Last Monday we celebrated the Queen’s Birthday and along with it came the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Among them, as usual, was a list of sporting and entertainment celebrities.
Along with the naming of the award recipients came the usual criticisms of why ordinary Australians who give of their lives are not rewarded.
They actually are – it’s just that we don’t know who they are so they don’t make it into the media reports.
And you’ll probably find that most people who dedicate their lives to helping others don’t really want the accolades or recognition.
Just helping others is their own reward and character building.
And that’s where true character building comes from when we give of ourselves without acknowledgment or reward for what we are doing.
Sadly we live in a world where we can’t handle suffering and lack of recognition too well.
Think of many junior sports where scores are not kept so you don’t have a losing side.
Some sports don’t give out awards for fear of hurting those who don’t receive one.
We think we are doing favours by not exposing people to loss or suffering but we are in fact preventing growth of character.
It is often through suffering and adversity where we see people develop extraordinary strength.
One of the recipients of the Queen’s Birthday honours was a well-known battler of suffering in Rosie Batty.
Rosie Batty was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for her distinguished service to the community as a campaigner and advocate for the prevention of family violence.
This came about as she suffered the loss of her son through family violence.
She used her suffering to become a spokesperson against family violence and to help others through her suffering.
So there is no doubt that her suffering has produced perseverance in her to fight against family violence – that her perseverance has produced character in her that has achieved great respect from the community and that has produced hope for herself and others.
Another person that exemplifies this character building and hope through perseverance in suffering is Neale Daniher who is suffering the debilitating condition of Motor Neurone Disease who has campaigned to raise money for support rather than letting his suffering defeat him.
And that’s what Paul is also highlighting in the life of the Christian as suffering becomes part of God’s revelation rather than his displeasure or abandonment.
As we celebrate Trinity Sunday today – the Trinity is all about God revealing himself.
God has revealed himself to the world through Jesus Christ – the Son of God the Father who have sent their Holy Spirit to remain with us here.
Through Jesus’ suffering and death God has also revealed himself to us as our Father in Heaven as Jesus’ suffering and death has restored our broken relationship with God.
In the beginning when God created Adam and Eve he had a relationship with them by which he would walk amongst his creation and meet with them.
But when sin entered the world so did suffering and a broken relationship with God.
Jesus came as the new Adam to destroy the old Adam in us and restore our relationship with God.
In fact it is a far better relationship with God than the beginning as we become children of God and receive eternal life as an inheritance from God our Father in Heaven.
So as Jesus is about to depart from this life he tells Mary to tell the disciples that he is ascending to his Father and our Father.
As we wait for our own ascension into Heaven, Paul connects the suffering we go through in this life with the glory that awaits us in heaven just as Jesus’ suffering led to his glory.
God does not create the suffering but neither does God remove the suffering.
Instead God uses the suffering in our lives to bring us closer to himself.
It’s a strange understanding but if you’ve ever had someone you’ve loved go through suffering you know that mysteriously it draws you closer to them – it even intensifies your love for them.
Paul discovered that through his own suffering that God reveals a special deep love when we go through times of suffering.
And it was through this discovery where Paul discovered God’s grace when he said:
I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul discovered a very special revelation by God whose weakness is greater than human power – whose foolishness is greater than human wisdom – whose love is shown through suffering.
Trinity Sunday is all about how God has revealed himself to the world.
He revealed himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
But he has also revealed himself in the mystery of suffering.
Suffering is not nice – but sadly it is part of our existence while on this earth.
But Paul assures us that it is only for this life and that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Suffering is not a sign of God’s displeasure but a sign of our broken relationship in this life through sin.
Suffering is not a punishment from God but a consequence of Good and Evil existing in this lifetime.
Suffering points us away from the world for answers and to God who promises us a future without suffering.
And as the suffering points us to God it helps us to persevere – to continue to live despite our suffering and enable us to witness our faith.
And as we persevere we grow in our faith and produce a character in us that examples to others that suffering is not the end of the world and neither does it mean we cannot enjoy a quality of life.
And it’s by that perseverance and character that enables us to keep putting our hope in God – who is not punishing us or abandoning us but loving us in a deeper more intimate way.
As you journey through this life there will be times of suffering- personal, emotional, spiritual.
But we know that this life is only a journey and that we have our Lord Jesus who has also suffered and empathises with our suffering so we can persevere – so our Christian character can witness to others going through times of suffering and thereby give them hope also by assuring them of God’s love.
And we too, through our sufferings are able to persevere by our assurance of our home in heaven knowing that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that is awaiting us.
A glory that Paul saw when we was given just a glimpse of what is waiting which no human words could describe.
So may the Holy Spirit keep you strong in your faith to persevere in hope until we reach our heavenly glory and may you always be prepared to give an answer to all who ask you about the hope you have.