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|15th August, 1999|
As we get ready to enter the twenty-first century, what should be take with us? I have suggested in previous weeks, we need to take a new outlook. Then a sense of inner peace, that reconciliation with God that overcomes alienation from each other, our environment and God. Now I want to suggest that entering the twenty-first century requires we be people possessing a victorious spirit. For so many people, life is so stressed and difficult that only a victorious spirit will bring them through.
Our Life Line Counsellors constantly deal with people who cannot cope. They face people who want to commit suicide. Our Life Force Suicide Prevention staff constantly deal with communities that are concerned with the escalating rate of suicide in their midst. One person every three and a half hours dies by their own hand in Australia. 2723 died by their own intention last year, 51% more than were killed on the roads. The suffering within the person beforehand must be immense.
Yet some people, with every reason to suicide, desperately fight for life. Stephen Schmidt, who has lived for 12 years with Crohn's syndrome, gives four reasons he has not given in to the impulse of suicide: 1) He wants to live more than he wants to die. Earthly pleasures for taste, sight, sound and love are compelling. 2) Internal courage calls him to live even in the midst of pain and suffering. 3) Life is in community, so when one dies, others die a bit as well, as their relationship ends. For their sake we must live on.
4) Suicide is a denial of the Lordship of Jesus. "We can't let go of life, because we are held and needed until another time when letting go is God's will for us. Dying is God's call, not ours," says Stephen. Yet in Adelaide this week Dr Phillip Nietschie opened clinic to advise on methods of euthanasia and to aid parents of suffering children determine when and how their children can die.
How can we, like Stephen Schmidt, develop a victorious spirit? Everyone, Christian or not, must work through the problem of suffering. We should not eulogise or glorify suffering for its own sake, nor should we merely adapt to its dreariness. Everything God allows to happen in our lives is for our own good. Many brave people face suffering, and they find faith and sustaining power in the verses in tonight's reading. Paul rounds off the first half of his letter with a Christian's triumph song of the impossibility of anything separating us from God's love which enables us to have a victorious spirit. v35-39 The security of the believer gives us a victorious spirit no matter what we must endure. We need not fear the past, present, or future because we are strong in the love of Christ. Paul presents five arguments to prove we overcome everything because nothing can separate us from Christ. Christians can have a victorious spirit over everything.
1. WE ARE VICTORS: GOD IS FOR US. v31 "What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?" If God is for us do we not have a spirit that cannot be conquered?
The Father is for us and proved it by giving His Son. v32 The Son is for us v34 and so is the Spirit. v26 God is making all things work for us. v28 In His person and His providence, God is for us. Sometimes, like Jacob, we lament, "Everything is against me!" Gen 42:36 when actually everything is working for us. The conclusion is obvious: "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Start each day realizing that God is for you. There is no need to fear, for your loving Father desires only the best for His children, even if you must go through trials to receive His best. "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jer. 29:11 No matter what your struggle is, no matter how hopeless seems the cause or how painful is the suffering, you can discover this truth: "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." Phil 4:13
2. WE ARE VICTORS: CHRIST DIED FOR US. v32 Here is a powerful argument. Our significance lies in the fact that Christ died for us. "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" If when we were sinners, God gave us His best, now that we are God's children, will He not give us all that we need? God cares for the birds, the sheep and the lilies; surely He will care for you! Calvary's grace guarantees it.
3. WE ARE VICTORS: GOD JUSTIFIED US. v33 "Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies." He declared us righteous in Christ. Others might accuse us, but we stand righteous in Jesus Christ. God will certainly not accuse us since He has justified us. Understanding the meaning of justification brings peace to our hearts. When God declares the believing sinner righteous in Christ, that declaration never changes. Your Christian experience may change from day to day, but you justification never changes. You may accuse yourself, and men may accuse you, but God will never accuse you. Jesus has already paid the penalty and we are secure in Him. No wonder we have a victorious spirit!
4. WE ARE VICTORS: CHRIST PRAYS FOR US. v34 "Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." A dual intercession keeps the believer secure in Christ: the Spirit intercedes Rom 8:26-27 and the Son of God intercedes. Rom 8:34 The same Saviour who died for us is now interceding for us in heaven. As our High Priest, He can give us the grace we need to overcome temptation and defeat the enemy. Heb 4:14-16 As our Advocate, He can forgive our sins and restore our fellowship with God. 1 John 1:9-2:2 Intercession means that Jesus Christ represents us before the throne of God and we do not have to represent ourselves. "Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them." Heb 7:25 We stand strong because of Christ's prayers for us.
5. WE ARE VICTORS: CHRIST LOVES US. v35-39 "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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."
Paul has proved that God cannot fail us, but do we fail Him? Suppose some great trial or temptation comes, and we fail? Then what? Paul explains nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. God does not shelter us from the difficulties of life because we need them for our spiritual growth. Rom. 5:3-5 God assures us the difficulties of life are working for us and not against us: "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Rom 8:28 God permits trials that we might use them for our good and His glory. We endure trials for His sake. Rom 8:36 Since we do, do you think God will desert us? Of course not! Instead, He is closer to us when we go through those difficulties. To say that we will never be separated from the love for Christ gives us great confidence for the future. But can suffering, tragedy or evil come between Christ and us? Is there any suffering that could lead us to deny Him?
Paul suggests some possible candidates: Trouble means strong pressure stressing us within. Hardship means outward affliction plus inward distress. Persecution is the suffering that comes upon us for our faith. Famine reminds us of the precariousness of food supplies. Nakedness means simply dire poverty unable to afford clothing. Danger reminds us of the risks many Christians face. Sword, of course, means execution for the faith, the only item in the list that Paul had not undergone, and soon he would be executed by beheading.
But because Christ loves us, we can face up to anything with a victorious spirit. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Rom 8:37 "More than conquerors," means literally, "we are super-conquerors." Jesus Christ gives us a victorious spirit. We need not fear life or death, things present nor things to come, because Jesus Christ loves us and gives us the victory. Nothing can separate you from His love! Believe it - and live with a victorious spirit! We are free from judgment because Christ died for us and we have His righteousness. We are free from defeat because Christ lives in us by His Spirit and we share His life. We are free from discouragement because Christ is coming and we shall share His glory. We are free from fear because Christ intercedes for us and we cannot be separated from Him. No condemnation! No obligation! No frustration! No separation! "God is for us, who can be against us!" We possess a victorious spirit because nothing can defeat us!
Paul ends this eloquent section on a personal note: "I am convinced". Paul is certain. Paul sees no possible shadow of doubt. Paul lists potential candidates for separating us from God's love. If none of these can effect a separation, then why should believers fear? They are assured that God will always keep them secure in His great love. The love of God, God's love for us, is in Christ Jesus our Lord. We cannot know the love of God apart from Christ. The cross, and only the cross, shows what real, divine love is: "God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Rom 5:8
We can face every experience that life can offer, and stand secure - a super conqueror - because there is nothing "in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." The victorious spirit is essential for all of us who will enter the twenty-first century. We must be people possessing a victorious spirit. For so many people, life is so stressed and difficult that only a victorious spirit will bring them through. With Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, you have His victorious spirit within, and you are able for anything that comes! In reviewing the new Australian Hymn Book just released I noted how many of the hymn writers I have known. One beautiful hymn is "O God of Love". It is about having this victorious spirit that overcomes the world. It was written by Randall T Pittman, my Bible College Old Testament professor. Sing it now with me. As you sing commit your life to Jesus Christ as Saviour and follow Him as Lord.
"Living with chronic illness: why should I go on?" Christian Century, May 3, 1989. "The Bible Exposition Commentary" - Warren W. Wiersbe. Victor Books, 1989 "The Epistle To The Romans " Leon Morris. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1988.
Rev Dr Gordon Moyes
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