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Message for Sunday 16 June 2019: “Spiritual Cascade”

In today’s lectionary from Romans 5: 1-5, Paul the Apostle illustrated an interesting chain of events, something like a spiritual cascade.  Often chain events are represented as bad, where one adverse situation leads to another and so on. But Paul provided a different chain, one that starts negative but which has a positive outcome for those willing to embrace it.

Paul began by reminding his readers that they are justified by faith: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ …” (Romans 5:1). Emphasizing faith sets the tone for all of Paul’s writings, which elevate the power of human conviction and intention through a trusting relationship with God.

Paul then raised the ominous topic of suffering, a defining aspect of reality. How you manage suffering can make all the difference, such as that between a life a misery and one of triumphal living. Yes, suffering is a fundamental reality of the human condition that is difficult to avoid. Even so, Paul stated that “we 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. …” (Romans 5: 3-5). Note how Paul interprets suffering as a step toward a positive state of endurance, character and ultimately hope.

Paul’s mention of endurance as a result of suffering is not what some people might expect. Suffering often produces hopelessness, anger and frustration. In contrast, endurance is a process of putting challenges into a more patient, constructive perspective. Endurance is a positive state because it suggests running life’s course with a steady persistence.  Paul continues by tying endurance to character, strengthening the spiritual cascade of positive momentum. Lastly, Paul connects character to hope, which is a priceless gem of religious faith.

Consider Paul’s chain of cascading events: Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character builds hope. Even when something bad happens, such as the challenge of suffering, it can lead to hope. The lesson is that God can take bad events and help transform them into blessings—if we do our part to help make it happen.

When you are faced with great challenges, don’t fear as if there’s no hope. Take the inconvenient and even painful events and struggle to translate them into a better outcome. There can be much beauty in allowing the root of your painful experiences to blossom into a hopeful status. It’s also helpful to consider that setbacks can be setups for success. Rather than stomp and stammer over setbacks manage them in a manner that can create a cascade of wonderful blessings.

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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