- Sermon Notes
Faith Changes Everything
For the last four chapters Paul has been compelling us to understand that the gospel is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes. The gospel is God’s answer to the dilemma of every sinner; how can an unrighteous sinner have a relationship with the holy, righteous God?
That’s why Paul is not ashamed of the gospel. God can take a sinner and make that sinner righteous in one verse, “He made Him who knew no sin, to become sin in our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21.
God gives righteousness to the sinner as a gift. In other words, it’s all given as a gift by grace, but that gift is received by faith. Faith, then, becomes the issue and it’s always been the issue. Last week, in chapter 4, Paul brought us all the way back to Abraham, the father of faith, to prove that it’s always been about faith. Abraham believed, he had faith in Him who gives life to the dead and that faith was reckoned to him as righteousness.
What you believe changes everything, it changes how you live. If you believed that you were going to receive big promotion at work, it would change what you did. If you believe you’re going to lose your job tomorrow; that would also change what you do. If you sat with your doctor and he said, “I’m so sorry, but you have cancer, you only have 6 to 9 months to live,” it would change your life, it would change what you do. You may not feel anything, but you believe the doctor’s report; it will change you emotionally and spiritually.
What do you believe about God? Do you believe there is a day fixed in which He will judge the world in righteousness? Do you believe you’re a sinner?
Do you believe that God can make a sinner righteous by giving him righteousness as a gift? If you believe, then you have faith and by that faith you have been justified, you have been made righteous before God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
That brings us to chapter 5. Martin Luther once said, “In the whole Bible there is hardly another chapter which can equal this triumphant text.”
Paul begins this chapter with the word “therefore.” That one word asks us to bring everything that Paul has given us in four chapters and to understand how it now applies to our lives as believers in Christ Jesus. In other words, Paul is saying, “I have just irrefutably demonstrated that we have been made righteous before God by simply receiving that righteousness as a gift, by faith. And because of that great truth, I want you to understand the consequences and the result in your life.”
I. You Now Have Peace with God
- Before we were given the righteousness of God, we were at conflict with God. Because we were sinners we were on a collision course with God’s judgment.
- Jesus said, “If you’re not for me, you’re against me.”
- We were on the wrong side. Some people respond by pretending God doesn’t exist, other people respond by shaking their fist at God. Still others simply
walk as far as possible away from God.
- When we say we were enemies with God, we should be clear that we were the ones who turned our back on Him. It’s not like two people having a disagreement and turning their backs on each other.
Romans 10:21, As for Israel He says, “All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”
A. Let this issue be settled
- By faith we understand that we are no longer in conflict with God. We have been reconciled, we are no longer on a collision course with judgment.
- Now we can have fellowship with God, we can walk together in the cool of the evening, we can love unencumbered and unhindered because our sin has been
taken away. We can now have a close relationship to God. We can worship freely.
- The more faith we have, the more this issue is settled.
- This issue is settled with God, but many people are still wrestling with it, many people are still wrestling with God, but there’s no need.
Psalm 46:10, “Cease striving and know that I am God.”
Illus - In our study in Daniel 3 last Wednesday, the three Jewish men would not worship the image of gold because this issue was settled in their hearts.
Illus - Abraham’s son was Isaac, in turn, Isaac had the twins Jacob and Esau. God’s promises to Abraham would come through Jacob, but he was a deceiver and a manipulator. After many years it all came down to one night when God met Jacob and wrestled with him until daybreak. Though he could have defeated him in three seconds, God let him wrestle all night. As light dawns, Jacob has his hip dislocated and still won’t let go, saying, “I won’t let you go unless you bless me.” God then said, “What is your name?…”
- Cease striving, know that you have peace with God; settle this question and let God be Lord of your life.
B. We have obtained our introduction into grace
- That’s an interesting phrase; through Jesus we have obtained, by faith, our introduction into this grace in which we stand.
- In other words, our standing before God is by grace and Jesus introduced us to it.
John 14:6, Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
- We come to the Father through Jesus Christ. Jesus gives us that access, but we have much more than an introduction to grace, we have grace beyond measure.
Illus – There is a vast difference between being introduced to God through Jesus Christ and being adopted by God as a son or daughter.
- We need to move much deeper into our relationship to God. By grace we stand and by grace there’s a much deeper relationship that God desires.
C. Rejoice in the hope you now have
- This is such an amazing truth that Paul says we rejoice in this hope of the glory of God.
- It’s an aspect of worship. We worship when we rejoice because of everything we have received by God’s grace, as a gift. It’s the right response.
- In the English language hope has different meanings, but not in Greek. For example, in English we say, “I hope I get that job,” or “I sure hope I catch
some fish at the lake.” If you fish like I do, that generally means you’re not going to catch any fish.
- But in Greek, hope means “confident expectation.”
Hebrews 6:18-19, We who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast…
- This hope we have as an anchor for our soul does not disappoint us because it’s far greater than the tribulations and difficulties of this world.
II. God’s Love is the Hope We Need
- In the next section, Paul wants us to understand that this is all because of how much God loves us.
- First of all, we might ask the question, “Why does God love us at all? After all, as sinners, we can’t be very lovable.”
- The answer is that God loves us because we were made in His image.
Illus - Before we had our first baby, I wasn’t very drawn to babies in general, but once we had our first child, made in our likeness, it was a different thing altogether.
A. Tribulation brings hope
- If anyone understood the tribulation and troubles of this life, it would be Paul. He was imprisoned several times, beaten times without number, often
in danger of death, five times he received 39 lashes, three times he was beaten with rods, once he was stoned, three times he was shipwrecked and
spent a night and a day in the deep, etc.
- Paul says, let us rejoice or glory or exult in our tribulations because God uses it in our lives to produce hope and hope does not disappoint.
- Pain becomes one of our spiritual credentials. It’s through pain and difficulty that we discover the depths of spiritual liberty.
- When you go through a fiery ordeal - in faith - you discover that God is with you in the midst of the fire.
- In other words, when you discover that God is with you in the midst of the fire, you become more and more confident in God’s love for you. Tribulation
then brings about hope.
- However, this too is a question of faith.
- The famous preacher, CH Spurgeon said of these verses, “Tribulation does not bring hope to the one who has not faith. For the natural man, tribulation works impatience, and impatience misses the fruit of experience, and sours into hopelessness. Ask many who have buried a dear child, or have lost their wealth, or have suffered pain of body, and they will tell you that the natural result of affliction is to produce irritation against providence, rebellion against God, questioning, unbelief, petulance, and all sorts of bitterness in the soul. But what a wonderful alteration takes place when the heart has been renewed by the Holy Spirit.”
1 Peter 4:12-13, Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you… as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.
- God’s love is the hope we need; it is the anchor to our soul, so much so that we also rejoice or glory or exult in our tribulations because through it hope is strengthened.
- In verses 6-10, Paul convinces us of the depths of God’s love for us.
- God demonstrates or proves His love toward us in that Christ died for the ungodly; while we were yet sinners, while we were enemies. That is love,
completely undeserved and unmerited.
- When we see how much God loves us by sending Christ to die for the ungodly, for the unrighteous, for sinners, then we are convinced that God would
love us through anything; that His love never fails.
Lamentations 3:21-23, This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
Ephesians 3:17-19, [I pray] that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
Illus - Many of you were at our daughter Nicole’s memorial service and know that she went through a terrible ordeal in her health when she was nine…
- She didn’t doubt my love, she wasn’t angry with me because of the pain, our love grew deeper because we walked through it together.
C. Let your character be proven as well
- In verses 3-4 Paul said that we should exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance and perseverance brings proven
- In other words, our character is proven by tribulation, by the fiery ordeals we go through in this life.
- The prophet Jeremiah was told to go down to the potter’s house and God would speak to him there.
Jeremiah 18:3-4, I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.
- Clay starts out hard and resistant to the potter’s hands, but as he continues to work his hands upon the clay, it begins to take the shape he desires.
- If we could open our eyes to see it, we would see in the hands of the potter the scars of the nails that He bore for us. We are in the hands of a potter
- But the potter is not finished until the vessel is put into the fiery furnace and its character is solidified. Truly our character and our faith is
proven through the fire.
Title: Faith Changes Everything
Text: Romans 5:1-11
Date: November 1-2, 2014
This morning, to Romans chapter 5, beginning in verse 1. Romans 5:1, continuing through the book of Romans, the title of our message this morning “Faith Changes Everything”. Faith changes everything.
Alright. So, we are studying the Book of Romans, one of the most significant books in the New Testament, and this chapter in particular is filled with rich insight into our faith. For the last four chapters, Paul has been compelling us to understand the Gospel. The Gospel, he says, is the power of God for salvation. I'm not ashamed of the Gospel, it is the amazing answer of God to the dilemma of every sinner. See, the dilemma of every sinner is how can an unrighteous sinner have a relationship with the holy, righteous God. How is that possible? That is why Paul says, “I'm not ashamed of the Gospel”, because it's God's answer to the question.
God can take a sinner and make that sinner righteous in one verse. That's the theme that we've been studying. 2 Corinthians 5:21, that's the one verse where God takes a sinner and makes him righteous. It says, “He made Him who knew no sin”, that's Christ, “to become sin in our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”. So it tells us God gives righteousness as a gift. It's all given as a gift by grace, but is received by faith. That makes faith the central issue. It's always been a central issue.
In fact, last week in chapter 4, just to make sure we understood it's always been the main thing, he brings us back to Abraham, who is of course considered the father of the faith. And Abraham it says, “Believed Him who was able to bring life from the dead”. Now that is the theme of our faith as well. And it says that he believed in Him and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. See, what you believe changes everything. It has everything to do with who you are and how you live.
Let me give you some examples. Let's say that you believed that you were going to get a promotion at work. Well, it would change what you do, it would change how you feel, it would change your direction. If you believed however, that you were going to lose your job, it would change your life, it would change your direction. If you sat with your doctor and he said, “I'm sorry, but you have cancer. You only have 6-9 months to live”, it would change your life. You believe the doctor's report. You might not even feel anything, you went in for a scan and now he's sitting with you and you believe now what he says and it's going to change your life entirely.
See, whether you believe, whether you believe about God; do you believe that there is a day fixed in which He will judge the world in righteousness? Do you believe you're a sinner? Do you believe that God can take a sinner and make him righteous by giving him righteousness as a gift? If you believe, then you have faith, and that faith has made you justified; righteous. You’re made righteous through God, through Jesus Christ. And that brings us to chapter 5. All of that, leads us to this chapter. Martin Luther, the famous Martin Luther once said of chapter 5 of Romans, “In the whole Bible, there is hardly another chapter that can equal this triumphant text”. Very significant.
So Paul begins Romans 5 with the word “therefore”. Now, that one word asks us to bring everything that Paul has given us in those 4 chapters and to understand how it now applies to our lives as believers in Jesus Christ. It says as though Paul was saying this, “I have just irrefutably demonstrated that we have been made righteous before God by simply believing, simply receiving that righteousness as a gift by faith”. And because of that great truth, I want you to understand the consequences, the result of your life, because he wants us to press further into this faith by which we stand.
I. You Now Have Peace with God
Let's look at it. Romans 5, we're going to read the first 11 verses. We're going to look at the other verses next week. This week, we're going to look at verses 1-11.
“Therefore, having been justified by faith”, which is what he's demonstrated, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand. And we exalt in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exalt in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance, and perseverance brings about proving character, and proving character, brings about hope. And hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who is given to us.”
I love that phrase “poured out”. It's not a trickle, it's not a few drops. He's pouring out the love of God through the Holy Spirit. Verse 6, “For while we were still helpless, at just the right time, Christ died for the ungodly”. That's amazing, “He died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps for the good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more than having now been justified, made righteous by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life! And not only this, we also exalt in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”
Absolutely marvelous verses, giving us an insight into this relationship that we now have with God. Now, let's go back over these verses and really see how they apply to our lives right now. The pressing into that relationship, He wants us to understand that you now have peace with God. Before, we were given that righteousness of God, we were at conflict with God because we were sinners on a collision course with God's judgment and there was a conflict, Jesus said. You might remember his words, “If you're not for me, you're against me.”
We were on the wrong side. Before God gave us that gift, we were on the wrong side of it. Some people respond to that by pretending that God doesn't exist, some people will shake their fist at God in outright rebellion and anger against Him, others simply walk as far away from God as they can. Now, when we say that we were enemies with God, I think it's important that we clarify something. It's not like a couple, let's say, that’s having a dispute or an argument between them, and both folding their arms with their back turned towards the other and they're both angry with each other. It's not like that at all.
A. Let this issue be settled
In fact, one of the verses that clarifies this is Romans 10:21, where it says, “As for Israel He says, ‘All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.’” In other words, when we were at conflict with God, we were the ones with our arms folded, our hearts hard, our stature was in rebellion and God was the One that was reaching out to us. He was the One knocking on the door of our heart. He was the One pursuing. This is important that we understand the context because we need to have this issue settled. That's the application. Let this issue be settled.
By faith we understand, by faith we understand. We are no longer in conflict with God. We've been reconciled. This is a beautiful picture of this relationship. We're no longer on a collision course with judgment. Now, because this matter has been settled, we can have fellowship with God, we can walk together in the cool of the evening, a picture of Adam walking with God. We can have this beautiful fellowship, we can love unencumbered, unhindered because our sin has been taken away. That was the great reconciler between God and us. Now, we can have this close relationship to God. We can worship freely, freely abandoned.
But the more faith that we have, the more this issue is settled. What I mean by that is this - now, this issue is settled with God. From God's perspective, this issue is settled. But many people are still wrestling with this issue; many people are still wrestling with God you might say, but there's no need to. I love Psalm 46:10 where it says “Cease striving”, some translated “Be still”, which is to say “Stop it. Stop and know that I am God”. Let this issue be resolved, stop wrestling with God over this issue. It's settled in heaven, let it be settled with you.
In Daniel 3, we're studying through the book of Daniel on Wednesdays, and Daniel 3 is the famous chapter where the three Jewish men refuse to bow to the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar set up there in Babylon and some others bring this to Nebuchadnezzar’s attention. These three men are refusing to bow down, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego, and so Nebuchadnezzar, in a fit of rage, calls them to himself and gives them an opportunity to recant. Let's do it again, let's start up the band again. And then this time, when you hear the sound of all the music and everything, then you're going to bow down.
And I love their answer, I mentioned it on Wednesday, because they said their answer with a heart that it is resolved. “We do not need to give you an answer in this matter.” Now, they're saying it respectfully, “We do not need to give you an answer”, which is to say, “This matter is settled.” We already know where we stand. We will not bow. We know we're persuaded that our God is able to save us from your hand. And even if He does not save us from this fire, He will save us from your hand. This matter is settled. I love this. It's settled. To me, people are still wrestling with God. It's settled with God, let it be settled with you.
You know in Abraham, we mentioned him last chapter, chapter 4. Well, Abraham, he had a son, Isaac. All the promises to Abraham were given to Isaac. And then Isaac in turn had the two boys, the twins Jacob and Esau. Well, Jacob was the one through whom all the promises of God would go, but the problem was that Jacob was a deceiver and a manipulator. All this came down to one night. All these years of being a deceiver and a manipulator wrestling through life, all came down to one night when God met Jacob and wrestled with him until daybreak. I find it interesting. It's an interesting story to me that God wrestles with him till daybreak because you know as well as I know that this wrestling could've ended in about three seconds. It's like when I wrestle with my grandson Ethan, he's two and a half years old. “Let's wrestle, grandpa.” And I love it because he puts his hands up like this and he has his face like this, “Let's wrestle, grandpa.” Two and a half years old and so we wrestle. Which means I throw him around as long as he wants and we just have a great time. But I can pin him in three seconds. I'll wrestle as long as he wants to wrestle. But with God, this can end immediately, if God so wanted.
I know about this because I was pinned instantly when I was in wrestling. I remember when I was in 8th grade, I was in junior varsity wrestling. Let me emphasize, junior varsity, which is to say, I was not on the varsity team. And this got to the end of the season when I was called up to wrestle on the varsity team. Why do you think that they would call Richard Jones, which is what they called me, why would they call Richard to come and step up to the varsity team? It was so that I can wrestle the champion in the state. I was called up to wrestle the state champion at the end final tournament. You're saying, “Is this true?” This is absolutely true. Would you like to know why they asked me to wrestle the state champion? Because they knew not a single person could beat him in the state. So why spend a varsity player on him, bring up Rich Jones to wrestle him. I was like the sacrificial lamb. I know. I've been in counseling ever since.
Fred Nordgren, I still remember his name, because Fred was different. You know most people stand there and their arms are like this, not Fred's. When he stands there casually, his arms are like this. He went on to wrestle and to play in the NFL, CFL and the USFL. And I wrestled Fred Nordgren. And I'll tell you how it went.
I know I'm going to wrestle him, so I'm over there on the side practicing my takedowns. I'm practicing my takedowns. So, we get onto the... mat, I was going to say ring, but that's professional wrestling. We get onto the mat, and we start the thing, and I swoop in. I swoop in and take a takedown on Fred Nordgren. Instantly like that. The place erupted. And then he turned me over and flipped me in two seconds.
So, we know God can end this in two seconds. Why does He wrestle with him all night long? Because he needs to quit. He needs to give up. God will wrestle with you as long as you're going to keep wrestling. You're the one that's got to give up. In the morning, as day was breaking, He dislocated his hip socket. The Lord touched him on the hip and he still wouldn't let go. He said, “It's time to let go.” “I will not let go until you bless me.” “Alright. What's your name?” He knew his name, but He wanted him to say it. “State your name.” “Jacob.” You know what it means though? Supplanter, one who trips up others, one who catches other people on the heel. “That's your name and that's what you've been doing all your life. From now on, you will be called Israel, governed by God. Stop this wrestling, let this matter be settled.”
B. We have obtained our introduction into grace
All of us need to stop this wrestling with God and let this matter be settled because it tells us, “In Jesus Christ, we have obtained our introduction into grace”, verse 2. I love that phrase. “Through whom we obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand.” Interesting phrase. Our standing before God in other words, is by grace and Jesus introduced us into it. In John 14:6, Jesus said to him, “I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life. No one comes to the Father, but through Me.” We come to the Father through Jesus Christ. Jesus gives us that access, but we have much more than an introduction. We have grace beyond measure.
There's a vast difference, there's a vast difference between being introduced to God through Christ Jesus and then being adopted as a son or daughter. That's a whole different thing. This really shows us that there are depths of relationship. There's nearness in relationship. If you, let's say, you met somebody famous. You're excited to meet somebody famous and somebody knew him and introduced you to him and so you were all excited and you shook his hand and you said, “Nice to meet you. Can I take a picture with you? Can I even do a selfie with you?” And you tell people, “I met him. I met him. I shook his hand!” Well, that's a kind of relationship. But to be able to then say, “Not only did I meet him, I didn't just shake his hand. You know what, He adopted me. I'm His son now!” That's a whole other thing.
Many people just operate in a relationship where basically they're being introduced. Wait a minute. There's way more here. There's far more than this. We need to move much deeper into our relationship to God. He says, “By grace we stand.” And by grace, there's a much deeper relationship that God desires. And then he tells us how we should respond to this. He says, Rejoice in the hope. Rejoice! We exalt in hope in the glory of God. Rejoice in this. Paul is saying this is such an amazing truth. He says we've got to rejoice in this hope of the glory of God. It's an aspect of worship, it's a response.
C. Rejoice in the hope you now have
See, we worship when we rejoice because of everything we've received by God's Grace as a gift. It's the right response because worship is a heart engaged, it's the soul on fire, it's a soul ignited. It's so important we understand that we're called to be worshipers. And that when we worship, we're engaging our heart in this relationship to say, “Thank you! I rejoice! I give glory all that I've received.”
See, in the English language, “hope” has different meanings, but not in the Greek, it's important for us to understand. In English, we say for example, I hope I get that job, and there's a clear uncertainty in the hope. I don't know, but I sure hope that I get this job. I don't know, but I sure hope. There's so much uncertainty to it. Or you might say, I'm going fishing at the lake this weekend. I sure hope I catch a fish. I don't know. I really hope I do, I don't know. And personally, if you go fishing with me, the answer is probably not. There's so much uncertainty to the word, but not in Greek.
In Greek it's quite different. There's no uncertainty to it. It's confident expectation, “I know in whom I have believed.” He is the hope. Let me give you a verse, Hebrew 6:18-19, “We who have taken refuge, would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.” I love the way he says that, “we who have taken refuge.” Have you taken refuge in Him? He's wanting us to see it. Look, if you've taken your refuge in Him, if He's your salvation, if we've taken your refuge, then he says, we would have “strong encouragement to take hold of this hope”, hold of this hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast. Hold on to it, it's an anchor to your soul. See, “this hope we have does not disappoint”, he says in verse 5. It does not disappoint us because it is far greater than the tribulations and difficulties of this world. See, this is what he's now going to help us to understand. He brings God's love into it. And this is his point, God's love is that hope that we need. God's love is that hope. That sure, certain, steadfast hope. That's love. He wants us to understand.
II. God’s Love is the Hope We Need
That's what this next section is all about. First of all, we might ask the question why does God love us at all. Why does God love us? I mean after all, we're unrighteous sinners. Why would God love us? Does God look at us and say, “You are so cute! You're just... I can't help it. I can't help it. I just see you and I just see these cute people and I’ve just got to love you!” I'm sorry. I'm sorry. It's just not that way.
The way I believe it is this: God has made us in His image. It's like this. Before my wife and I had children, I'll be honest, babies really weren't that interesting to me. I mean, great, congratulations, that's beautiful. I didn't have a whole lot... I wasn't into it. I'm just being honest. Until we had our baby. It's a whole other thing now. I held that baby in my arms. I looked down in that baby's face. That was my face in there. That baby was made in my image. Instantly, my heart was absolutely in. I'm in now. I'm in. I'm absolutely in. I went to every appointment; I'll change the diapers. I'm in. I'll get up at night. I'm absolutely in because that baby's made in my image.
A. Tribulation brings hope
See, here's what we’ve got to see, all of us, every single person is made in the image of God. God loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son. Oh, this greatness of God's love is the hope that we need, it's sure and steadfast. In fact, he makes an interesting insight as he applies it to life, he says it this way, “Tribulation brings hope.” Tribulation brings hope? The hope, the sure and steadfast kind of hope? See, if anyone understood tribulation and troubles in this life, it would be Paul.
You know Paul's story. Paul's got something to say about tribulation. He was in prison several times, beaten times without number, often in danger of death, five times he received thirty-nine lashes, three times he was beaten with rods, once he was stoned, three times he was shipwrecked, once spent a day and a night in the deep, and more and more. He knows something about troubles and tribulations, but Paul says, Let's rejoice! Let's glory! Let's exalt in our tribulations because God uses it in our lives to produce hope. A hope that does not disappoint. See, we really need to understand this.
Pain becomes one of our spiritual credentials, actually. Pain becomes spiritual credentials. It's through pain and difficulty that we discover the depths of spiritual liberty. When you go through a fiery ordeal, in faith, when you go through a fiery difficult tribulation time, in faith, you discover something. You discover that God is with you in the midst of the fire. When you discover that God is with you in the midst of the fire, you become more and more confident in God's love for you. Tribulation brings hope, a hope both sure and steadfast.
However, this too is a question of faith. It is a matter of faith. The famous preacher C.H. Spurgeon, speaking of this verse, had a tremendous insight and I want to quote him because he says it so powerfully. He says it this way, “Tribulation does not bring hope to the one who does not have faith. For the natural man, tribulation works in patience, and impatience misses the fruit of experience and sours in the hopelessness. Ask any who have buried a dear child or have lost their wealth or suffered pain in body and they will tell you that the natural result of affliction is to produce irritation against Providence, rebellion against God, questioning, unbelief, pestilence and all sorts of bitterness in the soul. But what a wonderful alternation takes place when the heart has been renewed by the Holy Spirit,” when we have a hope, both sure and steadfast.
1 Peter 4:12-13 says it this way, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you as though some strange thing were happening to you, but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exaltation.”
B. God has proven His love
And here's his point, he's saying God's love is that hope, it's that anchor to the soul. And then he goes on to say it this way, listen, God has proven His love. God has absolutely proven it. And that's the verses, God's love is that hope. We're going to rejoice, exalt, glory in it even in the tribulations because through it our hope is strengthened.
In verses 6-10, Paul convinces us of the proving of God's love. Let's just read those verses. “While we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.” Verse 8, “God demonstrates His love.” This is a famous verse. I quote it often because it's so powerfully stated. “God demonstrates His own love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more than having been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”
He's proven His love! He demonstrates His love for us in that Christ died for the ungodly while we were sinners, while we were enemies. That's love. Completely undeserved, completely unmerited. And then when you see how much He loves us by sending His Son to die for the ungodly, for the unrighteous, for sinners, we're convinced of that love. And that God will love us through anything.
If He would die for us when we were His enemies, His love would endure through everything. That's the convincing part. His love never fails. Be convinced of this, he says. He's proven it. He died for you when you were a sinner, when you were His enemy, when you were unrighteous. He'll love you through anything! And that's why Lamentations 3:21-23 is so powerful. He says, “This I recall to my mind,” this is Jeremiah, “This I recall to my mind therefore, I have hope.” A hope or assurance that's steadfast. He says, “I remember this. I recall this to my mind and therefore I have hope.” He says, “The Lord's lovingkindness is indeed, never ceasing for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.” That's where we have that famous hymn, “Great is thy faithfulness”. Powerful.
And then Paul says it this way in Ephesians 3:17-19. He says, “I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend,” or if you could only see it, if you could only comprehend, “with all the saints, what's the breadth, length, the height and the depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Be convinced of it, God's proven it. Be convinced of it, let this be settled. It is a hope, assurance, steadfast. It is an anchor for the soul. Move deeper into this relationship, being convinced of His love for you. Even through tribulation. Because what you discover is that His love never fails. He's with you in the trial, He's with you in the fiery ordeal.
Many of you were at our daughter Nicole's memorial service and you know that when she was nine, she went through a terrible ordeal in her health. And what had happened was that she woke up with this terrible fever. It was 106.5. She had... just burning up, she had a rash on the palms of her hands, heels of her feet and on her neck, pain in every joint, excruciating pain that she would just have to lay there completely rigid. We called the doctor. The doctor said, “Bring her to the clinic right away. Bring her to the back door in case you have something contagious.” We bring her in the back door, the doctor says, “I have no idea, but she needs to get to Emmanuel Children's Hospital right now. Don't even wait for an ambulance. Drive her there now.” So, we... they called ahead, we drove. They didn't know what it was. They're doing one test and another test and hours are ticking by. They don't know what it is. They're trying to rehydrate her, just trying to press fluids in. At one point, many hours later, now many are gathering in her room and the doctor comes in and he says, “We have to do this test to see if maybe she's got spinal meningitis. And in order to do this, we have to do a spinal tap. But to do a spinal tap, we have to put her into a ball. And because of her joint pain, this is going to be very, very, very hard for her. And we'd rather you not see it. So we're going to ask everyone please leave the room.” So, everyone left the room. But I stayed behind. And I said, “Doctor, if anybody should inflict that kind of pain, it should be me because I'm her father. And she knows unquestionably how much I love her and she'll be in my arms.” And he looked at me knowingly and he said, “Okay.” He was a father, he knew. “Okay.”
So I came up to Nicole. I said, “Nicole, they have to do this test. And so I'm going to have to scrunch you into a ball and it's going to be very, very, very painful. But I love you and this is necessary.” She says, “Okay, daddy.” And I role her over towards me and I put one arm around her neck, one arm around her knees and I started to pull her together and she started to scream. And I kept pulling until I could lock my hands together and just held her in my arms as they did what they needed to do. She didn't doubt my love. She wasn't angry with me because of this pain that had to come into her life. In fact, our love grew deeper because we went through it together. We went through it together. Our love grew deeper. We had a very special bond, she and I, because we've been through so much together.
When you go through life's difficulties with God, with God your love will go deeper in God. There's such an important insight that Paul gives us that we need to take hold of.
By the way, to finish the story, they decided later she had a rare thing called Kawasaki Syndrome and gave her hemoglobin and she got better in time. But the lesson was love.
C. Let your character be proven as well
And in fact, what Paul tells us is very important because he's giving us an insight into our character. Let your character be proven as well. In verses 3-4 he says we should rejoice, glorying these tribulations because it brings perseverance and perseverance brings proven character. In other words, character is proven by tribulation, by the fiery ordeals we go through in this life.
The prophet Jeremiah, he was told to go down to the potter’s house and God would speak to him there. Jeremiah 18:3-4 tells us, he says, “I went down to the potter's house and there he was making something on the wheel. But the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter so he remade it into another vessel as it pleased the potter to make.”
Now, if you've ever watched the clay on the wheel as a potter begins to work the clay, clearly it's an analogy, it's a picture that applies to life. He was applying it to Israel, but it's applied to life because He is the Potter and we are in the Potter's hands, we are the clay. And if you've ever seen the potter working the clay, you know at first when it's set on the wheel, it's very hard, very resistant to the hands of the potter.
He must begin to press on it and work his hands upon it and he continues to press on it and pressure it and press upon it. You know what's interesting? That word, in the Greek, of pressing and pressuring, in the Greek, it's “tribulation”. He presses upon it because he's shaping it. He's changing it according to the vessel that he desires to make. Vessels are made for different purposes. He presses it according to his desire, to shape according to his heart. If we can only open our eyes to see it, we would see that in those Potter's hands are scars. Those scars speak of the love that He has for us. Jesus is the Potter. His hands shape our lives. Those hands are scared by love. He has taken our sins upon Himself. You can trust Him in the shaping of your life.
But the Potter's not finished. When the Potter finishes shaping, it's not finished. Still one more thing must happen. It must go into the fiery furnace. To be solidified it must be fired, heated. Proven character that we're proving, means the same thing. Sure, steadfast, your character, sure and steadfast because you have held fast to the hope, the anchor to your soul. We need to go deeper in our relationship with God and let it be solidified in its depth.
Romans 5:1-11 NASB