How should we live in the face of a global flood of sin, a deadly pandemic, looming financial crisis, riots, international conflicts, terrorism, growing anti-Semitism and Satan’s bold moves to take over our world? Should we retreat into a perceived protective bubble, or is there a better place to be?
Paul says that it is not only us human beings who suffer in this world: “The whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 9:22-23). God knows that this world is difficult to live in and is becoming even more so, but the terrible pain of childbirth is eased by the anticipated child. As with an expectant mother, we choose where we focus our minds: Yeshua’s glorious return and the Sabbath rest of the coming millennium, as well as our redeemed, heavenly bodies, which “will be like his [Yeshua’s] glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).
While we live in this mortal body, Paul tells us that patience is important, “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 9:25). We understand that just as in child-birth there is a schedule and an outcome, we are in an unstoppable process, with a glorious end. Impatience speeds nothing, but the waiting only increases the ultimate joy.
Our prayers must also be patient. God knows that in our pain we struggle sometimes even to find words to pray and can barely do more than cry out to him, yet he both gives us our groanings and interprets our prayer language.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).
God hears prayer. I spoke to one apostolic leader from Uganda this week. He pointed out that although Uganda has 893 confirmed Corona virus cases, there has not been a single death. When I asked why, he responded that Ugandans are exceptionally committed to prayer and fasting, as well as eating healthy organic food.
One winter, my mother’s house was flooded while she was on holiday. It was one big, cold mess. Her insurance company, however, was called ‘More Than’. They lived up to their name and replaced all the furniture and fittings – new for very old; as well as replacing floors, ceilings, electrics, wall plaster etc. During the three-month repairs, the company also paid for her to live elsewhere. A disaster was turned into a victory and she was able to sell the property at a good price and move closer to family members.
This world is not ultimately trustworthy, but our God certainly is. In every storm and circumstance, we choose to trust him, that everything is in his mighty hands to resolve. He takes a mess and makes it into an opportunity:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 9:28).
One of Satan’s biggest weapons when we feel most vulnerable is accusation (as opposed to conviction!). The devil tries to disturb our psychological well-being. We therefore consciously choose to place on our heads the helmet of salvation, which constantly brings to mind the cross:
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies” (Romans 9:31-33).
Paul concludes the chapter by reminding us that the living, loving Messiah is our constant companion in the midst of adversity:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? (Romans 9:35)
It is these realities which enable us not to retreat inwards into a protective bubble, but rather to actually become more than conquerors in the midst of the storm. We are called to days, or sometimes seasons of rest, but only temporarily and strategically. There are some adventurous people who actually seek out giant mega-storms in which to surf – they ride above the largest and deadliest of waves. The Spirit of our God enables us to face the growing storms of our world head-on as more than conquerors, for the sake of His glorious name. Paul turned the Roman Empire upside down with the gospel of the Kingdom, and it is our job to turn our world upside down in the present evil age:
As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered”.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:36-39).