Summary: The life line between Paul and God was the Spirit of God and his spirit. In this on-going sanctification process, Paul relied upon the Spirit of God to minister to his spirit, thus the comment in verse nine, whom I serve with my spirit.
Series Title: Romans – The Line in the Sand
Message Title: The Life Line
9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
When I was just a youngster in the military, I had the occasion, because of my job, of being chosen to attend a special survival school. There, they taught students survival in the oceans, jungles and deserts. They taught you how to cook snakes, which berries to eat, how to survive in the deep oceans, the open deserts or in the wild jungles, and how to use various methods of emergency communication.
The last two weeks of the school was the most dreaded. That portion culminated with an intense ‘prisoner of war camp’ scenario, which lasted about three days. I’m not sure if it did or didn’t, because, from the beginning, I lost all track of time or time lost track of me.
To this day, I believe the reason for that last portion of school was not to give a ‘sampling’ of what one might expect in this day and age of wartime incarceration, but rather to give each individual a close-up look at themselves and how they respond to physical and psychological duress.
You can sit there and tell me all day long that it wasn’t real life and that it was only training, and I might agree with you, if I had not experienced it myself. You can laugh and say that the soldiers were play acting the part of communist guards, and that they wouldn’t really go to the extreme of actually hurting someone. You can assure me, now, that I was never in any real danger, and, again, I might agree with you, now. However, if you had told me then, during the experience, my mind would have quickly conjured up and transferred to my mouth a negative expletive so severe your ears would have been burning for several minutes. Not only would I have told you off, but the 37 other people that were raking the rock and pebble-filled yards with their fingers while they were on their knees would probably have been equally critical of your assessment.
It all began when they lined us up for the POW training, we were joking, laughing, and cutting up. The training, or scenario, was to start with running through an enemy evasion course. The objective was to successfully navigate to a flag 1000 yards straight in front of us, and we had three hours to do it.
“Three hours”, laughed a country boy. “I could do that in about five minutes.”
They shut him up rather quickly and told us that the area was 100 yards wide and 1000 yards long. It was covered with weeds, thick brush and thorns, a small stream and, last of all, but certainly not the least, it was infested with so-called ‘communist aggressors’ with weapons. If they captured you, they would take you straight to the POW camp.
I don’t remember much of that running, walking, and mostly crawling through that course. However, I do remember trying to lie still with hundreds of red ants crawling all over me in their attempt to get back into their home, which I happened to be lying on top of while hiding from a guard that was walking very close by.
I made it through the ants, and I made it all the way through that course. I touched the flag and I was safe, and I felt safe, for the moment. They, meaning the good guys, gave me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I was able to rest, for the moment.
By the way, out of those 38 people, only six people made it all the through and touched the flag.
I began to feel sorry for the other 32 people, but I felt rather proud of myself at the same time. I do recall thinking that it was that only six people would escape having to go to the POW camp.
But that’s not the way things transpired. You see, it didn’t matter whether or not you made it through the course you were still going to go to the POW camp. It was inevitable.
Of those 38 POW’s, which were called war criminals, there were only two Christians in the whole group of people. And, you’ll see why I added this later in the message.
The experience of that preliminary ‘evasion’ course was to prepare or indoctrinate the mind. Its purpose was to ‘shatter’ the mindset of the participants. To wrest it away from our rather cavalier attitude of, “This is not real.” This is a joke,” to a more sobering attitude of, “What’s going on here?” “What’s happening here?”