1Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (NRSV)
|Wave by Steve Shupe. Creative Commons image on flickr|
They had nowhere to go…
Hurricane Katrina was bearing down on the city of New Orleans. So Charles and Angela took shelter in their church. It wasn’t long before they could feel the winds shaking the building. Helplessly, they watched from the balcony as the flood waters rose… higher and higher…
With nowhere to go and nothing to do, they prayed for God’s mercy… And then, they began to sing. After a while, they heard voices calling out to them in the darkness: “sing this song; sing that song.” So they sang, together… All night… Though they were so close to death, God was even closer.
The music was God’s presence for them. They would go on to say that their lives were radically transformed by that experience—and for their good. But how could that be possible?
At the same time, why did God seemingly permit thousands of poor, innocent people to parish in that storm? Why did so many lose everything they had?
And how on earth could the Apostle Paul ever say that “we [Christians] boast in our sufferings?”
The Apostle Paul was certainly no stranger to suffering. Throughout his ministry, he suffered beatings, imprisonments, riots, sleepless nights, hunger, and bitter hatred.
But he is not boasting about how he’s “earned his stripes” for Jesus… Paul (along with Charles and Angela) are testifying to God’s power and grace amid the most terrible suffering.
When everything else was swept away, the Triune God swept in.
There was no doctrine of the Trinity during Paul’s time… That didn’t come until later. So Paul just testifies to what God does for his sake and the sake of all: Jesus’ self-giving acts make humanity right with God. We now have peace with God through Jesus Christ, who’s given us access to the grace that brings salvation to the world. When we suffer, we are in fellowship with Jesus. The Holy Spirit takes that suffering and uses it to create the gifts of peace, endurance, character, and hope.
No human being can ever fully explain or understand how God can exist in Three Persons, any more than one can explain or understand the mysteries of life. We don’t know how the Triune God works; we just know that the Triune God works—apart from our understanding; in spite of our weakness; beyond our control.
There was nothing Charles and Angela could do with one of the biggest storms in recorded history bearing down on them—except to pray. God gave them a song.
So when that’s you, remember these simple words: “be still, and know that I am God.” Trust that the Triune God comes to you, ahead of all life’s storms. Be still and know that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for you. You are not abandoned. The Triune God is going to carry you through it—even from death into life.
But it isn’t just in crisis that we know the awesome power of the Trinity. Each and every one of you possesses spiritual gifts. You may not be aware of them. The fact that the Church is smaller than ever before doesn’t mean that we’re in a famine for the fruits of the Spirit. On the contrary, the gifts are all here. We lack nothing that is essential for us to participate in what the Triune God is doing right here on our turf.
Think about it this way: God wanted us to have a clothing closet—and that’s why the clothes come in—and go out—by the thousands. That’s why you answered the call to give your time. Fact is, spiritual gifts are even more abundant in this church than clothes. We don’t know how the Trinity works, just that the Trinity works…
Music is one of our spiritual gifts, no question about it. That being said, I do believe that we haven’t even begun to unlock its full potential. There’s infinite possibilities—surely different, but not all that difficult—to use this gift to share and experience the presence of God. We don’t know how the Trinity works, just that the Trinity works…
Vacation Bible School is just one month away—and this ministry has grown year after year, in spite of all the obstacles and setbacks that have come our way. The excitement for this year’s VBS is like it’s never been before. We don’t know how the Trinity works, just that the Trinity works…
To know the Trinity, you need to embrace change. You need to leap out of the comfort zone; do the good that’s in you to do; and refuse to let fear blind you to the power of God.
Ultimately, God’s will is for you to be as close to God as Jesus is to his heavenly Father. We don’t know how or why God is Three persons, just that God is Three Persons for you, me, and the world. The Holy Trinity is God working for you what you cannot do for yourself. The Holy Trinity is God working in you what is greater than you can do for yourself.