I really first discovered Romans 5 about the time I graduated from high school. The nineteenth year of my life was arguably the worst one because it was a transition from a relatively sheltered existence to rubbing up against a world I was not prepared to face. In the midst of exposure to a lot of antagonistic voices that ridiculed my faith, I found this chapter and in particular these verses:
“And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.” – Romans 5:3,4
It would take several more years for me to understand the full weight of those verses, but when I first read them it was like a lifeline thrown to a drowning man. What a revelation: right after Paul tells of the outcome of God’s magnificent grace- we are declared righteous through our faith and are at peace with Him because of Jesus Christ- he goes on to say that for the Christian even hard times work to our advantage by producing positive characteristics in us. He ends by saying the hope produced will not disappoint because the Holy Spirit given to us pours God’s love into our hearts.
But Paul is just getting warmed up in showing how awesome God is. In the next verse, he makes an astounding statement.
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly… But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (6,8)
If you need a little help with your awe, ponder that thought for a while. God didn’t send his Son to suffer as a sacrifice for the strong, the talented, the attractive, and the outwardly spiritual. God acted at the right time on behalf of the helpless, the sinner, the dysfunctional messed up ones that had given up any hope of ever being rescued from our ‘mess’. We couldn’t pull ourselves out and like quicksand, it was sucking us into hopeless oblivion. We had no road to God and were unable to find it on our own anyway.
Even more amazing is that God didn’t demand we clean up our act before he acted because he knew we couldn’t. Human logic could possibly accept the idea of dying for someone who deserved it. We’d think about sacrificing ourselves for one we loved or at least admired. But none of us deserve anything from God’s hand because we’re wretched beggars in ragged, filthy clothing. Even so, God still loved us and extravagantly paid the cost to take us out of the gutter and adopt us as his children.
“For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.” -Romans 5:10
It’s sad and pathetic how we stand before God and complain when he doesn’t act the way we think he should, as if he owes us something or is subject to our opinions. We cry that he is unfair, unfeeling, unjust when we experience difficulties or see injustice. We are arrogant, thinking we have wisdom and the world should act according to our definition of fairness.
Until we recognize our poverty and worthlessness, God’s grace and wisdom is nothing but foolishness and we are nothing but little tin gods. When we realize we are helpless sinners and throw ourselves on God’s mercy He gives us peace and joy no matter what our circumstances might be. Now THAT’S awesome!