Allison United Methodist Text: Romans 5:1-9
March 27, 2011 / 3rd Sunday in Lent
“Accessing God’s Grace”
We live in a world of increasing security. New ways are continually being invented
and improved upon to keep us safe, as well as to protect information that is personal
or classified. Request for ID cards has become increasingly commonplace for any
number of transactions. Passing through metal detectors has become routine in
airports, public buildings and even some public schools. Passwords are required to
access computer files, and PIN numbers to get money out of our own bank
accounts. A handprint is required to get clearance to enter into certain highly
It seems that our lives are increasingly being shaped by the need for security.
Without the proper security code or clearance you’re likely to hear someone say, or
read on a monitor, "Access Denied." No matter where we go today - whether online
or boarding a plane - we have to have the correct information to gain access,
otherwise we’ll be denied access.
In his Letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul writes “we have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ by whom we have access to God’s grace.” (5:1)
In an age radically different than our own, the Apostle Paul understood that Jesus
was the key to God’s grace. He realized the crucified Christ was the only way to
gain access to God’s forgiveness. Christ opened doors that were otherwise
Having made this point, Paul then proceeds to explain that because of God’s grace in
the crucified Christ, our perception of suffering changes. He even says we’re able to
boast about our suffering.
Listen again to the Apostle’s words: “We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that
suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character
produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us." (Romans 5:4-5).
Now most of us think of suffering as something to be avoided. We associate it with
adversity and hardship. And that’s natural. Who of us in our right mind would
choose suffering over something pleasant?
The interesting thing about suffering is that it has the ability to make us either weak
or strong. It can destroy us or deepen our resolve. It can rob us of the joy of living,
or cause us to have a greater appreciation for what is good in life. Though admittedly
not a pleasant way to learn, suffering can teach us obedience and endurance.
Take for example champion athletes. Only by learning to accept pain when their
muscles are crying out to quit do champions develop the ability to endure.
Champions learn to persevere despite their pain. They know all to well the familiar
phrase: ―No pain, no gain.‖ Even though it’s not a pleasant experience, suffering can
teach us endurance.
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It was no different for Jesus. The scriptures record that it was by His suffering that
Jesus learned obedience. The Book of Hebrews records these words: “Although He
was God’s Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8)
Jesus was able to endure the suffering of the cross because of His love for us. Even
though His preference was to avoid such horrific suffering, He learned to endure
because of His love for us.
Suffering is not always a undesirable thing. If we allow it, suffering can teach us
obedience and endurance. It can make us stronger. Suffering produces endurance.
One day a man was taking a leisurely walk enjoying the beauty of nature. After
having walked for a while he decided to stop and take a rest. While sitting on a rock
he gazed about, looking at the undergrowth, hearing the sounds of small animals
scurrying about the underbrush, and watching the flight of insects flying about.
After a bit he saw something fascinating. It was a cocoon in which a butterfly was
struggling to emerge. As he watched, the butterfly squirmed and tugged, pushed and
pulled, trying desperately to escape from its natural tomb. It was a slow process, and
appeared that for all its spent energy the butterfly was making little progress.
Touched with a sense of compassion, the man decided to lend a hand to the
struggling butterfly. So he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small
pocketknife. Ever so gently so as not to injure the butterfly, he cut into the cocoon to
increase the size of the opening for the butterfly to escape.
The butterfly soon crawled out almost effortlessly. It was finally free. The problem
was that is was unable to fly. As most of you know, it’s the struggle of emerging
from the cocoon that strengthens the wings of the butterfly. By assisting the butterfly
– even with the best of intentions - the man unknowingly prevented the butterfly
from strengthening its wings, resulting in its inability to fly.
Suffering produces endurance; endurance produces character.
At the innocent age of seven years, a young boy’s family was forced to evict their
home on a legal technicality, and the young boy had to go to work to help support the
family. At age 9 his mother died. Unable to attend school regularly, he taught
himself much of what he learned. At age 22 he lost his job as a store clerk. At 23 he
went into debt to become a partner in a small store. At 26 his business partner died,
leaving him a huge debt that took years to repay. At age 28, after courting a girl for
four years, he asked her to marry him. She said no.
Now endurance is one thing, but you'd think this guy would know when to give up.
But he didn't.
At 37, after two prior defeats, he was finally elected to Congress. Two years later he
ran for re-election and was defeated. At 41 his four-year-old son died. At 45 he ran
for the Senate and lost. At 47 he ran and failed to capture the candidacy for the Vice-
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President of the United States. At 49 he again ran for the Senate and lost. At 51 he
was elected president of the United States. His name, of course, was Abraham
Lincoln. From an early age he learned that endurance produces character.
Suffering produces endurance; endurance produces character, and character
Hope is the fuel that drives us to achieve. Admittedly, hope can easily be misplaced.
It can deceive us in being unrealistic.
For example, a man came upon a little league baseball game one afternoon. He asked
a boy in the dugout what the score was. The boy responded, ―Eighteen to nothing—
we’re behind.‖ ―Boy,‖ said the spectator, ―I’ll bet you’re feeling discouraged.‖ The
boy replied, ―Why should I. We haven’t gotten up to bat yet!‖
But hope can also motivate us to remain steadfast even when all others have their
The story is told of a young girl about the age of eight waiting alone in a busy air
terminal. She had gotten off an earlier flight and was waiting for her father to pick
her up. Outside a snowstorm had traffic congested. Hardly anything was moving.
In the midst of this hectic activity sat this young girl alone, hugging her doll. One
might have expected tears, but her big eyes never closed. She watched wide-eyed for
her daddy to appear. A security guard stood close by keeping watch on her. Now
and then he’d approach the girl and ask if he might be of help. She’d always reply,
"No thank you. I'm waiting for my daddy." She waited for about two hours.
Finally a huge smile spread across her face as she recognized a snow-covered man
coming toward her. As her father led her by the hand to leave the terminal, she
paused at the security guard and said, "See, I told you my daddy would come."
She never doubted. Never did her hope falter. She knew in whom her hope was
fixed. She knew no storm would keep her daddy from reaching her. And she was
Being steadfast in difficult times is determined by our hope. As Christians we cling
to the promises of God, confident that our hope will not disappoint us, even if the
fulfillment of our hope is delayed.
As Christians, we’ve been given access to God’s grace through the crucified Christ.
It’s neither a secret nor something we have to keep hidden. As Paul wrote, we can
even boast about it. We can boast about the crucified Christ, and how He rose from
the dead, gaining access to eternal life for all who believe in Him. We can boast
about how God’s grace abounds and our sins are forgiven.
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As we draw closer to the cross in our Lenten journey, I pray that each of us will
experience the peace of God which passes all human understanding, keeping our
hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Savior.
Resource: “Sermons for Sundays In Lent and Easter”, Richard W. Ferris, CSS Publishing
Company, Inc., 2004