June 10, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Romans 5:1-5 (NRSV)
Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but 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.
In times of trial—which there will be no shortage of for believers—we can know and feel that the Triune God is with us.
Tomorrow is Trinity Sunday—the only feast in the church year devoted to a doctrine rather than to a person or an event. The Sunday was first proclaimed as a church feast in the 1300s, but its roots go back all the way to the first century.
As you have probably heard, the word “Trinity” never comes up in the Bible (it was first used by Theophilus of Antioch in the late second century). However, there are references at various points in the New Testament to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19, the Great Commission, is one of the most memorable), and early church leaders began very soon to discuss what it meant to worship one God in three persons. We can see the beginnings of this process in Acts itself, and in other very early church documents such as the Didache and the writings of Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch (all of which date from fewer than 100 years after Jesus’s death and resurrection.)
Today’s Scripture is one that is often read on Trinity Sunday because it refers to the actions of all three Persons of the Trinity. Paul writes here of what happens when we are justified by faith–we are made at peace with God the Father, through the actions of God the Son, surrounded at all times by the love of God the Holy Spirit.
This is important to Paul’s argument in Romans for a couple of reasons. One is that, as Paul emphasizes in so many places, justification is not something that we can do for ourselves. It is something that is done through the power of the Triune God—most especially through the death and resurrection of God the Son (see Romans 4:24-25, 5:6-11, and 6:5-11, for example.)
The second reason is the relationship of the action of justification to our times of suffering and trial. In Romans 5:2-5 we read that we can boast even in our sufferings because “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.” In times of trial—which, as I mentioned last time, there will be no shortage of for believers—we can know and feel that the Triune God is with us.
Our hearts are so heavy—they have always been heavy, true, but it seems that the last few years have made them heavier yet. Pandemic, war, violence, racial reckoning, the death of innocents—the news seems endless. It’s easy to look at Romans 5:2-5 superficially and think that it tells us to grin and bear it and not acknowledge our anguish. It does not. It is appropriate, and even Biblical (think of the Psalms) to be tired and sad and angry.
You have probably heard of Corrie Ten Boom, the watchmaker turned activist and then writer and preacher who saved many Jews from the Nazis, was herself put in a concentration camp, and survived to spend time traveling, telling her story, and speaking to people of the good news of Christ. As she traveled and spoke, she often recalled the words of her sister Betsie from the depth of the concentration camp: “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.” That is the promise of Romans 5:2-5. Suffering will produce endurance, and endurance character, and character hope—and through it all God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will not disappoint us.
Where are you suffering?
Where are you growing in endurance and character?
Where do you see hope?
A Psalm which speaks of crying out to God’s love in times of suffering is Psalm 130, which was beautifully rendered into a hymn by Martin Luther called “Out of the Depths I Cry to Thee.” Here is a congregation singing it in worship in 1962. (Lyrics are on the screen, and the preacher whom you will occasionally hear in the microphone is none other than the great Welsh minister D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones). Let it speak to you in your times of anguish.
Walk with me through my trials, O Triune and blessed God. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Grace Transforms Suffering in Our Life in Christ (Romans 5:1–11)
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Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University) is the editor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also the managing editor of Christian History magazine and web editor for the Theology of Work Project, and a priest in the Episcopal Church. She has written a book of poetry, Histories of Us. Jennifer lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband, Edwin, and their two daughters.
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