May 22 "Our Hope"  
BIBLE READING- Romans 5: 1-5

This afternoon, after church, Debbie and I are going out to lunch this afternoon, so excuse me for a second while I try to make a reservation.
I’m hoping to get a table on short notice…..(take out cell phone)
Pretty sure I’ll be able to get a hold of them because their web site lists their number. 
I know that they always take calls right away or they’ll call back within minutes.
And its safe to assume I’ll get a table since they’ve always been helpful in the past
“Hello?  My name is Peter Hutchinson and I’d like a reservation for lunch - 1:00 for two”.
Once again you guys have come through!” Thanks very much!”

To hope in something or someone, three things are needed.
First, to place hope in someone or something they must be accessible.  
Are you feeling pretty certain that you can connect with them?
Can you get a hold of them when you need to without problem?

Second, even if you know where they are what we place our hope in must be available.
Are you confident that they will be there whenever you need them?
Are they going to be busy with other things or people and not have time for you?

Third, what we place our hopes in must be reliable.
Do they have a proven track record that they are trustworthy?
More so,…do they have a history with your in particular where they have come through?

If the restaurant was not easily accessible, then I’d have tempered hope.
If I didn’t think there’s a table available,…then I’d have little reason for hope.
And, if they had no history of helpfulness,…then I’ve got nothing to base my hope upon.
I was just kidding and acting about getting a lunch reservation,...
But….what if it was not a reservation for a pleasant lunch that you needed.
Imagine you and your family were suffering and struggling to just food on the table.
But you knew a food bank that’s accessible, available, and had reliably helped people.
Then you’d have reason to hope.

In today’s second lesson from Romans, we heard one of my favorite bible verses.
In speaking to believers in Rome, the writer, Paul, says that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope”, and hope (in God) does not disappoint us”.

There are in these passages a sequence that outlines an important part of living in faith.
First, Paul is telling the Christians that YOU WILL go through hardship and suffering.
That is just part of life and being a Christian does not exclude you from suffering.
But, he adds that as you persevere in faith during suffering you will endure.
That means that, believing in the promises of God, you will not drown in your sufferings.
 And then he says that enduring suffering will help us develop greater character.
In other words, despite the scars we’ll incur, we will be even stronger as a result of this.
Then finally he says from that character you’ll find hope within yourself.
And that hope is grounded in love of God the Spirit has poured into our hearts.

Paul’s whole letter to the Romans is all about the importance of faith in our lives.
And trials and tribulations in life are when the rubber of faith meets the road of life.
Not when we are comfortable and life is easy and good and the future looks bright.
But when we are struggling, or worrying, or suffering, or someone (or we) are dying.

It’s when we really need someone or some help and when hope becomes important. 
A Christian’s hope isn’t some hazy concept of optimism or just  wishing upon a star.
Hope is trusting in that what you know is a reality will be sure to come.
And the bible says we can hope even when we’re despairing, desperate or dying.

So we can hope when suffering because we know we can go to the God who loves us.
In the midst of suffering we can endure because we know God is accessible to us.
As it says in today’s passage;…through Christ “we have obtained access” to God.

We develop character as we endure sufferings because we know God is available to us.
We know we can go to the Father any time because the Son has granted that to us.
The passage says we ‘stand in the grace of God’,…that is, we stand in the love of God.

And, the character gained through suffering breeds even greater hope within us.
We we know from the bible of God’s reliable history taking care of his people He loves
God’s love has even brought each of us through sufferings and will do so again.

I think I like this passage because it speaks the hard truth that suffering is part of life.
Suffering of finances,…health,…relationships,…the sorrow of death.
Yet it tells us that God takes us through the bad and suffering, makes us stronger.
Paul uses a Greek word for “character” that means metal that’s subjected to testing.
Metal came out of the fire with impurities removed and of a better quality than before. 

When we go through tough times, we can endure and come out better for it in the end.
But we come out with more character and stronger, because we’re able to hope in God.
Hope in God’s love that the Son has granted to us and the Spirit has poured into us.
A love that is always accessible for us,….available to us,…and is always reliable for us.

Amen