Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-8)
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
This passage provoked the image of a helpless person, defiled and dying being carried along to cruel ends when, at just the right moment, they are snatched away by a superior power. They are somehow equipped with a knowledge that Christ has died for them. It dawns upon them that while they were dying and being carried to destruction Jesus had taken their place.
Here, I picture this Christian entering onto a moving production line. The first station is labelled Introduction By Faith Into Grace. The believer progresses on to Justified By Faith and then to Peace With God Through Jesus Christ. This assembly line ends and off we come, exulting in the hope of the glory of God. At this point the line has two options.
I’m not sure whether the believer is placed on the next conveyor by the Boss or whether he steps onto it of his own accord but one option is named Tribulation, the other is Ease and Comfort. Many hop onto the Ease and Comfort conveyor and proceed to destinations unknown. A few step onto the Tribulation Line. They first come to the Hardship Station but they hold fast, arriving eventually at Perseverance and then onto Proven Character and then to Hope That Does Not Disappoint. All along the way the love of God is poured out upon them liberally through the Holy Spirit who has been given to them.
This mechanistic portrayal of life in Christ breaks down as do all metaphors but it will still mean something to those who suffer and persevere, or know those who do. My friend Randy Williams comes to mind. He passed away Sunday, April 17th after a long battle with Melanoma. Randy knew the combination of tribulation and perseverance but it was not limited to cancer. I have known Randy since grade school. We attended all the same schools all the way through college, and even shared the same construction career path.
I was aware Randy’s conveyor carried him through hardships earlier and more frequently than most. Circumstances of his life dictated that he become a man much earlier than most boys. (His Popeye arms and square jaw at 11 years old were a hint.) I did not know when his introduction into faith happened I only knew of it because of his proven character. Randy was the real deal, graced with a simple yet powerful devotion to Jesus Christ. Even though he had big strong hands and did much rough work he had a gentleness about him. In all my dealings with Randy he exuded peace. I always left our conversation with an awareness I had been in the presence of an extraordinary man.
Randy Williams was the epitome of Romans 5:1-8 and his hardships are now complete. Thank you Randy for the fragrant aroma of Christ that accompanied your life and which still lingers. You have been a rock to many people and an inspiration to those of us who have known you. Well done Hoss.
And thank you for throwing so many baseballs and footballs with me.
Father, may you continue snatching your defiled and helpless children from the tracks of sin they are on. Succeed in equipping a multitude of people with the knowledge of Your Son. Oh Lord, may our hearts live saturated with a heart-awareness that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Amen.