Building endurance is difficult. I remember the first time that my wife and I attempted to train for a 5k. We got up early, listened to the prompts of the app that was supposed to guide us to our goal, and anticipated that we would reach it. Then it got cold, and we got tired, and we stopped. The other attempts throughout the years have been similar. For, each time I get up to try again, I find that the first few weeks are easier than last time; I am even able to go farther or faster. Even through the failures, I built endurance! So, what is holding me back from the goal? I know many friends who have achieved that goal, built that endurance, and ran the race. But I have not gotten there. Perhaps one factor is because this journey relies on my own strength, my grit and determination, and the only thing I have to compare to are the times my hope has been put to shame. For this Trinity Sunday, I am thankful that Christian hope is not built on ourselves, but on the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The apostle Paul’s central message of the justifying grace of Christ in Rom. 5:1-5 reminds us that even the difficulties and sufferings in our faith journey build perseverance that leads to character and hope. This hope does not lead to shame because it is not built on our own strength and abilities but on what God has decided and how God is inviting us to participate in the life God has given us through Christ by grace through faith. Because of the justification afforded us by Christ, we have peace with God. It is by God’s grace that we are given this peace. Just as God’s grace has gone before us (prevenient grace) and has opened the possibility for us to be in right relationship with God through Christ (justification), every step of growth beyond that is through the sanctifying power of God.
So then, we rejoice even in sufferings because we have come to know by God’s grace that through those difficulties, God guides us perseverance that strips us of pretense and exposes and refines the contents of our character. This development of Christlikeness in our character leads toward and emerges from hope. The hope we have in Christ is not like the hope we have to simply pull ourselves up by our own strength and achieve our goals. For, when we rely solely on our own strength, our own character, our own endurance, we will fail.
But God has shown in Christ a hope that endures all things because it is built on the love of God. God’s love has been poured out in Christ and the Holy Spirit has filled every believer with the testimony of the Son of God that we too may know peace with God, hope even in the midst of suffering. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly (5:6 NRSV).” While we were weak, wayward sinners, Christ suffered and died for us so that we may be justified, that we may be built up in endurance and character, that we may know true peace and hope through the love of God in Jesus Christ.
Just as Christians are reminded by Paul’s words of the ways that it is only by God’s grace that we run the race of faith with confidence, preaching this passage on Trinity Sunday drives the Church to the feet of the Triune God as we are fully dependent upon God’s strength and grace. Though we just celebrated the birthday of the Church on the Day of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday reminds the Church that it is not at the center of its story by reminding believers who their God has revealed God’s self to be! It is only by God’s grace that Pentecost happens. It is by God that we are birthed, and on God we depend. God the Father who created the world, who made Adam and breathed life into him when he was just dust and who spoke the law to Moses, has sent the Son to redeem the world from the sin of Adam (Rom. 5:12). God the Father gave grace through the Son in sufficient and abundant measure in ways that the law itself could not so that humanity could truly live into the life of God that the law pointed toward.
The Son of God, Jesus Christ came in obedience to all that the Father commanded. Through him all things were made and by him all things are being remade. It is in the story of the life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God that we enter in baptism, plunging into a death like his and being raised to life again, “dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:11).” The Holy Spirit has poured out the love of God in Christ into our hearts as we believe and receive God’s salvation. By the Holy Spirit’s power, we come to know what is the fullness of God’s love, peace, and hope. By this power, we live and endure. For the Church whose people face all kinds of suffering, who are called to pick up our cross daily and face trials with faithfulness, who stand in solidarity with the oppressed and downtrodden, on whom shall we depend? Our hope is built on the eternal God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That is peace beyond understanding, strength without measure. Trinity Sunday reminds us that God is love, and that this love has been poured out in fullness into believers by grace through faith. The one who made all things, redeems all things, and sustains all things. We endure and are built up because our God is from everlasting to everlasting.