When St. Paul stakes with words God’s claim of sovereignty over the circumstances of our lives and proclaims the Almighty’s promise of ever-present and never-failing love, the great apostle does so with his eyes wide open.
“What can separate us from the love of Christ?” he asks, and when he lists among the weapons of the enemy, “trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword,” his list is much more than hypothetical. These are the words of a man who has opened his eyes on many mornings and seen these very darts of Satan aimed ominously in his direction.
Long before Peter Jackson’s breathtaking motion picture trilogy captivated the hearts of theatre audiences, The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien was my all-time favorite book. (Tolkien thought of it as one but the publisher thought one massive volume would be massively daunting to readers, and it became three books). I’d far rather spend one day in a hobbit hole with Frodo Baggins than a week in a mansion with any king or president or head of state I can think of.
Some of my favorite lines in the first of the trilogy’s books, The Fellowship of the Ring, are these as the faithful dwarf Gimli comments to the king of the elves: “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” And Elrond the king answers, “Maybe, but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall.”
The Apostle Paul had seen the nightfall. He’d seen trouble, hardship, persecution, and all the rest. He’d been on the receiving end of the very worst of Satan’s weapons. And that makes his resounding affirmation of faith all the more impressive and trustworthy. No empty words, his.
Paul had indeed seen the nightfall, but still he writes with utter confidence, not in his own strength but in the strength of his King: “No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God!
God’s people are more than conquerors even in the midst of tragedy when tears seem to be more constant than any other companion. God wraps us up in a Father’s embrace in the midst of our tears, and the Almighty cries with us. Remember Jesus’ tears before the tomb of Lazarus?
God’s people are more than conquerors even as they are lying flat on their backs wracked with the pain of physical disease because they know that through Christ all pain and suffering will one day be forever banished and, even now, the disease that can kill our bodies can never kill souls filled with God’s genuine life, and one day death itself will forever die.
God’s people are more than conquerors, and nothing in all of creation or beyond can take away the victory that is ours in Christ Jesus.
Copyright 2012 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.