More Than Conquerors

When I was a boy I sang in a church choir. One of the perks of the job was to sing at weddings on a Saturday afternoon, for which we would get paid. If you were lucky there would be 2 or even 3 weddings in the afternoon. Even luckier if a full choir couldn’t be raised as we would then share the wages of those who were missing. It was sat in the choir stalls that I learned Romans 8:28 (And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose) as this was one of the vicar’s favourite texts for the wedding sermon.

Indeed this is a favourite verse for many Christians, bringing comfort through all kinds of trials in life. Some people seem to think that it means that things will get better in this life. However if you read the passage around it (v18-39) it is clear that Paul never envisaged that following Christ would result in an easy life. The good that he speaks about in verse 28 is only fully realised in our eternal destiny.

Paul’s own experience was hardship. He was beaten, whipped and stoned for following Christ. He was shipwrecked and adrift in the open sea. He was in danger from his fellow Jews, and from Gentiles, in the city, in the country, at sea and from false believers. He knew hunger and thirst, went without food and been cold and naked. Yet despite all these hardships he could say “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us”

Paul’s confidence was based in the promise that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. I don’t know all the challenges that you are facing at the moment. I don’t know whether your circumstances will get better or whether they will get worse. I do know however that your circumstances are covered by Romans 8:38-39 where Paul says: ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

We too can be more than conquerors if we learn to take our eyes off our circumstances and place our confidence in the love of God knowing that nothing, not even death, can separate us from Him.

 

This blog post featured in the May 2016 edition of Lifelines

Advertisements

No condemnation

This last weekend (11th/12th Feb) has seen a world obsessed with celebrity stunned by the news of Whitney Houston’s premature death. Like many celebrities Whitney appeared to be someone who had everything going for her:  talent, fame, and wealth. Yet it is apparent that deep within her spirit she was a woman who was greatly troubled.

In a candid interview in 2002, Diane Sawyer listed a number of drugs and asked Houston which one was “the biggest devil” for her. Houston’s response? “That would be me. It’s my deciding. It’s my heart. It’s what I want and what I don’t want. Nobody makes me do anything I don’t want to do. It’s my decision. The biggest devil is me.”

Whitney’s answer echoes a statement made by Paul in his letter to the Romans “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” What both these statements highlight is the universal experience that we all struggle with an internal battle to live consistently by our own inbuilt benchmark of what is right and wrong. Regardless of any outward measures of morality, if we are truly honest with ourselves none of us has managed to live up to our own standard.

The realisation that we are powerless to even live up to this standard by ourselves would be depressing were it not for the promise that for those who are in Christ Jesus there is now no condemnation. Jesus offers to set us free not just from our self-condemnation, but from every condemnation that could ever be thrown at us. This is the wonderful truth of the gospel: Christians are no better than anyone else but they are forgiven! It is only when we truly receive Christ’s forgiveness that we can begin to forgive ourselves and conquer the devils that lurk in each of us.

This blog post featured in the March 2012 edition of Hook Focus