Helloooooo? Are You There?
Podcast available at: https://anchor.fm/diane-simcox/episodes/Helloooooooo—Are-You-There-e1am20i
Romans 8 part 3
Last week, we covered the last half of Romans 8 as a whole. Our Scripture included the familiar Romans 8:28 – “All things work together for good for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose.” We discussed the suffering, pain, and troubles that we experience in life and that we are assured that God will take each experience and work it for good if we love Him and are called to His purpose. Dr. Tim Keller sums it all up in what he calls The Christian’s Happiness. “Your bad things turn out for good, your good things can never be lost, and the best things are yet to come.” What he’s saying is supported by Paul’s statement in Romans 8:18 18 NASB “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Many years ago, I dislocated a bone in my finger. It was very uncomfortable. It throbbed and I couldn’t do anything with it. The finger wouldn’t bend like it was supposed to. It was very swollen. The thought of anyone touching it made me nauseated because it hurt so badly. I tried taping it, making a homemade splint out of a popsicle stick, even using an ace bandage. But knowing that it wasn’t going to get better on its own, Mom took me to the doctor. He explained that he would be able to put it in the right position, but that it was going to hurt. He called in a nurse and he stationed her on one side of me; he put Mom on the other side. They both held me as he took my hand and maneuvered the finger back into its joint. The pain was excruciating, but it was brief. After a few seconds, it was all over and even though the soreness lingered, the pain, the throbbing, the swelling quickly went away. It took a moment of extreme pain to relieve the discomfort that had crippled me for days. Today, I can’t even tell you which finger was hurt. Even though the pain was intense at the time, I now can’t identify the source.
Our lives reflect that same scenario. We encounter times when things are just not right. They’re not how we expect them to be. We hurt; we’re uncomfortable; we feel impaired. And try as we might, we are unable to fix them on our own. And so we turn to God, our Healer, our Great Physician. And even though it may hurt, may cause undeniable pain for a period of time, God can take that bad thing and mold it into something good. Chances are, God will place people in our lives at just the right time to “hold us” as He’s working. And one day, the pain of that time will diminish and soften as we begin to heal and see God’s fingerprints all over it.
Beth Moore, in her Esther Bible study, said this. “At some of the hardest times in my life, I have been able to make the more difficult choice out of pure blind-eyed, bent-kneed acceptance that it was somehow part of a greater plan. I was beaten by a conviction that throbbed relentlessly against my strong self-centeredness. As much as my flesh wanted relief, I knew that when all was said and done, I’d sit on that side of glory having much rather fulfilled my calling than served myself all the way to meaninglessness. I had to accept that I was not called to an easy life. I was called to a purposeful life.”[i]
Think hard before you answer this question. Do you want an easy life or a purposeful life? Be honest with yourself. In fact, think of it this way. Think of going into a voting booth; the screen is positioned so that you have complete privacy. You insert your identification card and the one question pops up. What kind of a life do you desire? There are only two options. Easy. Purposeful. You make your selection and hit “submit”. The next screen shows your choice and asks if you are satisfied with your choice. After you click “submit” again, there’s no going back. There’s no changing of the mind. What you chose is what you get and it’s either going to be easy or it’s going to be purposeful.
Would you agree that our choice is solely based on our relationship with God? If our relationship with God is pure and meaningful, then our choice would be for a purposeful life. A life in which He is glorified and our fruits for Him are plentiful. However, if we view our connection with God as a means to get what we desire and have Him at our beck and call to our every prayer, every wish, then what we have isn’t really a relationship and we would obviously choose an easy life.
The last few verses of Romans 8 speaks of the unbreakable bond we have with God. It emphasizes the power, the protection that, as God’s children, we are given. It also speaks of God’s commitment to the relationship He desires with us.
Romans 8:31 TLB 31 “What can we ever say to such wonderful things as these? If God is on our side, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son for us but gave him up for us all, won’t he also surely give us everything else?
33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? Will God? No! He is the one who has forgiven us and given us right standing with himself.
34 Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us there in heaven.”
My husband will testify to the fact that I am normally a calm, peaceful, non-combative person; however, if one of my children is being hurt or mistreated in any way, I can quickly turn into a “Momster” and glide into supersonic protective mode. Don’t misunderstand me. They make mistakes; they are in the wrong from time to time and I don’t hesitate to be “Mom” in those situations and tell them so. But when they are treated unfairly or attacked in any way, it hurts me as much as it does them and I can be very defensive on their behalf.
You don’t have to be a parent to understand that level of protectiveness. There’s someone in your life that you have that kind of bond with that would cause you to go into combat mode for their sake, their well-being. Maybe it’s a spouse, a sibling, a parent, another family member, or a best friend. But what about God, Himself? Do we stand up for Him like He stands up for us? Are you as protective and defensive of God as you are with others? If not, why not? Is it that we feel God doesn’t need our protection or us standing up for Him?
1 Peter 3:15 CSB “but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”
I’ll find myself humming the song I learned as a child. “Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory, glory.” It’s one of those songs that just gets stuck in your head and plays on a loop. I’m given so many chances throughout the day to give Him glory, to make a stand for Him, to declare the majesty and glory of His name and Who He is. But I regret that I miss so many of those opportunities. I know I disappoint Him daily. He doesn’t need me to protect Him or stand up for Him. He wants me to love Him so much that it happens automatically. He wants us to have a concrete bond with Him that regardless of our current situation or circumstances, we know that He is there for us and that His love is unwavering, and we continue to praise Him unconditionally.
Romans 8:35 TLB “Who then can ever keep Christ’s love from us? When we have trouble or calamity, when we are hunted down or destroyed, is it because he doesn’t love us anymore? And if we are hungry or penniless or in danger or threatened with death, has God deserted us?”
There’s a saying that’s been around for many years that reads, “If you feel far from God, guess who moved.”
Ever since I heard that phrase in my teen years, I’ve applied it to my life. There certainly have been times that I realized that slowly I had backed away from God. I didn’t make Him a priority. As days turned into weeks then weeks into months, I wasn’t as intentional about spending time with Him. Truthfully, most of those times were when things were going fairly well; perhaps I didn’t feel like I needed Him as much during those periods of my life. Other times, I pulled away or distanced myself because He didn’t respond like I expected, or perhaps He didn’t respond at all.
It’s taken some years, some growth in my relationship with Him, that I’ve come to realize that sometimes those periods of feeling distant from Him weren’t what they seemed to be. Perhaps there was no distance but rather those times were opportunities for my faith in Him to grow. Maybe those bouts of silence were needed to strengthen my trust and my confidence in Him and His love for me.
CeCe Winans sings a song entitled “He’s Never Failed Me Yet”
With years of life came test and trial
And nights when tears replaced the smile
Though God was right there all the while
My soul was not at rest
But I lived to tell that I made it through
So instead of singing ’bout the blues
I bring you news to encourage you
He’s never failed me yet
Can you claim that? I admit there were brief moments when I felt as if God had failed me. Times when I faced such hardship that I cried out to Him to free me from it. Times when the pain was overwhelming and I was so scared. I can just imagine that you’ve been there too. Not one of us is immune to suffering.
Romans 8:36 TLB “No, for the Scriptures tell us that for his sake we must be ready to face death at every moment of the day—we are like sheep awaiting slaughter; 37 but despite all this, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us enough to die for us.”
There’s a Beth Moore study in which she uses the thought process of “what’s the worst that can happen”. The idea is that you think of all of the possible outcomes to a situation, imagining the worst and you counter with “then what”? The idea is that no matter what the worst-case scenario may be, we, as children of God, always have victory in Jesus Christ. I do believe that keeping that assurance at the forefront of our thoughts is what produces joy in our life.
Romans 8: 38 TLB “For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, 39 or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.”
God will never stop loving us. Once we are His child, He loves us and nothing can break that love that flows from Him to us. His passion for us is pure, unconditional, and cannot be broken. But like all relationships, it takes two. Nothing can separate us from His love; but is there anything that can separate our love from Him?
One thing that is troubling is hearing of people who once claimed to love God with all of their hearts. They believed His every Word; they pledged their lives, their love, and loyalty to Him. That is until they felt as if God failed them.
Once-professing Christians are abandoning their love for God and their faith in Him as they face trials and sufferings in their life. People who once identified as Christians now classify themselves as atheists. There are various reasons for this to take place but one of the most dominant reasons is a trigger event; some life-changing event that causes one to doubt not only God’s love for them but the existence of God Himself.
I want to share with you a condensed version of the story of Peter Guirguis who experienced this himself.
Peter Guirguis allowed circumstances of life and what he considered to be silence from God to create a wedge or a separation between him and God. For years, Peter lived as God didn’t exist; he denied the very idea of God and he tried to fill every vacancy within himself with anything other than God. His story may be considered extreme, but make no mistake. His story is not isolated. Many men, women, teenagers who once raised their hands in praise to Him, who knelt at the altar thanking Him for the good things in their life, who once sought to glorify God in all that they did were triggered by life’s events and turned their backs on Him. They permitted some thing or some event to cut the extension of the love that flowed from them to God. But that love that God had for them always existed. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. Not life, not death, not even the powers of hell itself can keep God’s love from us. Don’t let the darkness of life pull you from Him.
James 4:8 NET Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.
I have countless sweet memories of my parents. But one that never fails to bring tears to my eyes was one day when I was going through a really rough time. I felt tossed about, beaten up, bruised by life, and worst of all, I felt abandoned by God. I had literally screamed at Him one morning in the car, “Why are You not fixing this? I know You can fix it, but what aren’t You?” I ended up with my parents, crying and sobbing over all of it. My mom gave me her pearls of wisdom but at the moment, they were like feathers in the wind. I couldn’t grasp what she was saying. But my daddy, who was sitting there in his recliner just said, “Come here, baby girl.” I got up and walked over to him and he patted his lap. Here I was, 38 years old and the mother of two and I sat on my daddy’s lap. He said nothing. He simply held me. He knew that I didn’t need words, I didn’t need someone to fix it, I didn’t need suggestions or solutions. He knew that as hard and painful as it was, it was necessary for me to go through the rough time I was going through. And he knew that I needed to know that he was there for me. That’s the definition of a father. I was blessed to have an earthly father who demonstrated such love for me that I can somehow grasp how much God my Heavenly Father loves me. Nothing can separate me from that.
“When God is silent, He is not still. God does some of His best work in the dark. Trust Him- He’s there.”Tony Evans
[i] Beth Moore, Esther: It’s Tough Being a Woman