“More Than Conquerors”Categories: M. W. Bassford, Sermons
By now, most of us have realized that shelter in place ain’t no fun. Thankfully, in Maury County, TN, there have been few who have contracted coronavirus, and even fewer who have died from it. If all continues according to plan, in a few days, many of the restrictions that have prevented us from assembling will be relaxed. It is likely, though, that the economic effects of social distancing will be felt here for months to come.
For a moment, let’s take a grim view of that future. Suppose that the recession of 2020 is both deep and prolonged. Suppose that the ‘rona makes a much more deadly return. Suppose, in fact, that problems we haven’t even imagined yet rear their ugly heads.
Know what? For Christians, none of that makes any meaningful difference because it does not alter the relationship between God and us. Our brethren in the first century faced problems far worse than any of us are likely to see, but they remained triumphant through it all. This morning, let’s examine the back half of Romans 8 to see how we can remain more than conquerors.
This begins with an examination of GOD’S PURPOSE. Let’s read here from Romans 8:18-30. In this reading v. 28 is one of the most famously Pollyanna-ish verses in the whole Bible. How can it possibly be true that all things work together for good for God’s people when we regularly endure suffering, tragedy, and heartbreak?
Paul, of course, was no Pollyanna. In what we just read, he refers to the sufferings of the present time. A little later on in the chapter, he discusses trials like being executed because of our faith in Christ. His point is not that our suffering is not real, nor is it that every trial we face was crafted by God for our enjoyment. Instead, he’s telling us that our reward is so great that next to it, our suffering pales into insignificance.
He explains this particularly with reference to this physical creation. We live in a fallen world that is replete with suffering. However, it exists for a noble purpose—to reveal who God’s children are. As a result, even when our misery is so great that the whole creation can be said to be groaning, those groans are not the hopeless groans of the terminal cancer patient. They are the hopeful groans of the woman in childbirth. Even though the present may not be wonderful at all, the future that it is certain to produce will be wonderful.
In addition to the groaning of the creation as it strives for this wonderful future, Paul mentions two other groaners. We ourselves are groaning as we long for the resurrection, and so is the Spirit of God as He intercedes for us. We are not satisfied with the imperfection of this life, and neither is God satisfied with our position. However, our groaning and the Spirit’s groaning are going to be fulfilled too. Together, the creation, we ourselves, and the Spirit are the “all things” that are working for our good.
We can be certain of what God will do for us because of what He has done for us. After all, we were dead in our sins, but He foreknew, called, justified, and glorified us. When we consider our position as those who have been raised up with Christ in heavenly places, we can rest assured that our future will be even more glorious.
Here’s what this means for us. I know some of the brethren here are suffering intensely for various reasons. It is likely that the future holds intense suffering for all of us somewhere. However, unlike the suffering of everyone else, our suffering is endurable because of our hope. Earthly suffering is limited in time, and it is limited by our capacity for enduring pain. However, when we are with God, we will experience a joy that is infinite in duration and scope. No matter how bad things here get, we can lift up our heads because of that joy set before us.
Having advanced this audacious claim, Paul stress-tests it by considering various trials. The first of these are SPIRITUAL TRIALS. Let’s read from Romans 8:31-34. This is an important question to raise. After all, our glorious future depends on our maintaining a right relationship with God. At the beginning of the book, Paul reported that sinners only can expect wrath from Him, so that our hope and our freedom from sin must be linked.
Paul points out, though, that we have nothing to fear on the sin front. First, we enjoy the favor of God. If God was willing to surrender even His Son, His most precious possession, to redeem us, He will surrender everything else for our sakes too. Second, once we have been justified by Christ, Satan the accuser no longer has a charge to bring against us. Even if Satan did, there is no penalty that he could ask for because Jesus already has died in our place. As if that were not enough, Jesus rose to power at God’s side so that He could continue interceding for us.
With some regularity, I talk to Christians who still feel guilt over sins they’ve repented of. If you’re feeling that way, there are few better passages to turn to than Romans 8:31-34. God loves you more than you can imagine. He has done more to save you than you can imagine. As long as you cling to Him, you have nothing to worry about.
The same is true of PHYSICAL TRIALS. Let’s finish off the chapter with Romans 8:35-39. Having sent the spiritual forces of wickedness against Christians on an all-out blitz, now Paul is doing the same thing with physical trials. He’s imagining a future of persecution so bad that Christians are getting slaughtered like sheep every day. Surely that will show that Christ doesn’t love us anymore, right?
Actually, no. Paul says that nothing, not the worst persecution imaginable, not the most powerful forces in heaven and on earth, can separate us from God’s love in Christ. If the government starts slaughtering Christians like sheep, that doesn’t make us the conquered. It makes us the conquerors. One can well imagine the glorified martyrs on the day of judgment looking at their miserable earthly tormentors and saying, “Well, that didn’t work out the way you thought it would, did it?” The worst this world has to offer only can send us home ahead of schedule.
In short, brethren, we need to worry a lot less about earthly things because God’s got it covered. It doesn’t matter whether there is a massive recession. It doesn’t matter whether COVID explodes again. In fact, it doesn’t matter whether the wrong guy becomes president in November. None of those things can separate us from the love of God, and that means everything is going to be all right.