Tim’s Daily Bread Devotional 5.28.21

By May 28, 2021Daily Bread

Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the thoughts and words of this reading that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.

Today’s Scripture:

Romans 5:1-11
Results of Justification

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access[b] to this grace in which we stand; and we[c] boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we[d] also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.[e] 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today

One of the aspects of Paul’s life that stands out is that it was difficult.  There are several passages in his writings and in the book of Acts that tell of his difficulties and suffering.  But, Paul doesn’t stop with those descriptions and lists of his troubles and suffering.  Rather, Paul gives us insight into how difficulties can function in our lives, how we can place them in perspective, and what resources are available to us.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”

Paul lays out a journey from suffering to hope.  It isn’t a direct route.  I wish it were, don’t you?  I want to go from trouble to hope, from suffering to hope—just like I always prefer a direct flight to changing planes.  I want to get there in a hurry.  But there are stops along the way.  There are layovers.  Sometimes they are long and arduous.

I have a friend who is an attorney in Liberia and is active in the United Methodist Church.  When there is a meeting here in the United States, sometimes travel isn’t easy for him.  There is no direct flight from Monrovia, Liberia.  This was compounded a few years ago when he was nearly a day late for a four-day meeting.  His schedule originally had him arriving a day early to adjust to the time change before the meeting began.  However, when he was a few days away from his flight, he realized that the US travel agent had booked his flight from Liberia—but the wrong Liberia.  The agent had booked his flight from Liberia, Costa Rica!  By the time he discovered the mistake, the seats on the flights he should have taken were gone.  That’s when the fun began.  I don’t remember the path of his series of flights, but as he told the story, the image I had was circumnavigation of the globe with both close connections and long layovers.  It took him nearly 48 hours to get to the meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

Sometimes it’s like that on the journey from suffering (trouble) to hope.

But, I want a direct flight, don’t you?

In fact, I want a different point of departure.  I suppose, like the travel agent, I want to change the point of departure to something closer and easier—like Liberia, Costa Rica instead of the African nation of Liberia.

But, Paul is realistic.  He has lived it.  He knows that the journey from suffering or difficulty to hope is not a direct route.

To one degree or another, difficulty, suffering and trouble are part of every life.  We may wish that it were some other way.  We may feel that the troubles we have are unfair.  At some level we may believe that life is supposed to be without trouble or suffering.

It is because of these wishes, feelings and beliefs that M. Scott Peck, was compelled to open his classic book The Road Less Travelled with a line that seems too obvious.  It seems to go without saying.  His opening sentence is only three words:  “Life is difficult.”  He wrote,

Life is Difficult.  This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.  It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it…Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult.  Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy…I know about this moaning because I have done my share.

I can echo that, for I have done my share, too.  Paul listed his problems and difficulties, too, but he went on to give us insight into how he moved to hope—and how we can, too.

We begin by acknowledging the truth that life is difficult.  Suffering is a real part of our lives.  The word translated as “suffering” is thlipsis, which literally means “pressure.”  All kinds of things may press in on us:  difficult circumstances, sorrow, persecution, unpopularity and loneliness.  All that pressure, says Paul, produces endurance.

Pressure, trouble, difficulty can lead us to a place of anger and frustration with life.  It can steal life from us, and it can rob us of the joy our Creator intended for us.  But it doesn’t have to.  It can also lead to what Paul calls “endurance.”  This doesn’t just mean “hanging on ‘til it’s over.”  It is more than that.

Think about a butterfly emerging from the cocoon.  It is the struggle, the agonizing work of emerging that pumps the fluid into the wings to make them rigid and strong.  The suffering and the struggle of the emerging butterfly enables it to soar.  Paul has something like that in mind.  In trouble and pressure, discipline, vision, meaning, and purpose have a role to play in leading us to the next stop on the journey to hope: endurance.

A couple of years ago Susan and I visited the home of Abraham Lincoln and the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois.  Following his story was like taking the journey from suffering to hope.  When he was seven years old, his family was forced out of their home on a legal technicality.  He had to work to help support them. At age nine, his mother died. At 22, he lost his job as a store clerk. He wanted to go to law school, but his education wasn’t good enough. At 23, he went into debt to become a partner in a small store. At 26, his business partner died, leaving him a huge debt that took years to repay. At 28, after courting a girl for four years, he asked her to marry him. She said no.

At 37, after two defeats, he was elected to Congress. Two years later, he tried for re-election and was defeated again. At 41, his four-year-old son died. At 45, he ran for the Senate and lost. At 47, he failed as candidate for vice-president of the United States. At 49, he ran for the Senate again and lost. At 51, he was elected president of the United States.

He is an example of the journey from suffering to endurance to character to hope.

Character produces hope in us because our character becomes characterized by trust.  As we live as people of Christ-like character, we also act in ways that produces hope in others—brings hope to those who stand in need of it.

Trouble can produce endurance, but it certainly doesn’t always. I think it’s when you rely on the presence of God, trusting in God to see you through, to enable you to endure the hardships or troubles or even the suffering that is coming your way, the way you handle those troubles in relation to God can produce endurance–help you to endure.

And then, as you endure, the experience becomes part of what builds character. And it’s that character that produces a kind of hopefulness in you: “I’ve seen trouble, I’ve endured it, I got through it.” So we feel this new resilience — and we then have hope that comes from knowing that God’s strength is there for us and that trouble, no matter what it is, doesn’t last.

I think it all really comes down to the end of this passage when Paul says that this journey from suffering to endurance to character to hope is possible for us “because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

What helps us to endure trouble, build character, and find hope?

Paul says it’s the Holy Spirit—the presence of God in our lives.

I’ll close with these words from playwright and former Czech president Vaclav Havel:  “I am not an optimist because I am not sure that everything ends well. Nor am I a pessimist because I am not sure everything ends badly. I just carry hope in my heart. … Life without hope is an empty, boring and useless life. I cannot imagine that I could strive for something if I did not carry hope in me. I am thankful to God for this gift. It is as big a gift as life itself.”

There is a lot of theology woven into hymns. To enhance today’s reading, I recommend listening to “It is Well with my Soul”. I hope you will take a few moments to let the words of this message and the emotion that always connects us to music connect with your soul.

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ (yes, He has) has regarded my helpless estate
And has shed His own blood for my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought (a thought)
My sin, not in part, but the whole (every bit, every bit, all of it)
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more (yes!)
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

Sing it as well

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend
Even so, it is well with my soul!

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

Sing up to Jesus, it is well!

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!

Grace and Peace,

Dr. Tim Bruster
Senior Pastor

Here’s more about this passage of scripture via Upper Room devotionals:


No matter my age, I can serve God.

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