AND EXPERIENCE HOPE Andy Hollifield 2-9-17
Romans 5:1-8 (1)Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: (2) By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (3) And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; (4) And patience, experience; AND EXPERIENCE, HOPE: (5) And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (6) For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. (8) BUT God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
I know that’s several verses but it never hurts to read God’s word. I just got this thought on my heart the other day and I figured if it helped me, it might help someone else. “And experience, hope.” That simple phrase says a lot. It is an enormous but accurate understatement of a life being lived in the Lord. Not meaning to sound in any way like I am bragging because I have failed and come short of God’s glory probably far more than I have succeeded. But it is experience that gives me hope. It is the experiences that I have had with God throughout my life and all of its troubles and trials, that give me hope when the next storm of life arises. Because God has proven himself over the years, it has gotten easier to put my trust in him even more as I get older. With that said, the wheels may come off of my life tomorrow so to speak, but Lord willing I will keep my trust in him. We all have things that happen in our lives that shake us to the core. Some things just unsettle us and make us anxious for a time because we just don’t know what to do.
I had one of those experiences back in June 2016. I had gone to the lab to have blood work done for an upcoming appointment with my kidney doctor the following week. This was about 10:30 on a Friday morning. The transplant coordinator at my doctor’s office called and asked if I was feeling OK. I said I was feeling fine. She asked if I was sure. I told her I really was fine and asked her why. She then asked if I had went to have labs done that morning and I said that I had. Now I was starting to get a little uptight from her line of questioning. She explained to me that the lab had faxed her my results and then called her and told her to call me right away because my blood glucose was 509. This was at 2:00 in the afternoon. I figured out real quick that going to Bojangles and drinking half a gallon of sweet tea and eating a very large order of fries with biscuits and gravy before doing lab work was obviously not my best idea. The lab had been an after thought while doing other errands. But the fact was that I had a much bigger problem. She told me that my doctor had already called in a prescription for Metformin and I was to start taking them that day before supper. I had managed to go almost 33 years without getting diabetes which is very unusual for a transplant recipient. Now it looked like I had finally lost that fight. I knew that diabeties comes with a lot of side effects and due to my anti rejection meds, I knew that some of the problems associated with diabeties might not be treatable in my case. To put it mildly, I figured I probably had a better chance of dying from complications than most people. I started reading all I could and trying to figure out what all adjustments I was going to have to make to get my health back. I started trying to fix it because that’s just the way I am. I am not typically a worrier but I could feel myself going that way. A day or so after I told my mom, I remember telling her that I was trying real hard not to throw myself a big party, meaning a pity party. She told me that she had already threw one for me. After going through the initial shock, then the pity, I realized that this was something I couldn’t fix by myself. I have an autistic son so I knew I needed to live as long as possible for him and to do that I would need to be healthy. I knew the Lord would have to give me grace and help me if I was going to succeed. I began to pray and ask for his help and his grace to help me do the things I needed to do. To sum it up, I started exercising more even though I had been pretty consistent already. I began to watch what I ate and how much and actually began to drop weight. I got my A1C down significantly in 3 months and even more by 6 months. My point is simply this: based on my past experiences with the Lord and especially concerning my health, I knew I could count on him. He gave me hope because I knew what he was capable of.
Enough about me and my issues. I just wanted to give a detailed example of some of the stuff that has a tendency to “knock the props out from under us.” As I look back over my life, I can now see a lot of places where God has come through in what seemed at the time to be impossible situations. Like I mentioned recently out of the book of Jeremiah 32:17 “there is nothing too hard for thee.” I noticed that I had faced a lot bigger storms than diabetes in my life and if God could handle them then this one would be a picnic. Not meaning to understate diabeties, but God got me through a kidney transplant, the rejection episode, years of driving trucks and near wrecks, loss of a child through my wife’s miscarriage, multiple surgeries and joint replacements, loss of my job and career, raising an autistic son, a meningitis scare, loss of my dad to cancer, and about 12 other family members dying in about a two or three year stretch. With all of that and then some, once I settled down it wasn’t hard to trust God. I have been to the place in my mind where nothing mattered to me except God. I was even told during that dark time in my life that it was just a trust issue and that I just needed to trust God. Anyone that has ever been in that place knows it has nothing to do with not trusting God. God was all I had to hold on to during that time because he was the only one that knew exactly what I felt. I knew when that was told to me that, contrary to what this person said, they hadn’t ever been where I was at. When you have been to the place where dying looks easy and living looks hard, God is still right there for you. I am glad he met me in that spot and didn’t shun me. God has never shunned anyone that came to him with faith believing.
Verse 1 of Romans 5 said that because we are justified by faith in him, we can also have peace through him. What a sweet relief when we settle down and enjoy the peace he has for us. The book of 1 Peter 5:10 “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, SETTLE, you.” Actually, he also said in Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” It’s an easy thing for God to keep your heart because if you ever accept him as your savior, because according to Jesus in John 10:29, you are in the Father’s hand and no one can pluck you out. Our minds on the other hand, are often more difficult to keep. There is so much junk that infiltrates our mind that it is sometimes hard to keep our mind right. God’s peace will help keep our mind even in the most trying of circumstances. He can settle us.
Verse 2 says that by way of Jesus we have access to grace. As long as we have grace, we can rejoice in hope of the glory of God. God will get glory out of whatever situation you might be in if you will allow him to. Verse 3 says that we can glory in these troubles because we know they work patience. It is work to get through these times and keep your faith but it is a necessity. Verse 4 says that the patience we get during those hard times, serves to work out the experiences we have with God. It is because of the roads we have been down and the experiences that we have with God in the past that makes us trust him and that gives us hope. That only comes with time served. The longer you live for him, the more those experiences pile up. Verse 5 says that the hope we gain in all of this shouldn’t make you ashamed but it should make the love of God to be shed abroad in our hearts. Verse 6 emphasises the fact that when we were too weak and ungodly to come to him, he died for us. Verse 7 says that in most cases a man isn’t going to die for a person that is good. Verse 8 goes on to say that one man did die and he did it for us while we were yet sinners. We wasn’t seeking him but he found us while we were still sinners and died for us. Roman 4:18 says that Abraham believed against hope the promises of God. In other words; when he didn’t have any good reason to have hope he just kept hoping and because of that, he became the father of many nations. Verse 20 of chapter 4 says “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; Verse 21 “And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.” Don’t stagger through unbelief, God is still able to perform what he promised. Whatever situation you may find yourself in, just draw on your past experience with God and it will help you trust him now. And experience, hope. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!