Jack Graham - Making Sense Out of Suffering
Take God's Word and turn with me to the fifth chapter of the book of Romans, chapter 5. And we are in a series called THE ESSENTIAL GOSPEL. There's nothing above or beyond the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul said, "I'm not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation". The power of God is unleashed in the Gospel of Christ. The title of this message is "Making Sense Out of Suffering", and the things that we know and what we know is that there is peace with God when you know Jesus Christ.
In the midst of all the storms and chaos and suffering and evil that is in this world, God did not plan for this world to experience brokenness. He created the man and the woman, placed them in the Garden. They broke God's commandment and therefore, the world is under this domination and this power of sin. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ, where grace, "Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds". And that’s what we’re learning in the book of Romans. And as we get to chapter 5, it’s one of the pinnacle passages of scripture in all of God’s Word. It is monumental; it is a mountain peak passage of scripture.
And I want us to read together the first 5 verses, "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but 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". Everybody, say Amen!
So there you have it. God says we have been justified by faith, therefore, these are the blessings, the benefits that follow to those of us who have experienced this eternal salvation in Christ. It's all about the Gospel, this good news that we have in Jesus Christ and what that means not only forever, but right now. Do you have peace with God? Too many people think that peace can be found in a process, doing something, achieving something, or that peace can be found in a product, something you buy, the next big thing you want you get and you're happy, your peaceful. Some think that it is in a place. If I could just get to my vacation place then I will be at peace and take a deep breath. But no, it's not in a process; it's not in a purchase; it's not in a place and it's certainly not in a pill! Peace is in a person and that person is the Lord Jesus Christ.
And so the first thing that I want you to see in the Scripture today is that we have the peace of God. And therefore, we are eternally saved, having been justified. Remember that word justified means that we are now acquitted of all wrong-doing. It never happened! We are pardoned and it's permanent. All of our sins are forgiven because of what Christ has done at the cross. And God has said in the face of our judgment "Not guilty"! because of what Christ has done. We are acquitted of all of our crimes and high treason against the King of the universe. But not only does justification mean that we are acquitted, but it also means that we are accredited with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. When God now sees us, He sees not our sin but the Savior who lives within. We have Christ living in us and when it says here that "Therefore we are justified" that’s a done deal. It’s in a tense of the language of the New Testament which means completely finished, done, deal.
So many live with uncertainty and insecurity regarding their salvation. When you ask people, "Do you know for certain that you have eternal life, that you're going to heaven"? And so many people say, "Well, I don't know". Or "I hope so". Or "I think so". Or "Maybe so". God wants you to know so! "These things are written (God's Word) that you may know that you have eternal life". And we are therefore justified. But not only are we eternally saved: past, present and future - our sins are forgiven; we're saved from our sins, but we are, because of this justification in Jesus Christ, this salvation that we now possess, it is permanent, we are eternally saved and eternally secure. In other words, once you are saved, I mean truly saved, once you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are forever saved! You are forever saved because you are forever His! It is once saved, always saved!
You say, "Well I know that's what you Baptists think". No, that's what the Bible teaches. That we are in Christ forever His child. "He who began the good work in you will perform it, perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ". We have eternal life. You say, "Well, what if I'm not good enough"? Or "What if I can't hang on long enough"? "What if I sin a great sin? Am I still saved"? In Christ you are forever His! The Bible says, verse 2 in this same passage: "We are standing in grace". We’ll get to that in just a moment but if you’re saved by grace, you are standing by grace. The Bible says, "We are kept by the power of God". That we are held in His omnipotent grip. The Father’s hand holds us. We have eternal life; therefore, eternal grace equals eternal glory. It’s eternal.
Here's a verse you ought to know, if you don't know it already. And the words of Jesus in John chapter 5, and verse 24. Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has", not will get, but, "has eternal life and he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death unto life". When you believe and trust in God through Jesus Christ, you now have eternal life. Eternal life doesn't happen when you die. If you don't have it before then it will be too late! Eternal life happens the moment you respond to the Gospel and receive Christ into your life. Then you have eternal life.
Look at John 17 and verse 3, also on the screen, and this is Jesus speaking. "This is eternal life". What is eternal life? You say, "Well, eternal life is going to heaven". No, "eternal life is that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent". "He who knows the Son has life, and he who does not know the Son does not have life". So life is in Jesus. "To live is Christ; to die is gain". Eternal life, you have it now and forever as you have put your faith and trust in Christ.
I want to explain something to you about the peace with God as compared to the peace of God, because they're two different things. The scripture says here in verse 1, "Therefore we are justified, we have peace with God". The world is at war with God, and every person is born into rebellion against God. We're a part of a cosmic conflict between light and darkness, heaven and hell, sin and judgment and unbelief. And when we are born, we are born as little rebels. We are at war with God. And not only that, because God hates sin and is "of purer eyes than to even look on iniquity". We are at war with God; God is at war with us; God is at war with you. God is holy; God is righteous; God is perfect; God is pure. And sin is rebellion against God! So you’re in the fight of your life and not only life, but your eternal life. But God has given us peace, through the Lord Jesus Christ, with God.
When we come to faith in Christ, we lay down our weapons, we lay down our rebellion; we stop the resistance and we surrender to Christ. We submit our lives to Christ, and the war is over. When Jesus died on the cross and He cried out, "It is finished"!, "Tetelestai", not only did it mean the plan of salvation was finished, but it means the war is over; that God has given us victory in the Lord Jesus Christ when we come to faith in Him! And we have peace then with God. The wrath of God no longer burns against sin in my life, but now it is forgiven and I have this peace that I know that I am no longer at war with God, and that He is no longer at war with me, but we are reconciled; we’re brought together! That’s the relationship that we have with Christ.
The peace of God is something that comes along with the peace that we have with God. The peace of God is emotional tranquility and the inner peace that the Scripture talks about. It says: "Don't be anxious for anything", in Philippians 4, "Don't worry about anything, but pray about everything, with thanksgiving in your heart, let your request be made known to God, and (what will happen?) the peace of God that passes all comprehension and understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus our Lord". So you see, we have not only peace with God, eternal peace with God, but we have emotional peace with God and of God. The peace of God in your life.
Can you say I have God's peace in my life? The peace comes because of the peace deal that brokered at the cross. Colossians says that "He made peace to us through the blood of His cross". So now we know, we're making sense out of suffering, now we know first and foremost, and no matter what happens in life, I have peace with God, and that peace floods my life. I have peace with God; I have eternal life. I am eternally saved, and I am eternally secure! But not only do we have peace with God, but we have, according to this scripture, we have the privileges of grace. Look at verse 2: "Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God".
Two things happen when we are justified, when we are saved and eternally safe and secure: We have God's approval, God's favor, and we have access into the presence of God. The Bible says no one can see God and live, and yet, now because of what Christ has done. The Bible says we can come boldly to the throne of grace. So, yes, we come humbly to Christ in receiving His grace, but there's that strong word that we can come boldly to the throne of grace; we can stand in His presence. We have this privilege of access. And when it says we can come boldly, that's a word that means we can speak freely. You know, if you welcome someone into your life, if you truly have a relationship, that gives them the boldness, the access to speak freely. And God is saying that we can come before Him now because of what He's done in our life; that we can come into His presence humbly and yet boldly, and we can say what's on our hearts; we can speak our mind. Why? Because you are a child of the King!
John Newton, the preacher and the hymnist, who wrote "Amazing Grace", also said these things: "Thou art coming to a King; large petitions with thee bring, for his grace and power are such that none can ask too much". We have this privilege. But not only do we have peace with God, and not only do we have the privileges of grace, but we have the promise of glory. Look again in verse 2, "and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God". It says we exalt, we rejoice. The word there is to exalt which is an explosive term. It means exuberant praise. It means to rejoice from deep within. You know what it really means? It means to sing and shout the glory of God! This great hope that we have; Christ who is the hope of glory. And so this hope in which we exult; this hope in which rejoice and explode in praise to God.
That's why when we stand and worship or sit and worship for that matter, we shouldn't sit there with our hands in our pockets and our minds somewhere else. We ought to praise God for all He is worth, because we live in this happy hope. Hope is light in the darkest night. Hope in Christ! Christ, the Bible says, is our hope "Christ in you, the hope of glory". And what is glory? What is glory? Well, we found out in Romans 3:23 that "We all fall short of the glory of God". I said we all fall short of God's glory. So what is it? The glory of God is another word for His very presence. The glory of God is another word for heaven. Sometimes we refer to heaven as glory! Glory is the place where we will live with Christ forever. And then hope, and glorious hope is often code for the coming of Jesus Christ who is the Blessed Hope.
So think, when you read of glory and the glory which is to come, think of the coming of Christ into this world and Christ is coming again. And that's our only hope for peace in the world, when the Prince of Peace comes again and establishes His eternal kingdom. Second Corinthians 10:17 says: "But let he who glory, let him glory in the Lord"! The Scripture also says in Colossians 3 and verse 4 that: "One day when He shall appear, we will appear with Him in glory". So when you read glory, glory in the Bible, think of our glorious Savior and His glorious promise of hope and heaven, and think of His glorious return! One day He's coming for you! And therefore, we rejoice! We once fell short of His glory. Way short! Could never get there on our own. But now we celebrate His glory because of His grace!
One more thing: we not only have peace with God and privileges of grace and the promise of glory, one day we'll be with Him, but we have also the potential of growth. You say "What does that mean"? Well, look at verse 3: "Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings", remember, we're saying, we're making sense of our suffering. "We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing", mark that word knowing. You're gonna see it show up several times here. We don't live by what we fear but what we know. So, "knowing this deep within that we rejoice in our sufferings and this produces endurance, and endurance produces character (or purity) and character produces hope, and hope doesn't ever put us to shame"; it doesn't disappoint us because God has given us His Spirit and poured out His Spirit into our hearts.
When he says "We rejoice in our suffering" it's a word that means tribulation. Suffering there means tribulation. Jesus said, "In this world you will have tribulation". So what is it? It means a pressure. The word which literally means weight, a pressure; bowed down with burdens. And there are all kinds of pressures that we face just on face on a human level and whether it's a financial pressure or whether it's a physical problem in your life, that's a pressure, that's a suffering, that's a tribulation; it's trouble. So whether it's health problems or financial pressures or relationships, family issues, that's pressure. Or satanic attack. It's pressure. Jesus said, "be of good cheer; I have overcome the world", even in the midst of this pressure and tribulation.
So why does God allow it? Why does God allow us to go through such pressure and pain, suffering, heartache and heartbreak? Because this tribulation brings perseverance or patient endurance. Endurance is sometimes all we have left. You know that feeling? You’re just hanging on, trying to take the next step, trying to take the next breath. But it’s endurance and it’s patient, persevering endurance when we as Christians by the power and the strength that we have in the Holy Spirit, we deliberately choose to keep going and never quit. And there’s security and dignity in knowing this! And this endurance links us to proven character because it builds our character.
When we are under pressure and we respond, and sometimes it hurts, and it hurts deeply, but we keep going and we don’t just go through things, but we grow through things, and we keep pushing forward in Christ and looking to Jesus for our strength. And before you know it, we realize we’re stronger, we’re better; we have more endurance, we have more strength and our faith has more fortitude. This word patient endurance. I love it. It means victorious resilience. It’s not just grin-and-bear-it, it’s not just getting through or getting by, but it is enjoying and enlisting even the suffering and the pain of life as an ally to mature us and develop us in Christ. Hope is the result of character. Suffering makes sense in light of this hope. Things that don’t make sense down here doesn’t mean they don’t make sense up there. And this is our hope in Christ. Even in the pressure and pain, there’s joyful expectation. And hope is not disappoints. God turns our trials and tragedies into triumphants and victories. And when suffering doesn’t make sense, we trust God to turn it around. Turn the breakdown into a buildup in our lives. And when you discover Jesus is all you have, you will discover that Jesus is all you need.