(Romans 5: 1-5)


In 1972 singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson wrote the biggest hit of his career entitled: Why Me, which was released on the album Jesus Was a Capricorn in 1973.  Kristofferson wrote the song during an emotionally low period of his life after having attended a religious service conducted by the Rev. Jimmie Rogers Snow.  During the service he was moved by Larry Gatlin’s song: Help Me Lord.  He had never thought of needing help but was at a low point in his life.  When pastor Snow asked: “Is anybody feeling lost?” Kristofferson’s hand shot up.  When the pastor asked, “Are you ready to accept Christ? Kneel down there,” Kris came forward and kneeled down.  He said that at the time he was carrying a big load of guilt around and was just out of control, crying.  He said it was a release and it really shook him up.  He described it as some kind of experience he couldn’t even explain.  The song goes like this:  Why me Lord? What have I ever done to deserve even one of the pleasures I’ve known?  Tell me Lord, what did I ever do that was worth loving you or the kindness you’ve shown?  Lord help me Jesus, I’ve wasted it, so help me Jesus, I know what I am.  Now that I know that I’ve needed you, so help me Jesus, my soul’s in your hands.  Tell me Lord, if you think there’s a way I can try to repay all I’ve taken from you.  Maybe Lord, I can show someone else what I’ve been through myself on my way back to you.


And Why Me is the question the Apostle Paul is answering in our scripture reading for this morning.  The Christian church in Rome was having a difficult time as the persecution of the church was intensifying due to the fact that this new religion worshipped someone else as a king other than the reigning Caesar of the day.  These early believers were beginning to have their doubts and were questioning whether or not it was worth enduring these persecutions for their faith in a God that was executed on a cross by the power of Rome.  At the end of chapter four Paul was telling his readers that Abraham’s faith was credited to him because he was fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised, and it was credited to him as righteousness.  Paul points out that the crediting of this righteousness wasn’t just for Abraham, but it was also for our sake.  He says: It will be credited to those of us who have faith in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.  He was handed over because of our mistakes, and he was raised to meet the requirements of righteousness for us.  With that in mind, Paul continues by saying: Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness combined with our faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  That peace with God was what Kris Kristofferson experienced when he came forward and knelt before the cross.  He unburdened that big load of guilt that he had been carrying around and took that first step to regaining control of his life.  That experience he couldn’t even begin to explain was the realization that he was standing in grace rather than falling under the just condemnation his sins deserved.  That’s what Paul meant when he said: We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory.  That’s what Kristofferson means when he asks what has he ever done to deserve even one of the pleasures he has known?  What did he ever do that was worth loving God, or for the kindness God has shown him?  But Paul says not to worry about it, boast in the hope of God’s glory.  He says: But not only that!  We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.  Paul is telling us to take pride in our problems, our challenges, our setbacks because these kinds of troubles are what produces endurance in the faithful, and that kind of endurance builds character, Christian character, and that kind of character produces within us an abiding hope in Jesus’ promises made specifically to us, his brothers and sisters.  Paul tells us that this hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  This is the hope that was given to Kris Kristofferson when he admitted to wasting so much of his life, admitting that he was fully aware of what he was.  But then he acknowledges that he needs Jesus and commends his soul into Jesus’ hands.  He turned his life over to Jesus.


But where is this boast?  As Christians ”boast in the hope of God’s glory” this glory likely refers to participation in the life of God, most spectacularly experienced in resurrection from the dead and the glorification of the body.  However, despite this hope, or perhaps because of it, the justified in Christ also boast in their troubles and tribulations that are a result of their faith.  We wear them as a badge of honor like medals earned in combat.  In such trials, the love of God surrounds and suffuses the sufferer by means of the Holy Spirit, which is why they can produce endurance and virtuous character.  And our hope in God’s future is no empty sentiment.  It is upheld by the Holy Spirit that indwells Christ’s followers, mediates God’s love, and assures us of God’s reliability and grace.  John Wesley, the founder of our Methodist denomination, believed that those of us who receive reconciliation through Christ by the indwelling of the Spirit experience a divine evidence or confidence of his love, his free, unmerited love to us, sinners, a sure confidence in his pardoning mercy, wrought in us by the Holy Ghost.  That’s what Kristofferson experienced that day, the indwelling of the Spirit.


There is a two-sided reality to our Christian life.  On the one hand, we are complete in Christ, our acceptance with him is secure.  On the other hand, we are growing in Christ with every challenge we face and are becoming more and more like him as he too was challenged and tested.  We enjoy the peace that comes from being made right with God, but we still face daily problems that often help us grow stronger and more self-assured.  If we remember these two sides of the Christian life, we will not grow discouraged as we face daily temptations and problems.  Instead, we will learn to depend upon the power available to us from Christ, who lives in us by the Holy Spirit.


As Paul states clearly in 1 Corinthians 13: 13, faith, hope, and love are at the heart of Christian life.  Our relationship with God begins with faith, which helps us realize that we are delivered from our past by Christ’s death.  And as our hope grows we learn all that God has in mind for us and it gives us the promise of the future.  And it’s God’s love that fills our lives and gives us the ability to reach out to others.  Be not mistaken, we will, as Christians, experience difficulties that will help us grow.  And we rejoice in our sufferings not because we like pain or deny its tragedy, but because we know God is using life’s difficulties and the evil that besets us to build our character, to help us make changes in a world that needs change.  That’s what Kris Kristofferson came to realize when in verse two of his song he asks: “Tell me, Lord, if you think there’s a way I can try to repay all I’ve taken from you.  Maybe Lord I can show someone else what I’ve been through myself on my way back to you.”


Without a doubt, there have been times when your patience has been tested in some way and you’ve asked: Why me, Lord?  Instead, thank God for those opportunities to grow, and deal with them in his strength.  Rather, ask God: Why not me, Lord?  Use me Lord, if you think there’s a way, I can show someone else what I’ve been through myself and how, with the help of the Holy Spirit, it has brought you closer to God, how you have grown in Christ, becoming more and more like him as you do the work of the Father wherever and whenever you can for whoever you can.


Let us pray.


Gracious and loving Father, what have we ever done to deserve even one of the pleasures we’ve known?  And what did we ever do that was worth loving you or the kindness you’ve shown?  Help us Lord Jesus to turn from our wasted lives and lost opportunities to serve you and to realize how much we need you in our daily lives.  Our souls are in your hands, Lord.  Move us through the gift of the Spirit to look for ways to serve you in our daily lives and help us to recognize those opportunities where we can share with others what we’ve been through ourselves in our service to you, how we have endured, how our character has been built, and the hope we now have that assures us of a life of peace in the service to others.  In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.