June 10, 2023
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:37
In all WHAT THINGS? In all these things: Tribulation. Distress. Persecution. Famine. Nakedness. Danger. Sword.
FOR HIS SAKE, even if we are killed all the day long and regarded as sheep to be slaughtered, we are more than conquerors. Romans 8:35-36.
The way to conquer, for us, is the same way Jesus conquered. THROUGH THE CROSS, whatever our cross may be. So, I deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus. After all,
neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, 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. (Romans 8:35-39)
A week ago, I was in a different environment than usual, and it became clear that this affliction I've been suffering had worsened considerably. I was sitting somewhere looking at some small jars on the wall. There was light reflecting back at me that was a bit blinding. I closed my right eye and looked through my left eye. Before the jars would have looked a bit twisted. This day, they looked like they were melting.
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were very difficult days with headaches and the appearance of reflected light making it difficult to function. By Wednesday, I began to feel despondent.
I went to corporate prayer that night. My heart felt like a tomb. I could not imagine how I could carry on this way. So I sobbed and heaved, and in the end, the Lord in His infinite mercy and compassion brought me to the passage above. I suddenly saw what I had never seen before: that even if I am killed all day long for His precious name's sake - so, even if this affliction persists - I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me. That revelation brought HOPE.
I am going to be honest here. Sickness in the body of Christ messes with some people's theology. If you are in my situation and in the Church, you might find that everyone is trying to figure it out more than even you are. They say, maybe you have sin in your life or bitterness in your heart. Or maybe you spoke a curse over yourself. Because if you are in Christ, you should be more than a conqueror.
This is what happens to people when they live by reason - and really not by faith. To people who are only comfortable when they can wrap their minds around God. So, they come to you as Job's comforters did, because your situation challenges their tidy theology.
To these people, I ask: are you sure this is how it works? I ask, what happened with Beni Johnson? Do we not believe that her husband, Bill, and Bethel Church, had faith? Do we really think there was some dark, hidden sin in her life? Because really, when sickness disturbs someone's theology, there are two presuppositions operating: (i) sickness is the sick person's fault, and therefore, (ii) God is OK with it because He has allowed it.
To these people, I ask: what happened to God's most treasured, prized possession, His spotless, perfect Son? THE CROSS. So, what entitles me to be spared some comparatively miniscule discomfort? What about the apostle, Paul, who wrote Romans and was martyred for the sake of the name of that Son?
I challenge us ALL, myself included, to go deeper. I believe that God gave us reason to function in a broken world. But I do not believe that reason is the way to know Him. It is certainly not the way to eternal life. His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways. His ways are higher than our ways.
What if you encountered God in such a powerful way that reason utterly failed to explain it? Isn't that what Charismatics really all want? Well, it happened to me. I was trained to use reason and logic in the best universities in the world for nearly a decade. So when I accepted Christ, He had to fit into that paradigm.
But He IN HIS INFINITE COMPASSION AND MERCY saw me and had pity on me. He SHATTERED that world view, which only held death. He resurrected me, and I had to admit that I knew NOTHING. I committed to not entertain one apologetic, theological thought - for three years - while I sought Him in secret and in His Word. And He has put everything back together in the knowledge of Him. He has given me eternal life, both here and beyond the grave.
I urge us all to consider Job 38:
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, 9 when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, 10 and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, 11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?
12 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, 13 that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it? 14 It is changed like clay under the seal, and its features stand out like a garment. 15 From the wicked their light is withheld, and their uplifted arm is broken.
16 “Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? 17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? 18 Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this.
19 “Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness, 20 that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home? 21 You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!
22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, 23 which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war? 24 What is the way to the place where the light is distributed, or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?
25 “Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain and a way for the thunderbolt, 26 to bring rain on a land where no man is, on the desert in which there is no man, 27 to satisfy the waste and desolate land, and to make the ground sprout with grass?
28 “Has the rain a father, or who has begotten the drops of dew? 29 From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the frost of heaven? 30 The waters become hard like stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.
31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion? 32 Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children? 33 Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?
34 “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that a flood of waters may cover you? 35 Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? 36 Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind? 37 Who can number the clouds by wisdom? Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens, 38 when the dust runs into a mass and the clods stick fast together?
39 “Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, 40 when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in their thicket? 41 Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God for help, and wander about for lack of food?
And Job 39, 40, 41, and 42 as well.