not deserve it.”  And he quotes Hebrews 11, “of whom the world was not worthy.” But we give it anyway.  And he closes the article and says, “I pray that you will have an all satisfying faith in Jesus when the time comes to give the gift of suffering to the world.  Prepare for this by knowing Jesus deeply.” 

And so your suffering, through it’s confusing, though there’s no flow chart for suffering, there’s no flow chart for cancer, there’s no flow chart when a family is falling apart, there’s no flow chart for divorce, though it’s confusing, though there’s no flow chart, though you don’t know what all God is doing in it, your life can be like bread and water to other people.  That your suffering, the endurance, the character, the hope that your present sufferings are building into you are not only about you but they are also giving life to other people.  And so count it all joy; rejoice in your sufferings.  That’s the mystery of hope.

III. The Guarantee of Hope

The third thing here, and last and briefly, is the guarantee of hope.  Paul says in verse 5, “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.”  Now you’re not supposed to admit this as a preacher, but all week I had the hardest time connecting verse 5 to verses 1 through 4 because you would think that Paul might say, “Hope does not put us to shame because one day we will be resurrected.” I mean you might think that he would say that.  Or, “Hope does not put us to shame because one day all things will be made right.”  But Paul doesn’t say that.  Paul says, “Hope does not put us to shame because the Holy Spirit has poured His love into our hearts - God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  And this is the first mention, verse 5 is the first mention in Romans of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian and it really teaches us an important lesson.  The Holy Spirit - remember Paul’s argument in verses 1 through 4 that we just talked about that you hope in God’s glory and you suffer and you think that you would have less hope but Paul says you have more hope.  And we said the answer is, the key is verse 11 - you rejoice in God. 

The Holy Spirit, the Seal of God’s Promise

Verse 5 tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us to do just that.  The Holy Spirit, it’s like He gives you glasses to view your life on the basis of the cross, through the lens of the Gospel.  We get confused about the role of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is not pouring warm-fuzzies into your heart.  The Holy Spirit, Paul tells us, is pouring what?  “God’s love into our hearts.”  In other words, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, comes to inhabit the Christian and one of the main things that He does is point your heart to the promises of God in Christ.  John Stott, in his commentary on Romans, said this.  “What the Holy Spirit does is make us deeply and refreshingly aware that God loves us.  It’s very similar to Paul’s later statement in chapter 8 that the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” And so when the Holy Spirit inhabits the Christian, one of the main things that He does is press home the Gospel to you. 

And we’ll close with this.  Paul is seeking to give security and he’s seeking to give assurance.  “How do I know that these things are true for me? How do I know that God will stick with me?  How do I know that God won’t give up on me?  Is there a real sense of hope here in justification?”  And here’s Paul’s argument.  If God has already done the difficult thing in reconciling us to Himself, then can’t we trust Him to do the comparatively simple thing of finishing what He started, that there are these benefits of justification? 

“Surely, He will Finish What He Started”

And in the movie, “Saving Private Ryan,” early on, a general, as information came in, found out that two of the Ryan brothers were killed in Normandy, and later, shortly later, found out that another Ryan brother was killed in New Guinea.  And so the mother of these three brothers would find out on the same day that she lost three children.  And there was a fourth Ryan brother who was fighting in the war, James Ryan, and so they decided, “We’ve got to get him home.”  And so Captain Miller, played by Tom Hanks, and a group of men go to get him to bring him home.  And they essentially travel all over France and they spend the lives of many men to get him.  And actually at the end of the movie, even Captain Miller dies saving Private Ryan.  And the question is, let’s just say they go through all this trouble to save him, they spend the lives of these men to save him - do you think they will then get him back to the US?  Do you think they will get him back to his mother?  Do you think they will bring him home?  And we’d say, “Of course they will.  Look at all they’ve done.  Look at all the lives they spent to save him.  They spent so much; they went so far.  Surely they will finish what they started.  Surely they will get him home.”

And that’s the picture here.  God sent His Son to rescue you, to have you, to bring you home, and that is to build in you hope so that you draw the conclusion, “Wait a minute, He is never going to let me go, is He?” That “no power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand.”  His love is everlasting, isn’t it?  Everything that happens to me is connected to that love, isn’t it?  Even suffering.  Yes.  That is the hope that we have.   Let’s go to the Lord in prayer.

Father, we thank You for Your Word to us.  Help us to look to Jesus and rest on Him.  Grant us a faith to lay hold of these strong and certain promises of the Gospel.  We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

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