Football provides one interesting microcosm of life. There comes a point in a game when you know it is over. There is still time on the clock, there are plays yet to be called, but the scoreboard lets you know–the winer and loser is obvious. This is the time when it is most fun, to watch the players. I always laugh when a team is down by 30 points and some guy on the losing team makes a great tackle. He stands up, pounds his chest, and starts trash talking about how great a play he made. Meanwhile, the player from the winning team who just got tackled picks himself up off the turf, smiles, and points to the scoreboard because even though he lost on that play, he knows the game is already won. When you know the game is won, the hard hits don’t hurt so much. But when you know the game is lost, even the small hits hurt worse.
As a church planter, I have felt the thrill of victory when, for example, we baptized 11 people. I have also felt the agony of defeat as I have watched people embrace the Gospel and then turn away from both Jesus and fellowship with our Church-Family. So in the midst of trial, how can you and I gain perspective on defeat without losing our sanity?
I believe that Romans chapter 5 teaches that the perspective we seek in daily life comes through a right relationship with Jesus–the Savior of our soul.
Romans 5:1-11 is presented by Paul in a Chiastic structure.
A Right Relationship Produce Peace
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Faith heals our brokenness and puts us at rest with God. He is no longer our enemy, but our comfort in Christ Jesus.
B Right Relationship Produce Privilege
2 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.
We stand in grace and boast in the promise that one day we will experience the fullness of God’s glorious presence.
C Right Relationship Produce Power
3a And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations [external stresses]…
The Jews boasted in the Law. The Gentiles boasted in their wisdom. The Christian boasts because we have won the war through our introduction to God, so we do not fear the battles.
As an engineer, I learned that stress, in is a good thing. If all stress were removed, the building would fall part. If the stress is in the wrong place or too great, the building will fall apart. If the stress is put in the right place and with the right design the building will stand. With the power of Christ, stress, just like in a building, will become our strength.
C’ Power is Provided through Right Relationship
3b …knowing that tribulation [stress] brings about perseverance [endurance];
4 and perseverance, proven character [scientific evidence];
and proven character, hope [anticipation];
5 and hope [anticipation] does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
B’ Privilege is Provided through Right Relationship
6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
A’ Peace is Provided through Right Relationship
10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
What will today bring you? The thrill of victory? The agony of defeat? Will you find peace in the midst of the battle?
For God’s disciples, theere are no “Four Happy Hops to Hope”. There is simply stress, endurance, evidence, and anticipation… all fulfilled in the relationship with YHWH—and with church—that you cultivate each day by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you.