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Sunday Message for 12 June 2022: “One Leads to Another”

Paul the Apostle illustrated an interesting chain of events. Often chain events are represented as bad, where one adverse situation leads to something worse. Yet Paul provided a different chain, one that starts negative but which has a positive outcome for those who work through the process.

Paul began by reminding his readers of their monumental status:  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 persistence in following God.

Faith is profoundly associated with religion and spirituality. More complex than simple trust, faith is a deep belief that someone can be relied upon even during complicated and uncertain circumstances. Faith can be placed in a person’s character, which you are convinced will act in your favor and in your best interest. Therefore, faith as used in Paul’s narrative is an invitation to rely upon God.

Paul raised the ominous topic of suffering, an unpleasant yet undeniable reality. How you manage suffering can make the difference between a life of misery or one of joy. Paul suggests that when handled well, suffering can lead to what we might call triumphant living. Suffering is a defining aspect of humanity. Nonetheless, 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).

Notice how Paul interprets suffering as a step toward a positive state of endurance, character, and ultimately hope.  Paul’s mention of endurance is not what some people might expect. Suffering often produces hopelessness, anger and frustration. Suffering commonly arouses complaints and may involve desperation that can make things worse. In contrast to defeatism, 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 steady persistence.

Paul’s chain of events bears repeating: Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character builds hope. It may not be easy to feel the connection between these stages but for Paul invites his readers to consider the possibility. The promise here is that even when something bad happens, such as suffering, it can eventually produce hope. The lesson is that God can take bad events and help transform them into blessings—if we do our part and remain faithful.

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 hope. It’s also helpful to consider that setbacks can be setups for success. Rather than stomp and stammer over problems, choose instead to manage issues in a way that leads to a better version of yourself.

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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