Text: Romans 5:1-8
5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
On a wall in his bedroom Charles Spurgeon had a plaque with Isaiah 48:10 on it:
10 Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.
He wrote. "God's choice makes chosen men choice men ... We are chosen, not in the palace, but in the furnace. In the furnace, beauty is marred, fashion is destroyed, strength is melted, glory is consumed; yet here eternal love reveals its secrets, and declares its choice."
W. Wiersbe, Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, p. 223.
As I visited with my mother in the hospital and she wrestled with her terminal cancer we talked. She said to me, “I know that a lot of people in my situation might say: Why me? But as I think about it I ask myself … why not me?”
When someone asked him, "Why do the righteous suffer?" C.S. Lewis responded:
"Why not? They're the only ones who can take it."
Suffering is no fun. We all know that. But, when Paul writes but we rejoice in our sufferings, we might answer, No we don’t! But something happens to us as we are made Christians and it is in the verse of scripture before this where Paul says that:
2 Through [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
So our access to God’s peace is through, Jesus’ sinless life, death and resurrection and by faith we have access and receive God’s grace.
Access is good. Last year I made a visit to the Oakland County Jail. Just in case you didn’t know … you don’t just walk in. As I went up to the door I pulled on the handle to the lobby – it was locked. So I moved to where the video camera is … that at first I didn’t notice and pushed the button.
“Can I help you came the voice?”
I’m Pastor Russ Tkac from Peace Lutheran Church in Waterford here to make a visit.
“Are you in the book?”
“Yes, I should be in the book.” I said.
Now the book … who knows why or how it became … the book … but it just is.
In researching my visit to the jail I called the head of Jail Chaplains who asked me, “Are you in the book?”
“What book,” I asked. “You know, he said … the book.”
He was referring to the Detroit Metropolitan Clergy Association or something to that effect which is a book of churches, synagogues, and other religious organizations where there is a list of churches and clergy and you had better be in the book … if you want to get in the Jail or use the clergy parking at Harper Hospital in Detroit. I had made a visit to Harper Hospital and had inquired about a clergy parking pass and was asked ...
… “Are you in the book?”
I had never seen the book … but I had heard about it.
I thought it must be a big book, probably leather bound, with buckles and latches on it and it has to be probably hand written by a scribe … in ink ...
… so that once you’re in the book … you’re in THE BOOK!
So as I stand in front of the video monitor for what seems like an hour the Police officer says, “You’re not in the book.” My heart drops and I left speechless … almost. But … I think for a bit, knowing that at any moment he may disappear into a jail camera labyrinth. I say, “How are you spelling my name because it is spelled T K A C.”
“One moment”, he says.
The time passes … and when he comes back he says,
“Hey, you’re in the book.”
“Wonderful,” I say. Now the world of opportunity awaits me as I go about my pastoral duties.
Now, this is a bit of a long way around to see that through Jesus … we have access. We can be let in. Not to the jail as in my story, but to the Father as his beloved child whom we have been separated from. This access is by faith into his grace Paul says and that is our eternal hope.
But, along the way we suffer and yes it is no fun but from the Christian perspective Paul says we rejoice. This though is not in the suffering itself per say, but in how through suffering we are connected to Christ ...
… knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 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.
My friend and coworker David Monaghan, mother-n-law was diagnosed with Leukemia some years ago. When she found out it was quite advanced and she didn’t live very long.
While in the hospital though, she joyfully shared her faith and the eternal hope with those she came in contact with. The Holy Spirit used her to proclaim the good news and blessing of Jesus’ sacrifice for you and me and his word and working of the Holy Spirit does not come back void.
8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
That is what justification is. The declaring of one being righteous and we are declared righteous not on account of what we have done but on account of what Christ Jesus has done for us and we access that grace … by faith in his finished work.
That is why we joy in our sufferings, and we endure … not because it’s fun, but because it produces character and hope, and hope in Christ never disappoints. His suffering and death has given us access to the Father by faith and has been poured into our hearts but the Spirits work.
Now about that book … I’m in. In my service as pastor I can visit and bring that hope of Christ to those who maybe feel they have no hope. His word goes in with me even though I have to leave my coat, wallet, phone, car keys and other things in a locker. I go in with his word and Spirit and it will never come back void. It will reach into the dark places and shine the light of Christ and his hope on a heart and person who is suffering and hurt.
The love of Christ by the Spirit’s work can bring real peace to a broken world and can declare God’s favor of account of Christ.
Are you in the book? Yes, you who believe and have been baptized have your name written in the Lambs book of life.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.