Third Sunday in Lent – A LSB #’s 770, 820, 497
Text – Romans 5:6
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
WEAKNESS IS BAD
It was the fall pastor’s conference & the speaker was talking about the Millennial Generation. His point was that research has generated the chart on the wall. The list in the right hand column describes attitudes which characterize how Millennials think. They believe that slow is bad. Hard is bad. Boring is bad. Risk is bad. Labor is bad.
The column on the left side is the speaker’s opinion of the driving forces which taught the Millennials the attitudes in the right hand column. Our world is full of speed, convenience, entertainment, nurture & entitlement.
So the demand for speed tells people that slow is bad. The demand for convenience teaches that if something is hard it’s bad. Our world values entertainment very highly so boring must be bad. If parents nurture their children excessively the child easily concludes that risk is bad. If we’re entitled to anything we want then working for it, or labor, is bad.
This sermon is titled, “Weakness Is Bad” & I’m wondering if any of you would care to argue against that statement? As people grow older one of the chief symptoms is the general weakness that begins to prevail. The strength you used to have begins to fade away.
When I was in my 20’s, & doing electrical work, I’d be on my feet 8 to 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. If I tried that now it’d kill me. It’s easy to look at weakness as bad. When the day comes, for the death of someone we love, weakness descends upon us. Is there anyone here who would argue that such weakness is a good thing? We’ll come back to that later.
Returning to the Millennial Generation, the speaker gave his ideas on what he thought had pushed their generation in the direction they’ve gone. Our culture is one that strives for speed, convenience, entertainment, nurture & entitlement. So which generation do you think elevated those goals to such a high level? It’s the Baby Boomer Generation. Looking at the truth of it, Millennials are the natural outgrowth of such a concentrated focus on taking the struggles & trials out of life.
If we can make things fast, we don’t need to be patient. If we can make things convenient, life is much easier. If everything is entertaining, our lives will be more fun. If we can nurture everyone completely no one will fail. If all of us are entitled to happiness, there’s no reason to spend so much time in the difficult business of working for a living.
Those were the Baby Boomer dreams for their children. They run quite contrary to what St. Paul encourages in the reading from Romans 5: “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, & endurance produces character, & character produces hope.” (v. 3-4 ESV) To people who don’t know Jesus St. Paul sounds downright cruel.
To guarantee that he’s crazy, all we have to do is quote 2 Corinthians 12:10, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions & calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (ESV)
Generations that came prior to the Boomers recognized that the world is a hard place. They understood that if children were coddled they would not survive adulthood. They realized it was impossible to make life convenient or easy for everyone & verses such as Genesis 3:19 guided their thinking:
“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, & to dust you shall return.” (ESV) Isn’t it amazing that our heavenly Father ties in the idea of hard work with one of the verses commonly used in the application of ashes at the beginning of Lent? Then, there was that crazy Apostle Paul again teaching us in 2 Thessalonians 3:10b, “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.” (NLT) When the Boomers came along, they rebelled against all that common sense. They vowed to chart a new course, & so they did.
Maybe you’ve heard of George Barna. He started a polling company whose business is all about surveying people on any manner of topics that someone would like to research. Mr. Barna’s company started out specializing in researching information on Christians. Last month, in a periodical titled The Christian Post it reported results from one of Barna’s recent surveys.
The research showed that only 10 percent of Americans, & only four percent of millennials, espouse & live out a biblical worldview by any measurable standard. That’s in spite of the result that 70% of Americans claim to be Christian.
When researchers asked deeper questions to find the real cause of why millennials left their faith, a lot of times they’d hear of troubled upbringings. Despite growing up in Christian homes, millennials would say that their parents never lived out their faith. Those parents are the Boomer Generation – speed, convenience, entertainment, nurture & entitlement.
Jesus doesn’t even make the top five! One millennial the researchers spoke with shared that, though he grew up going to church, he never saw his parents reading the Bible or praying together. His girlfriend’s father, meanwhile, often lectured her family about the Bible but he left her mother for another woman. Boomers are considered to be those born from 1946 to 1964.
The reading, this morning, from Romans 5, describes perfectly the predicament that Christian churches find themselves in here in the United States: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (5:6 ESV) It’s natural to think of weakness as bad. It’s more difficult for us to be in control of our lives when we are weak.
Of course, that’s how our sinful nature views things. You heard St. Paul’s conclusion
earlier, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions & calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” In Romans 5 St. Paul is moving from his presentation of the sinful state of all, God’s gift of righteousness & the new identity we have in Christ, into his discussion of the life of the justified sinner.
Paul looks at this from God’s perspective & from that of sinners in the midst of their struggle with sin. Our Creator has declared us righteous in His sight, yet we see the sin of our idolatry, how we crush the 1st commandment with our demands. God had better be speedy, convenient, entertaining, nurturing & all the while giving us everything we expect.
If He can accomplish all those things then we’ll find time at least once in a while to be in God’s house on a Sunday morning. We’ll make some effort to put our Christian faith into practice as long as it suits our needs. Maybe we’ll even venture to say a prayer in public at some major event like a wedding where we just can’t get out of doing it.
We truly do have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, yet we still endure in our physical being the negative effects of temptation, suffering & death. In the face of our trials, St. Paul states that the God who already intervened at the cost of His Son will not fail to bring us to the fullness of eternal life in paradise. There, our weakness & our failures will be gone.
The tremendously good news Paul shares with you & me is that our Savior does not wait until we get our act together before He rescues us. Jesus didn’t hold off until we got our life under control so He could die in our place. Rather, while we were still weak, Christ died for the ungodly. That is us! Jesus does not consider our weakness to be a bad thing.
It is our strength that gets us into trouble. When we do have things under control is when we are disregarding the 1st commandment & serving our own convenient needs instead of the slow, hard & boring needs of others. It is our hope in the future glory to come which enables us to persevere & to be patient. Enemies of the cross of Jesus try to avoid suffering now because they have no hope for the future glory to come. Since all Christians are 100% sinner & saint, we cannot exclude ourselves as people who are enemies of the cross. That nature in us even considers being in God’s house every single Sunday to be a form of suffering & trial.
If that is your view, allow your heavenly Father to use that suffering to shape & mold you into the image of His holy Son. Accept discipline from your Master as a tool to counter the sinful nature living within you.
When you find yourself striving for speed, convenience & entertainment, at the expense of your relationship with your Lord & Master, turn to the promise of eternal glory that awaits us in heaven. Don’t sell out your soul for the things of this world that moth & rust & old age will destroy. Even the weakness of our body that comes with old age can cause us to lean on God
As such, even weakness is not always bad. Neither is boring, or slow. In our afflictions, the Holy Spirit causes us to learn what it means to be steadfast in trust of our Lord’s promises. That experience of enduring is possible only through faith, & at the same time it strengthens our ability to live by faith, even while God seems to have forgotten us.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6 ESV) That is reality because God declares it to be, & it is a good reality. Amen.
My soul, now praise your Maker! Let all within me bless His name Who makes you full partaker of mercies more than you dare claim. Forget Him not whose meekness still bears with all your sin, Who heals your every weakness, renews your life within; Whose grace & care are endless & saved you through the past; Who leaves no sufferer friendless but rights the wronged at last. Amen. LSB 820:1.
 2 Corinthians 12:10 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet