“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 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.”
This is a wonderful passage to begin Lent and to even keep in your thoughts throughout Lent. In this short paragraph, St. Paul touches on so many important elements connected with Lent and this 40 days of following our Lord in his wilderness temptations and victories.
Verse 1 begins with “faith,” because faith is the key to our entire walk with God. It begins with faith and ends in faith. Faith, St. Paul proclaims, has justified us before God!
But, St. Paul does not want us to stop there. He doesn’t want us to just be those who have believed God’s Word about his Son dying for our sins. He wants us to be those who continue on in the life that faith produces. He says because you have been justified that means you have “peace with God.” You are a friend of God.
But faith continues to bear fruit, because as a friend of God you have access to this grace of God. You can come freely to God’s throne in prayer and worship. You do not have to feel condemned if you come to God’s throne in repentance for your sins and in faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. You have access to this grace, the gate is flung open for you.
But, this access wouldn’t be enough, if the moment that you entered God’s throne-room, you were kicked out. So St. Paul proclaims, you do not only have access to this grace, you also are able to stand and remain in this grace. Another word used often is the word “abide.” The idea here is very important. Since you have been justified by his grace through faith, you also are growing and living in this grace by faith!
The walk of faith throughout ones life is a walk in grace. This doesn’t mean that the Christian is always doing what is right and every day growing the way he or she should. What this means, is that at any time in the Christian’s life he or she only has to return to God’s grace in prayer and faith. God not only restores the Christian, but helps the Christian mend their ways.
This is what Lent is all about: Growing in one’s grace as a friend of God. Learning how to “stand in grace.” Learning how to be someone who responds to God and life and situations by faith so that grace might abound.
Notice how faith is still even more powerful yet. For, if it is not enough that we began our life of faith by justifying faith, and that we live out this life of faith by sanctifying faith, but faith is also our source of hope for the future. We hope in God by glorifying faith. St. Paul says: “and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Faith keeps us going, it gives us direction, it gives us the end to aim at and try to fulfill. When our flesh would tempt us to seek glory, we must look at God’s glory. We must remember how much more important is God’s kingdom and plan than our small desires and even our needs. When we fail, or when we suffer loss, we must understand these failures and loses to be temporary, for faith looks beyond the suffering to see God’s kingdom and victory.
And that is why St. Paul then begins to speak about suffering. Since the hope of the glory of God is beyond this world where we suffer, we must understand that faith will carry us through our sufferings and to this eternal world that awaits us. So Paul describes the process of our glorification. God is already working to glorify us by taking us down the path of faith, the path of the Cross.
St. Paul says: “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 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.
All Christians are traveling this same path of faith. We all share this path in common. We all suffer, we all are learning to endure. This is what it means to be a cross-bearer and a Christ follower. But we are all also being given a greater character: the Character of the Holy One, our Lord Jesus Christ. And the core component of this character is hope in God’s glory.
So remember, Lent is not in any way meant to be a time to beat up on oneself or to fall into despair. It is the time to grow in faith and hope and love and prayer and belief in the promises of God. Lent is the time of victory and conquest over one’s spiritual enemies, and this conquest will happen by grace through faith.
May we all this Lent, become just a little bit more like our Lord Jesus Christ as we by faith follow him down the holy path that leads to glory.