Summary: Our ability to face life with the courage to be victorious comes to us from the Holy Spirit and God's steadfast and inseparable love.
Romans 8:26-39 “Empowered”
Today is the Day of Pentecost. It is the birthday of the Church and the celebration of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit—God’s presence in our lives. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that allows Paul to say that we are more than conquerors.
The problem is that often we don’t feel like conquerors. It may be the case that we feel more frequently that we are the conquered. So, the question that is before us is, “How can we live as conquerors—or overcomers—in our lives today.
Prayer is very important element in our lives as conquerors. Certainly it is important for us to nurture a vibrant personal prayer life. There are other aspects of prayer, though, which allow us to live as conquerors.
We pray for each other. When people are in need, we surround them in prayer. Several times people have commented to me how strengthening it is for them to know that people are praying for them. There are also times—overwhelming situations--when we as individuals can’t pray. At such times, the community can voice our prayers when they get stuck in our throat..
Paul writes that it is not only fellow Christians who pray for us, but also the Holy Spirit and Jesus. These are expressions of God’s love for us. In verse 26, Paul writes that the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. Paul also states in verse 34 that Jesus is at the right hand side of God and is interceding for us, also. Wow! The Holy Spirit is resides in us and who knows us better than we know ourselves prays according to God’s will in ways that are beyond our understanding.
Together as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit we are conquerors through our prayers.
Paul continues by telling his readers that all things work for the good. They will work out for good, because God is in control. Paul talks about being predestined, called, justified and glorified. All these words underscore the one concept that God has everything in his hands—even when it doesn’t really seem like it. Yes, Paul knows about tragedies too horrible for words—tragedies that it doesn’t seem anything good can come out of it. Still Paul writes, and I proclaim to you, that all things work together for good, for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
God, who created the universe and who raised Jesus from the dead, is powerful enough to create something good out of the greatest evil. God did this with the cross of Christ, and God continues to move in a similar way in our lives.
We need to clarify what Paul means by the word conqueror. In the United States we think of conqueror and imagine Super bowl champions, military victories—anything where power and right triumphs over weakness and evil. This is not God’s idea of conquering.
• Jesus won the greatest victory on the cross. The conqueror was a beaten man hanging on a cross. But in that event, love triumphed over evil and Jesus (along with us) won the victory over sin, death, and the devil.
• Conquerors may be people who overcome their fear in order to take up their crosses, follow Jesus, and live sacrificial lives.
• Conquerors may be people who overcome prejudices in order to love the weak, neglected, powerless, or unlovable.
• Conquerors may those who know peace—the peace that passes all understanding—in the midst of strife and chaos.
We are conquerors because the Spirit is moving powerfully in us and through us.
God’s love has been described as steadfast. This almost unimaginable love is what Paul celebrates in the last verses of this passage.
God’s love for us is so great that absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love.
• There is no circumstance so terrible that it separates us from God’s love. God is there with us even if we do not sense God’s presence, or struggle to understand why God allowed us to experience the tragedy. Perhaps you saw the interview with Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, who was kidnapped and imprisoned for ten years. Their circumstances were terrible, but they still clung to hope. We would say that God was with them—that they were never separated from God’s love even though they were separated from her family.
• Not even death can separate us from God’s love. We may not know exactly what happens at death. Theologians may debate whether we are “asleep in Jesus,” or immediately stand in Jesus’ presence. One thing we do know for sure is that we are never separated from God.
We are conquerors because of God’s steadfast love.
If ever there was a time to celebrate, it is now. Things are not perfect. Still God’s Spirit is present and is moving in our lives and in our world.