1 Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. 3 But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, 4 endurance produces character, and character produces hope. 5 This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
The apostle Paul sketched the spiritual growth process through which every Christ-follower can develop a character that meets any of life’s dark twists and turns with hope and trust, not despair. Greek literature featured stories that showed humans growing more noble through terrible suffering. And Paul said that as we meet trouble with God’s grace and hope, we grow. But Pastor John Ortberg noted, “At the end he added as a climax what would never have occurred to a noble pagan: ‘and character produces hope.’”*
Lord Jesus, I like the image of overflowing with hope—but, many days, I also know that isn’t me. Keep me attuned to the ways you are seeking to fill me to overflowing. Shape me into a fountain of hope for those around me. Amen.
* John Ortberg, Who Is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012, p. 195.
As we consider today’s passage, I thought we could “visit” with Paul Murphy, former President of the non-profit organization, Pessimists International.
DL: Mr. Murphy, thanks for your time. So you used to be a pessimist? What was that like?
Murphy: I was a pessimist from the day I was born – even my blood type was B-Negative. I saw doom & gloom in every activity. For example, I didn’t enjoy trips to Colorado to go snow skiing, since it was all down hill from the start.
Even when I became a lawyer, I called my firm, Murphy’s Law. My first case was an embarrassing defeat & my last case was representing a Hot Dog processor – you could say my career just went from bad to wurst. So, I started Pessimists International. It wasn’t supposed to be a non-profit, but I thought, “Who’d want to pay a membership fee for this group?”
DL: What changed?
Murphy: About 10 years ago this week, I listened to the 70th anniversary of the baseball player Lou Gehrig’s famous speech at Yankee Stadium. The “Iron Horse” was considered to be one of the all-time great ballplayers. His 1938 season was good by anyone’s standards, but his. The start of the 1939 season Gehrig struggles to run the bases. He is congratulated for routine plays. On May 2, 1939 he takes himself out of the lineup after 2,130 consecutive games. He takes the lineup card to the stunned umpires himself & returns to the dugout & starts to cry. On June 19, he is diagnosed at the Mayo Clinic with ALS disease. He retires June 21. On July 4, 1939 the Yankees hold Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day. A teammate is given the assignment to catch Gehrig should he start to fall. He is too overcome with emotion to speak as the crowd chants, “We want Lou!” But then he says:
“For the past 2 weeks you have been reading about a bad break. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years & have never received anything but kindness & encouragement from you fans….So I close in saying that I have been given bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.” 1
I thought, how could anyone consider himself lucky during such a devastating period? A colleague said that if I was impressed with Gehrig’s attitude, I should check out the Apostle Paul.
I read Paul’s letters with fascination. Here was a man who was tortured, imprisoned multiple times (some terms lasting years), & threatened with death wherever he went, and yet in the midst of these dangerous hardships he would write, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…and we boast in the hope of God’s glory.”
Well, I had to know what would motivate this man. I then read the book of Acts & of his famous conversion on the Road to Damascus. I then read the Gospels & became a believer. Very backwards, I know, but it was such a powerful change in my life.
DL: So, what happened then?
Murphy: I closed my firm. I partnered with 2 of my female colleagues to form a new firm, Polly-Anna Law.
You know, it is so easy to view life with a pessimistic lens. However, with the grace of God & the love of Christ, we Christians have the opportunity to view life’s challenges through the lens of hope. Yes, that mountain climb is a struggle, but there will be beautiful vistas along the way to give us moments of peace. Yes, we’ll go through valleys of despair, but the valley won’t be as long or as low with Christ as our companion. I start & end each day noting the blessings in my life – and not a day goes by that I don’t find at least one thing that makes me think, “I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
DL: Thanks for your time.
Pollyanna was a young girl from a series of novels written in the early 1900’s by Anna Sewell. Pollyanna always put a positive spin on every situation, which she called “The Glad Game.” Thus, the name of the optimistic-leaning law firm -Editor.
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