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Romans

5:1-11


 

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

 

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person - though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die - but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (ESV)

Gratification of Grace

Monday of Easter 2

13 April 2015

Hard work has its own rewards. Normally, the rewards show themselves in the result that comes from the labor. We don't relish the suffering that causes our success, but we look forward to the results. A business owner puts in long hours to get a new endeavor off the ground. Perhaps the result is years away; yet the labor will earn its reward. We call this "deferred gratification;" suffering now gives result later. In some sense, there is a similar "deferred gratification" in the Christian life. We don't fully experience that gratification until we come into the possession of our inheritance in heaven. For now we live in the promise; a promise as good as fulfilled.

 

We Christians not only live in the hope of a deferred gratification, but we also glory in and rejoice in the suffering that we face now. Here there is nothing deferred. Our glory and joy is in the sufferings we now face for the sake of Christ. This is certainly counter-intuitive; that suffering is for our joy. Who rejoices in suffering? Those who suffer are often despondent and even hopeless. We wonder if God has abandoned us and rejected us when we suffer, especially when we suffer for confessing His truth. We want a payoff for our hard work that is quicker than what God has determined to give us. What our Lord is asking us is to see in and beyond our suffering is the joy that is set before us. He calls us to be shaped by the Lord Jesus' own practice: "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame" (Heb 12:2). I have usually read this to mean that Christ suffered for the sake of future joy. I think now that my reading was wrong. The participle "set before Him" is contemporary with His endurance of the cross. In other words, the joy set before was the cross itself! His glory and joy is the cross.

 

Our suffering for Christ has its meaning not in our feeling about the suffering, but the fact of the suffering of Christ on the cross. It is our glory and joy. This can only be confessed in faith and by faith, to see beyond the pain and in the pain we are undergoing likeness to Christ. We too suffer for the sake the joy that is entailed in the suffering itself, just as did our Lord and Savior. This is what it means to bear the cross. We don't need to delay gratification where we have the grace to experience joy in our suffering. That is a gratifying gift of grace.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"'We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance' (Rm 5:3). Consider how great the things to come are, when we can rejoice over things that seem to be troubling. So great is God's gift, that nothing is detestable in them! For in the case of mere external goods, the struggle for them brings trouble, pain, and burdens along with it. The goods themselves are the crowns and rewards that carry the pleasure with them. But in the case which Paul gives, it is not so. For the struggles themselves have for us no less delight than the rewards. For since there were many temptations in those days, and the kingdom existed in hopes, the terrors were at hand, but the good things only in expectation. This unnerved the weaker person, even before the crowns he gives them the prize now, by saying that we should 'rejoice in our sufferings.' And what he says is not 'you should rejoice,' but 'we rejoice,' giving them encouragement in his own person.

 

"Since what he had said had an appearance of being strange and paradoxical, if a person who is struggling in famine, and is in chains and torments, insulted, and abused, ought to glory, he goes on to confirm it. What is more, he says that they are worth being rejoiced in, not only for the sake of those things to come, but for the things themselves. For tribulations are in themselves good things. How? It is because they anoint us for patient waiting. Therefore after saying we rejoice in our sufferings, he has added the reason, in these words, 'knowing that suffering produces endurance.' Notice how Paul gives their argument an opposite twist. Since it was tribulations above all that made them give up the hope in things to come, which made them despondent, he says that these are the very reasons for confidence, and for not being despondent about the things to come, because 'suffering produces endurance.'"

 

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 9
 
Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, You have had joy in the cross. Give us the grace to find our gratification in suffering our own crosses. Amen.

 

For those who are receiving their assignment to parishes in the LCMS, that the Lord would be with them as they take up their calls in the Lord's vineyard

 

For the peace of the world, that terrorism would not disturb us

 

For police and other public safety officials, that they would be kept safe and given wisdom to carry out their duties

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Resurrection (1515)

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