Church at Home is a ministry of Scott Boulevard Baptist Church. I, along with volunteers from our, whom we call encouragers, go each week to the homes of our church community members who are no longer able to attend Sunday worship with us. We sing, we pray, we read scripture and meditate on it, and we share in communion.
This week, we are moving from Reminiscence to Hope. The past three weeks have focused on reminiscence – especially in old age: our concept of God, our relationship with God, and spiritual life review. For the next three weeks, we will be focusing on transcending suffering and the everyday-ness of life through hope.
Prelude: Lord of All Hopefulness
Hymn of Praise: O God Our Help In Ages Past
Prayers of The People
Pastoral Prayer and Lord’s Prayer
Hymn of Faith: Heavenly Sunlight
Scripture: Romans 5:1-5
Sermon: From Suffering to Hope
Hymn Before Communion: The Solid Rock
Closing Hymn: Standing on the Promises
“The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Amen.”
The apostle Paul and I seem to have a lot in common. Ever since I was a little girl, I have lived by the motto “why say in only a few words what you can say in three paragraphs of flowery word pictures and emphatic, well-placed quotable nuggets?” I have a tendency to talk in circles and prattle on until I find where I’m going with what I set out to say… sometimes not really even know what I set out to say in the first place.
It’s just that I tend to get excited while I’m talking to someone, especially if it’s something I’m interested in, and then it makes me think of other exciting things and my mind can’t keep up! This is why I write everything down.
I’ve noticed this circular talking pattern as a trend in the writings of Paul. He starts with one idea that builds into another and that one into another and so on. His teachings are powerful, but require a little digging. So, let’s dig.
To be justified by faith means that because Christ was faithful to death on the cross, we have freedom from sin. We have access to God, because Jesus became the ultimate offering to God; and did away with the temple rules of only the high priest being able to approach God and only priests being able to talk with God.
Jesus became our high priest – and made us part of a priesthood so that we can talk to God any time. This is good news. And we can confidently know our prayers are always heard.
Boasting. When Paul says to boast in suffering, I doubt very much that he’s calling upon us to retell with great pride the stories of our ailments… although, this seems to be a ritual with my grandmother and her friends at her condo. They begin “pie and gossip hour (that’s literally what it is)” with a detailed description of their issues; sometimes even trying to one up each other on who is the most poorly in health.
That’s not the kind of boasting we are being called on to do. Instead of bragging, boasting here means to exult in or rejoice. But how do you rejoice in suffering?
I think what Paul mean is that boasting in suffering is a mindset; a disposition toward joy – a way of being that causes us to seek joy even in the midst of sorrow. This is a VERY had thing to do, but the promise for us if we choose to seek joy, is that the hope we find when we rejoice in our suffering is a hope that won’t ever disappoint.
So, since Christ was faithful to the time God called on him to take on sin for us, and be put to death because of that sin; and because Christ rose from the dead and opened the lines of communication between humans and God; making it possible for us to come to God in prayer and worship any time of the day or night, and especially since we live in a world full of suffering, despair, and sorrow, we can have the strength to be of a different mindset.
We can be people who look for hope in the sorrow. We’re not guaranteed an easy life, and we’re not promised that the hope we find will make everything better, and take away our pain. What we are promised is that because God loves us so much, when we suffer, God will be with us.
So that going through suffering will give us strength to stand up to it and make it through the next hard knock in life. This is called endurance. And endurance will produce character – a commitment to keep focused on the love of God and the hope of Christ. And then, this commitment, our character, will produce hope.
Hope. The ability to rise above suffering, to rest in calm assurance of promises still to come: promises of peace and renewal.
And this hope, because it is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit of our most loving God, will always find us, always be found by us, always encourage us and never disappoint.