These are my footprints on a local trail about 5 days after it had rain. Yes, it had rained enough that it was that slippery. I wish I could say this was the only hill I did this one, but it wasn’t. I just had to keep hiking though to make it back to my car.
We’re are walking through the season of Lent together, a season of contemplation and reflection, a season where we remember the sacrifice our Savior paid for each of us on the Cross, and of course, His beautiful resurrection that always gives us hope. Many of us have given up something, or tried to do something, for the season of Lent- like refusing to drink coffee/cokes/etc…or maybe actually doing our devotions on a daily basis, or keeping a daily faith journal, or something to that affect. And this post isn’t about whether we should give something up or not, or whether we should include something in our routine. That’s a faith conversation to be had before the season of Lent begins.
This is about what many of us have certainly experienced by now- failure. If you gave something up, how long did you last? Or, if you were trying to add something to your routine, how long was it before you missed it one day? Or two? Or three, four?
My wife and I have been working through a daily couples’ devotion, written specifically for ministry couples, during this season of Lent on Romans 8. We did great for about a week, but then, life got in the way. You see, my 10 month old doesn’t always stay asleep after she puts him down. I don’t always have energy after coming home from an evening of meetings. Sometimes we really just want to turn the T.V. on veg-out before we decide it’s time for us to lay down.
Romans 5:1-8 was the Epistle lesson assigned a couple weeks ago, and I would invite you to turn to it now. Go ahead and read it.
Notice where Paul starts this part of the conversation- with our justification in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection. That’s important. We start everything we do as children of God in the justification we have in Jesus Christ. If we don’t, we tend to look to ourselves, our own successes, or our own failures, instead of to what Christ has already done for us. Then, Paul begins to look at those times we seem to fail, or things don’t go as they should.
We don’t talk about perseverance when life is going great. We talk about it when we are struggling. We don’t talk about building character when everything is swell, we talk about character forming in the challenges of life. So, what Paul is doing here is not anything new-except to frame it in the justification that we already have in Jesus Christ.
This is why Paul can say these things (perseverance and character) can lead to hope. Not because our hope rest in our ability to endure, but because it rest in what has already been secured in Jesus Christ.
So, if you’re like me, and your Lenten efforts have already slipped, or you’ve already given up…take heart. Your justification is secure in Jesus Christ, there is still hope. There is always hope in Jesus Christ. No matter how many times you may slip, keep pushing forward. The end goal is already promised, so in the mean time, “…perserverance produces character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given to us.” (NIV).