- Romans 5:1-5
- Reference to a story found in Numbers 13-14, particularly 14:33
- Reference to Psalm 91:4 (“God covers you with his feathers”)
- John 9 (the whole chapter, but she focuses on vv. 1-3, 34 and 35)
- Colossians 1:27
Pastor Holly’s message focuses on this passage from Romans:
We boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope.Romans 5:2b-4, NIV, emphasis mine
These four key words form the stages of the Hope Cycle she draws:
Hope. I may not get to see it all, but I have faith, this is my hope.
Suffering. We are not exempt from suffering (as Christians) but we do have hope that God will produce something from our suffering.
Perseverance. Perseverance is when you keep going when you think you can’t. Here, she tells a story of dealing with negative media press regarding her husband and her church, and she says, The freaking comments. Don’t read the comments. Don’t make comments.
God covers us with his feathers, referencing Psalm 91:4: “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” The whole psalm is good!
It would be nice if we only needed to handle one cycle at a time, but the reality is we have multiple cycles: there’s usually one big cycle and several smaller ones.
Character. Each part of the cycle feeds into the other parts – and each cycle feeds into the other cycles. Each cycle helps you form character qualities like patience, joy, and faith. Even the smaller cycles help build hope for the big cycles. (I am very much summarizing her words here, this is not verbatim.)
I thought about calling this sermon “Think Next.”
Run the Cycle!
- Comparison: “I’m the only one going through this.”
- Complaining: “Why me?”
- Blame: “It’s so-and-so’s fault that I’m dealing with this.”
- Anger: “Why did God allow this to happen?”
It’s okay to feel these things because pain is real, but be careful not to STAY here. Israel was only supposed to be in the desert for two weeks, but ended up there for 40 years.
She is referencing Numbers 13-14 here, where Moses sent spies into Canaan, but ten of the twelve spies reported false things to deter them from entering. The people complained and wanted to go back to Egypt. I believe Pastor Holly’s use of “two weeks” is either incorrect or used hyperbolically, because by this point, they had already been in the desert for much longer than two weeks. It takes them three months to get from Egypt to Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:1), where God gives Moses the Ten Commandments, and it takes 40 days for the spies to explore Canaan (Numbers 13:25). Regardless, what could have taken less than a year, generously, is now going to take 40, and worse! Anyone who was 20 years or older at the time of the census taken at the beginning of Numbers will die in the wilderness, never seeing the Promise Land, “not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times—not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors” (Numbers 14:22-23a, NIV). At this point, I think it’s important to note that “staying here,” as Pastor Holly describes, has more to do with not trusting God (or flat out disobeying God) than it does with staying stuck in our sadness.
- Church: Borrowing from one another’s faith when ours doesn’t seem strong enough.
- The right voices
- Worship music: An anthem for the trial, some songs become a song that gets you through. She shares Unstoppable God as an example of this during her period of trial. She also mentions Do It Again and Surrounded (Fight My Battles) as examples.
1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”John 9:1-3, NIV
God isn’t constrained by our cause-and-effect formulas. “Take your eyes off the suffering and onto the fact that I’m working for your good.”
My darkness becomes a canvas for his light. Pastor Holly attributes this quote to Ann Voskamp. I found a quote from one of her books which I believe is what she was referencing:
The real Jesus turns to our questions of why–why this brokenness, why this darkness?–and says, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here.” “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”
There’s brokenness that’s not about blame. There’s brokenness that makes a canvas for God’s light. There’s brokenness that makes windows straight into souls. Brokenness happens in a soul so that the power of God can happen in a soul.Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way, Chapter 1, emphasis mine.
Pastor Holly explains some specific things about the story of the man who was born blind who was then healed by Jesus:
- Spit, which was typically an insult (soldiers spit on Jesus after he was arrested–Matthew 26:67), Jesus used to perform a miracle. (I found a few secondary sources that suggested that Romans and Jewish rabbis considered spit to be a valid treatment for blindness, but nothing definitive.)
- The Pharisees were upset because Jesus healed on the Sabbath, when they should have been amazed that he had healed a man blind from birth. (John 9:16)
- When Jesus finds the man again in Verse 35, he asks if he believes in the Son of Man. Pastor Holly points out that the word “believe” here is a Greek word that means trust. It’s more than just intellectual belief in facts, but confidence in God.
Do you believe that God may not fix “it” but he’s fixing something in you?
God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.Colossians 1:27, NIV, emphasis mine
It’s okay to not see the hope in the midst of the suffering (no one wants to hear about how our suffering is making us better people) but God is always with you in every step of the process.
Other Passages to Check Out
- James 1:2-4, 12
- Matthew 28:20b (“I am with you always.”), Hebrews 13:5b (“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”)
- All of 1 Peter is really good, particularly: 3:15-17, 4:12-19, all of Ch. 5
- There are several references in both the New and Old Testaments to trials/tests refining character the same way a fire refines silver or gold: Zechariah 13:9, 1 Peter 1:7, Isaiah 48:10, Malachi 3:3, Job 23:10, Proverbs 17:3, Psalm 66:10