Tim’s Daily Bread Devotional 5.28.22

By May 28, 2022Daily Bread

Good morning!

I hope this day finds you and your family well. I invite you to take a few moments with me to read and reflect upon today’s scripture selection — and to carry these thoughts with you into your day.

Today’s Scripture: Romans 5:1-11

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.  Several passages in his writings and the book of Acts 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 directly 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 know 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 some close connections and some 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.  Like the travel agent, I suppose 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, difficulties, suffering, and trouble are part of every life.  We may wish that it were some other way.  We may feel that the problems we have are unfair.  At some level, we may believe that life is supposed to be without trouble or suffering.

Because of these wishes, feelings, and beliefs, 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 gave 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 natural 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, and difficulty can lead us to a place of anger and frustration with life.  It can steal life from us and 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.  The struggle, the agonizing work of emerging, pumps the fluid into the wings to make them rigid and strong.  The suffering and the struggle of the emerging butterfly enable 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 few years ago, my wife 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 considerable 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 a 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 produce hope in others—bringing hope to those who need 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 that character 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 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 invited you to think about these words about hope from Vaclav Havel, who served as the last president of Czechoslovakia from 1989 until the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1992 and then as the first president of the Czech Republic from 1993 to 2003:

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.

 

Hymn: “It is Well with my Soul” by Horatio G. Spafford (1873)
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 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 hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought—
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to His Cross, and I bear it no more;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live;
If dark hours about me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

Thank you for sharing this moment of your day with me, with God, and with these reflections on a portion of scripture.  I hope you will carry these with you throughout your day and night.

Grace and Peace,


Dr. Tim Bruster
Senior Pastor

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