This past year, our Bible study group has been working our way through Romans. Honestly, it hasn’t always been fun. Paul can be a lot. He doesn’t try to sugar-coat anything or even ease the reader into a topic. He just flat comes out and says what he needs to say like he has some sort of authority and purpose (sarcasm font).
“Yet, I have written you quite boldly on some points…” ~Romans 15:15 (NIV)
Really? I hadn’t noticed. (EYE ROLL)
Working through John last year was much more my style. He was so poetic and lovely and his words dripped with love for Jesus.
Paul’s approach feels more “punch you in the face” so anything dripping has been the blood from my own busted nose.
Throughout the year, there have been some themes and ideas God seems to be pretty insistent I pay attention to, Leftovers, Outsiders, and Everyday Sacrifice. I love a good sacred echo and I’ve been hearing them at every turn this year.
(Seriously, Romans 12:1 has been referenced or discussed in every Jesus conversation I’ve been a part of almost all year.)
(And listen, I can shove it in even when someone doesn’t bring it up.)
Another recurring theme popped up this week…
We’ve been in Romans 15. It’s the second part of Paul’s teaching on eating meat and observing sacred days. Making sure the more mature believers understand the newer, more immature believers are to be accepted. And advising us not to get into arguments over preferences or acts of service or personal convictions outside the core of the gospel.
Basically, you can totally eat meat but only if the person you’re sharing the meal with is also fine eating meat. If not, it’s No Meat Monday for you.
In Romans 15, Paul says “so that” a bunch.
Seven times, actually.
I love the words “so that” in scripture. The “So That” connects the circumstance, the instruction, the challenge, the suffering with the intended outcome.
We study scripture SO THAT we will have hope.
We encourage other believers SO THAT the church will work in unity to glorify God.
God fills us with joy and peace SO THAT we can overflow with hope.
“So that” gives us a purpose.
Reading those words this week reminded me of one of my favorite scriptures…
“Neither this man nor his parents have sinned, said Jesus, “but this happened SO THAT the works of God might be displayed in him.” ~John 9:3 (NIV, emphasis mine)
There have been times in my life when I did not care one bit about the SO THAT’s. Not interested in having to endure suffering SO THAT anything. Wished God would just show His glory with some grand display of power and take me out of the SO THAT equation completely.
Those are the times when I hear Mordecai telling Queen Esther, if you don’t do this, God will send relief some other way…
And I’m in the back of my closet AMENING the “relief and deliverance… from another place,” begging God to find a way to send rescue, accomplish His plans, display His glory some other way.
Maybe you too?
We love a plan and a sure path and a well-lit journey. We thrive when we think we are somehow controlling the situation and for sure the outcome.
Deep down, we realize we are never in control and we cannot determine the outcome.
But God does and He can.
We can know, rest, stand, walk in whatever trouble the brokenness of this world brings to us because God has provided us with His perfect purpose.
In the SO THAT moments of our lives, God provides a light for our path through His perfect purpose.
So that we can display God’s glory.
So that we can have hope.
So that we can live as witnesses to the gospel and allow Jesus work in the hearts of those around us.
So that we can live in peace and unity with others.
So that God will be made known.
Scripture promises us we will have troubles. We live in a broken world.
When the trouble we are promised comes into our life, we do not have to run or hide or somehow swerve into a last-minute turn lane trying to let the mess pass us by. No one wants to lose a loved one or get the cancer diagnosis or see a negative pregnancy test for the 26th month in a row.
But we know we will absolutely face some pretty nasty, messy struggles.
The So That, our assurance of a purpose and a reason and a point to every hard, broken trouble we face, God has provided to us.
We can and should be so desperately grateful for that light unto our path.
So that He will be glorified.