We all need a boost from our Creator – the God who is Love – during this crisis.
Last time we looked at Philippians 4:4-14 for our inspiration. There we learned from Paul that he had, through faith, learned the secret of having plenty and going without. He proclaimed that he – and other Christians – can handle and get through “all things through Christ who strengthens” him…and us!
THIS time we are looking at another of my favorite sections of the Bible – Romans 8:18-38. Let me read it for you. Again, the Apostle Paul writes the following to us:
18 “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the One who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that He might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom He predestined he also called; and those whom He called He also justified; and those whom He justified he also glorified.
31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold His own Son, but gave Him up for all of us, will He not with Him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
You know I have heard those words many times – and you may have heard those words many times, and we love those words…but have we heard those words so oftenthat maybe sometimes we don’t let them sink down into the core of our being? Do we segregate our fears – due to the coronavirus or due to other problems – from the Word of God – not on purpose, but because we have become so used to those words? Perhaps.
So, let’s look at this passage more deeply. We start off with a phrase that directly applies to our situation: “I consider” Paul says, “that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” Wow. Why do I react this way, with a “wow?” because often we have a voice inside of us telling us, like the character of Henny Penny in the famous children’s story did, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Disaster ahead!” Now notice, when the Apostle Paul mentions “the sufferings of the present time,” Paul does NOT say, “Well, the suffering you are suffering isn’t real suffering,” no; Paul acknowledges there is real suffering in this world.
But what Paul ALSO says is that no matter the suffering, it isn’t nearly as bad as the eternity of GOOD we will experience in eternal life. The promise of heaven is one of the most important things that we can think of and meditate on. Last week we read in Philippians 4 that Paul wrote, “Think about these things – whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, and if there is anything excellent or worthy of praise. Think about these things.” We all have many great people, sweet memories, wonderful gifts we have received or given, special holiday moments, amazing aha moments, impressive things we’ve seen done by various humans, super conditions we live in that we take for granted…all these things Paul tells us to think about, in addition to the promise of eternal life Jesus won for us through His death and resurrection. That’s one thing we can “do” while we suffer. It’s more than just a little list of blessings, like the song in the Sound of Music: “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens….” It’s thinking of something, some one or some event – practically ANYTHING – and saying, “God, help me take one or two or three things from that an add that to my list of great things You have done that I can always think about!”
Let me pick out another thing from Romans 8, verses 24 & 25 – “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Our selfish side doesn’t believe in that kind of hope, especially when the sky seems to be falling. I have a friend who keeps saying that, because of all that is happening, the world economy is coming to an end.” I keep telling him all of that will come back, someday. He says, what day and I say I don’t know and that isn’t good enough for him. He doesn’t want to rely on hope…or on God. But there is a Holy Spirit inside of you that KNOWS and is TELLING YOU that this, too, shall pass and, in the meantime, you can grow spiritually and build yourself up – in the meantime you can exercise your body, your mind and your soul.
The great German Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer fled Nazi Germany in the late 1930s – coming to America, but then, within months, changed his mind, saying, “I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people.” You see, Bonhoeffer had hope for the world AFTER the cataclysm of World War Two was over – and he knew that he wanted to go back to Germany to help those suffering there until the struggle was over. You and I – we, too, are called, in this cataclysm, to do our part to stay in touch and find ways to help and deeply pray for one another, all empowered by hope in our future, knowing, as we read in verse 28 today, that “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to God’s deeper purpose” – a purpose which points to the future…a real, vibrant, powerful hope that the Spirit implants in our hearts to live on.
Speaking of the Spirit, we often find it hard to pray in the tough times. Sometimes we don’t know the right words and are afraid we haven’t spent enough time in prayer against the virus and for others, as well as for ourselves. But remember that powerful verse 26 in Romans 8 – this verse DEFINITELY gives us a boost – “Likewise,” we read, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought to, but that very Spirit intercedes [to God] with sighs too deep for words.” Bruce Epperly writes, concerning prayer: “Our prayers may play a role in protecting us, our loved ones, and the planet. This isn’t magic, nor some form of miracle. [But] [w]hen we pray, we create fields of force that bring healing and hope to the world. They add to the well-being of others, in the midst of the other factors that shape their lives. Our prayers may even help God be more present in the world.”
Perhaps something rotten has happened to you lately – connected to the virus maybe, or maybe not…(you know, it’s easy for things to go sour between people at this time, considering all the stress and tension we are having to endure, just raining down on us, day after day after day). But remember this from Romans 8, verse 35 – “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” The answer to all of those things is, “No, nothing will separate us from the love of Christ! Nothing! Not the hardships we are enduring – some more than others…not the distress we are feeling…not the peril some are going through and some are concerned about one day going through…not the famine of “not being with each other,” the isolation…NOTHING can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Now let’s think about that!
I’ll leave you with one more BOOST FROM THE BIBLE. It’s at the end of this glorious chapter eight of the book of Romans.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present [like the coronavirus], nor things to come [economic recession], nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen!
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