BECKY KIERN | CONTRIBUTOR
It’s that time of year again. Everywhere I look there are advertisements for kids clothing, backpacks, and notebooks. My inbox is full of email correspondences for fall teaching engagements. My social media pages are filling up with photos reminiscing about last-summer adventures. And friends are preparing to drop their kids off on the new adventure of kindergarten and college. All of this adds up to the truth that another summer is ending and a new fall semester is upon us.
Some of us are entering into this new semester with excited energy. We are ready to roll out the new ministry programs we’ve developed or Bible studies we’ve prepared to teach. But some of us find this semester approaching and the best we can do right now is limp along. We are unable to fathom where we might get the energy for this new semester. We are still recovering from, or in the middle of, a painful ministry season.
Paul’s words of hope to the Romans, can offer us a chance to pause and reflect upon the simple, yet profound foundational truth of the gospel message. His encouragement to the early church was to remember their peace, their relationship with God, and their steadfast hope. And his words of encouragement can offer us the same hope as we enter our ministry work in this new semester.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces 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.
Peace with God
Paul spent the first four chapters of his letter expanding on the holiness of God and the justification or righteousness that is ours through Christ Jesus. Paul wants us to know without a doubt—to have faith—in God’s gift of redeeming grace (3:24). But, this gift of justification, of redeeming grace, is not just our ticket into eternity. Our justification means that we have peace with God now. Your value and identity do not come from the quality of your work, your attendance numbers, or your teaching skills. Your identity as a beloved daughter of God is united with Christ and therefore unchanging.
Access to God Through Christ
And with that faithful confidence we get to join Christ in His ongoing ministry. In the four chapters leading up, Paul names the redeeming work of Christ over half a dozen times. Paul wants us to clearly understand that we are righteous and therefore have access to God through Christ alone. But this access is also an invitation. We get to worship and serve the Lord by working in HIS ministry. Or as Stephen Seamus writes,
Jesus’ earthy ministry, therefore, didn’t end when he returned to his Father in heaven. Through his body, the church, it merely assumed a different shape. The ministry we have entered is meant to be an extension of his. In fact, all authentic Christian ministry participates in Christ’s ongoing ministry. Ministry is essentially about joining Christ in his ministry, not his joining us in ours.
Paul wants us to see that through Christ we have a peace that has restored our relationship with our Father. It is a peace which allows us, His children, to bring our excitement, fears, joys, exhaustion, or anger to our loving Father. It’s a peace which also allows us to work with joy and excellence without identifying ourselves by that excellence.
So, when your work is difficult, remember you are not alone. It is not, and never has been, your ministry to hold or carry alone. You are invited to join in the missional work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We can partake in God’s ministry with joy, hope, and endurance because ultimately our failures will not be put to shame (5:5). If this semester starts with tears and disappointment, you can hold onto the steadfast hope that one day there will be no such thing as a hard ministry season (5:21). Likewise, if your ministry work is in a sweet season of growth and life, your joy can be full, knowing in all humility that you are getting a front row seat to see and take part in God’s work. Either way, as you join Christ in his ministry work, I pray that your joy, hope, and endurance rest fully in the peace, access, and hope you have in God, your loving and steadfast Father.
 Stephen A. Seamands. Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 21.
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