“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5: 1-4)
“Pain is weakness leaving the body.” That is what the back of the shirt said. When I signed on the dotted line to become a recruit, which gave me the opportunity to become a United States Marine, that is the shirt they handed me. I thought it was a really cool saying and wearing it made me feel tough. At the time, that is all it was, just the feeling of being tough or brave. Over the next days, weeks, and months I would find out what they meant by that saying. You see they believe that if they can break you down, they can rebuild you the way they want. A better version of you. Less weaknesses, physically, mentally, and emotionally, leads to a more effective war fighter. When recruit training began on Parris Island there were 62 recruits. We graduated with 42. For the most part, it was the recruits who embraced the suffering that finished with the title Marine, and the ones who didn’t just went home. As we continued to persevere through the suffering, the character began to form and eventually you were left with only the men who believed they could make it.
In much the same way Paul writes about the spiritual life. The difference is the fuel we use to push through the suffering. For most in recruit training, it was patriotism, revenge, duty, honor, family name, or just plain pride that made them want to continue on. Paul said that we can count on our fuel coming from somewhere else.
Our fuel comes from our peace with God (vs 1). The great news is, that the only qualifier for having this peace is being justified through faith (vs 1). That’s it! Once we have placed our faith in the beautiful gospel of Jesus this peace of God is given to us. This peace is created in the future hope we have of being in Glory with God (vs 2).
For those of us who are Christ followers this is huge. You see, hope of our future is where we get peace. Peace allows us to withstand suffering. Without suffering there is no perseverance. With out perseverance character isn’t built because it is never tested, and tested character produces more hope. All of these things work together to allow us to withstand the suffering that this world brings (vs 3-4).
The challenge today is to stand firm in the face of suffering and trials. Plant your feet and lean into the hope of our future with God! In this way he will work in you perseverance, and character, and thus supply more hope! And this type of peace will make those around you stand and take notice. They will begin to ask the questions “Why are you at peace?” and “How are you persevering?” It is at these times you will have a captivated audience to share the wonderful peace of God with others.
Do I tap into the free peace of God or do I give in to suffering and fall into despair?
Have I been relying on other fuel to get me through the hard times in my life?
Who around me needs this peace and how can I best “Plug them into it”?
God, Please forgive me for looking elsewhere to get through my struggles. Help me to tap into this free gift of peace you offer and to be a link for others in my life to you. Your peace passes all understanding so I know even in the worst situation you offer peace. Help me to see those around me who need you and use this gift as a way to lead them to you. Amen.