Campus Renewal reported in 2017, “Studies have shown that somewhere between 60 percent and 80 percent of previously engaged Christian youth become disengaged with their faith as they transition into college.” College students are an interesting group. They are individuals trapped between the phase of youth and adulthood. They’re away from home and their faith is really tested for the “first time.”
This week we will conclude our mini-series in Romans as we work through Romans 8:31-39. As you recall, Romans 1-5 is all about justification. We are justified in Christ by His grace. Romans 6-8 focuses on sanctification. We are not perfect but live under the progressive influence of His holiness. Because of His active work we are also free from condemnation. Romans 8:31-39 reminds us that there is nothing that can separate us from His love. We are His adopted children and nothing can change the progressive work of His grace in our lives!
The past few weeks at New Life have been wide open! The weekend of Sept. 28 we came together to serve the men and women in our community who faithfully keep our city safe. The civil servants of Goose Creek are dedicated to their job and it is always a joy to provide opportunities to encourage them. This past weekend several volunteers from New Life joined together to serve a segment of the special needs community who attend the day program at Active Day of the Lowcountry. The team painted a very large room at their facility and they did an amazing job! It seems with all of the service projects we have going on the consistent perspective throughout the church family has been that 2018 has passed too fast.
I think it is important to recognize that this is a complicated issue. Ultimately when we pursue the issue of pain and suffering we inevitably come back to God. He is Sovereign, He is good and He is in control even in our suffering. C.S. Lewis said, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Pain gets our attention. It helps us focus on the things we consider important. As hard as it is, what if I looked at my pain as a way to learn more about myself and God? What if there are some lessons that can only be learned through suffering? Hebrews 5:8 tells us, “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered.” That’s a profound thought to think upon. In this life, as you experience pain and suffering, here are a few truths from the Bible that we can remember during those hardships.
#1 There is no condemnation
If we have a living trust in Jesus, we can know our suffering is not a form of wrath-filled judgment and condemnation for our sin. Paul tells us, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1) In other words, Jesus bore the full condemnation our sin deserves on the cross. That means there is no additional punishment for our sin, whether past, present, or future. Therefore, we can know that our trials and troubles are not due to God’s condemnation for sin.
During the difficulties of life we can trust His love never wavers, after all, “What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” This is a good question. Do trials and troubles separate us from the love of Christ? Should we think God loves us less if we are facing difficulty? Paul is emphatic, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:35, 37) We are not meant to measure God’s love by our circumstances. The measuring rod for the love of God is Jesus (Rom. 5:8).
#2 He uses all things for our good
The Bible also teaches that if we have a living trust in Jesus, we can know that God is working all things in our life, even our suffering, for our ultimate good. Paul reminds us, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom 8:28). Similarly, after being sold into slavery by his brothers, wrongly imprisoned for much of his twenties, when all was said and done Joseph could say, “You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20). How could he say that? He discovered that God is at work in ways unseen amidst our trial and trouble. Of course, we don’t know exactly what he is doing, but at the very least he is growing our faith, increasing our love, deepening our grace, expanding our patience, cultivating wisdom, making us more useful for his purposes. God uses the difficulties of life to help us become more like Him.
#3 There is no separation
Finally, if we have a living trust in Jesus, we can also know that He is never going to give up on us and will finish the work He started. He promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). That means we are never alone in our trials and troubles. Even more, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). This means our trials and troubles are not peripheral to God’s purposes in our lives, but part of them. Perhaps the greatest reminder from Paul comes from Romans 8:18 when he writes “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” As we endure the hardships of life, Christ is there from beginning to end, eager to reveal His glory.
One thing that we all have in common is that sooner or later we will experience pain and suffering. The unexpected car accident. The sudden loss of a job. The frustrating relational tension in the work place or at school. Unexpected illness. Sudden death of a loved one. Unmet expectations and unachieved personal goals. Eventually we all chase the same question, “Is this because of something I have done?” The reality is if you live long enough you will suffer. Pain and suffering are part of our experience and there is nothing we can do to change that reality! On an even deeper basis many have concluded because there is so much pain and suffering in this world, it is therefore impossible to believe that God is good. Does the presences of pain and suffering diminish the reality of God’s goodness?
Our Pastor writes most of the blog posts we publish, however, occasionally some of our other church leadership (some staff, some volunteer) who also contribute to the New Life blog.