"To those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people . . . Grace and peace to you. . . ." — 1 Corinthians 1:2-3
My friend Ron died in a car crash. We don't know exactly what happened. Did the car malfunction, or did Ron have a stroke or a heart attack? We don't know. Another possible explanation could be that Ron was drunk or on drugs. It could even be possible that he crashed on purpose.
If so, it would mean that Ron had sunk into misery again. It would mean that after our small group of believers there dissolved, and after his friend Andy died, Ron fell back into old patterns of despair and old methods of coping.
You might say, "Well, if so, then Ron went to hell." Other people might conclude that sanctification is a cruel pipe dream. If sanctification is just a matter of trying and trying but continuing to fail, then what's the point?
But no! Don't buy any of that. Get rid of those thoughts. Sanctification in and through Christ is God's work, by God's power, according to God's vision. We are treasures in jars of clay, even in our worst and lowest moments. A gold mine is mostly mud, but the treasure is there. And God doesn't forsake his people, in spite of the mud.
Read the whole book of 1 Corinthians, and notice all the mud. Yet Paul calls the people sanctified brothers and sisters.
This is how God sees it. And this is how God saw it at the moment of Ron's death, no matter the circumstances.