How Can We Know God is for Us?
31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He 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? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who 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. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."[a] 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither 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.
This is a true story involving the Pastor who supervised my vicarage and his family. He and a number of them stood at the sickbed of his 14 year old niece. She didn't know, but they did, that before the week was out she would probably fall into her final sleep. It was leukemia, and two days later the dread disease took its toll.
What could the Pastor say to the distressed parents as they drove home from the hospital together that evening? – The girl had been a top student in her freshman year at High School. Only four weeks earlier she was running around in the vigor and bloom of youth, but by the time she had only these two days left, she already lay limp and bluish-gray. There were lots of "Get Well" cards by her bed. "Cheer up" they said. "You'll get better and everything will turn out fine." — But it didn't!
A hundred miles away the girl's 74 year old grandmother lay paralyzed in a nursing home, where she had been laying half dead and half alive for almost 20 years! She was still alive, though, and might remain that way for many more years. Yet the young teenager would die shortly.
Could anyone make rhyme or reason out of that? Could there be a God in Heaven who would permit such things? And if there is, does He rub His hands in glee as He snuffs out the lives of helpless children and breaks the hearts of parents? — Or is He some distant Deity who lets the chips fall where they may in our lives, paying little attention to our problems, troubles and destinies? Is it possible in the face of bitter tragedy to know that there is a God who is for us?
NO, it would not be possible to be sure of that if Christ hadn't come and died and risen again. –As they drove home from the hospital, the Pastor quoted Scripture where St. Paul asks: "What then shall we say to this?" He then answers: "If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also give us all things with Him?"
Many things couldn't be understood that night, but one thing they could all know beyond any shadow of doubt was that reigning in the Heavens was God who was for them! Looking upon them was a God of love. And the ever absolute proof of that love is the Cross, where God gave His Dearest and Best for us!
The family could go on from there to know that, if God was for them in this way, by the Cross, He wouldn't let the tribulations of life get the best of them. If God had given them the greatest gift, He was going to give them the lesser gifts, too. If He had sent His Son to win them from the power of sin, death and the devil, then surely He would see them through all the happenings of life and give them everything they truly needed to keep hold of real hope.
Because of sin entering our world, there is no life that isn't watered at one time or another by tears. Your trouble may be different from that of those parents, but each of us experiences some "valleys of sorrow". – It may have to do with sickness. It may come from the unkindness of friends. It may come from loneliness or some personal failure. It may come from family strife or the death of someone dear. — Discouragement and grief do touch our lives, and God's highest response to them all rests in the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.
It Is Certain
Sitting at a campfire, someone pokes it and sparks fly all around. Words of Job verify for us that: "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward." Paul's examples in the Text are tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril and sword.
Satan Uses It
An old legend says that Satan was once told he was to be stripped of all his powers but one, but he could have his choice. – He chose the power to have people dwell on their discouragements. That's all he needs to overpower us!
Discouragement is the breeding ground for many other problems and sins. When we're bogged down with trouble and everything seems to be working against us, we're prone to forget about God and think we have to solve everything ourselves. – Satan has a real flaming arrow in the power of discouragement.
How Do We Meet It?
The big question is, "How do we meet trouble?" Does it bog us down and make us bitter? – What's the answer to discouragement?
It's not enough to say with hollow optimism that everything will turn out for the best. – The truth is that things don't always turn out that way from our viewpoint. Little children are stricken with crippling diseases. Drunken drivers do hit innocent people. Husbands and wives are unfaithful. The boss does sometimes favor others who aren't as conscientious as you.
GOD'S WAY FOR US TO MEET DISCOURAGEMENT: CHRIST'S CROSS AND RESURRECTION
The only real answer is Christ's Cross and empty tomb. There God has proven without doubt that He is concerned enough about us to have taken on human flesh, to live among us and die for us. With the Cross in front of us, we can know even when everything else seems against us, that God is for us. And if HE is for us who can be against us?
You may be faced with a particularly grieving hardship right now, but God wouldn't permit it if He didn't have some good purpose for it. We know what His intentions are for us because of the Cross, and without the Cross we could never be sure!
It Is the Full Answer on which We Can Depend
We can see towering mountains and billowing seas and know that God is powerful. We can see how planets revolve throughout the universe and know of God's wisdom. We can look into test tubes and through microscopes and find marvelous secrets God has tucked away in the world and therefore know that He Himself is marvelous. – But where are we going to learn of His love? — Where but in Christ's suffering the death of the Cross and rising again in grief conquering glory?!
Would you want to live even a moment without that assurance? Would you want to raise a family, go to work, or even lie down in bed at night without knowing what's going to happen to you, left to the alternative that you're only a plaything of fate? Would you want to depend only on chance to decide whether you're bound for evil or good in life?
We don't have to depend on chance or luck, because we have the Cross. And therefore you know that God loves you, and that no matter what happens He is for you!
It Is the Way to Face Trouble
Troubles still come. God permits the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the just and the unjust. – But two people can face the same situation in life with exactly opposite results. One will be destroyed, while the other will emerge a stronger person. – The difference is the foundation on which they are building. Trusting that God is for us isn't based on some vague hope or pleasant platitude, but on a happening of history, when God physically entered the stream of human history in Christ to prove He loves us with all embracing love!
It Is the Way to be Yielded to God’s Will
In the Lenten story we see Jesus at Gethsemane, prostrate on the ground, with His sweat (as it were) great drops of blood. We hear His voice rising from His agony, pleading for His Father to remove the burden from Him. But He adds the words: "Nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done."
How can we pray that unless we're sure that God has a loving will for us? How can we be yielded to God if we're not sure that He's working out all things for our good? – But the Cross is God's assurance for us. Nothing can remove it. Christ's work on it took place long ago. It's all finished and can't be undone! –God holds out Christ's Cross and empty tomb for our faith when we enter our "valleys of sorrow". "Don't despair," He says. "Remember I am for you!"
People who finally end up conquered by trouble may be seeking the wrong goal in life. – Our goal is to be close to God. Our goal is to live as He wants us to live, and finally to live with Him eternally.
If life is just for pleasure, trouble will destroy us because pleasure eventually fades away. If life is just for material gain, trouble will destroy us because it often involves taking away one's wealth. – But if life is for fellowship with God, then we can accept even heartache and sorrow, because those things bring us closer to Him.
The Cross says, "Take heart, God loves you!" It says that when your job gets you down, when the bills pile high, when illness strikes, when friends consider you expendable, when you have trouble at home, or when you're worried about tomorrow. —Through it all stands the Cross of Christ that says: "If God is for us, who is against us?" It tells us beyond all doubt that: "..Neither death, nor life, nor Angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 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!"