Romans 5: 1-5

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, be we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 6: 3-5

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

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We are a little more than halfway through the season of Lent, and at this point we may feel that our chosen spiritual disciplines are getting a little heavier.  For those who have chosen fasting, the feelings of hunger may be a little more annoying and intense.  For those setting aside time to pray and read Scripture, it may be more tempting to skip in favor of other “more pressing” matters.  This is a sign of our weakness, a sign of our need for the grace God gives us through these very practices.  In 21st century American suburbia, we are used to being comfortable, to doing whatever it takes to avoid suffering.  I remember Osama Bin Laden saying in a translation of one of his chilling video releases that Americans are soft, undisciplined, and unprepared for hardship.  As much as I hate to say it, he was right about that.  We aren’t used to suffering for much of anything, much less suffering for the sake of following Jesus.

But we know that by now, and what we need is a word of encouragement to keep going, to keep seeking God and the renewal of our hearts, minds, bodies and souls in Jesus Christ.  I chose the passages above to remind us why we are fasting, praying, studying, and serving during Lent.  These passages remind us that, in the hands of our God, the God of resurrection, our spiritual efforts, and even suffering, produce deeper life in God and transform us more fully into Christ’s likeness.  God produces new life in our struggles, and the hope we have of being made new in the likeness of Jesus will not fail!  We can be sure of that because of the love of the Holy Spirit which has been poured into us!  So press on in your faith and life my brothers and sisters!  Easter is but 24 days away!