Author: Ron Graham
Jesus said, "Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).
Paul wrote along similar lines... "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day, and not only to me but to all who have loved his appearing" (2Timothy 4:7).
Sometimes Christians are required to die for their faith. For most of us, however, we are required only to maintain our faith until we die. This is not such a big ask, when the Lord has been so wonderful to us, and when he helps us every step of the way.
In this lesson we look at Romans chapter eight. This chapter may be divided into six sections. The last verse of each section states the section's main principle in a nutshell. Each of these six principles helps us to have an abundant life in Christ, and to be faithful until death.
If you wanted a mechanic to fix your car, what kind of mechanic would you rather have, a qualified A-grade mechanic or a B-grade back yard operator? If you were going to watch a movie, what would you rather watch, an excellent piece of cinematography well acted and directed, or some trashy B-grade thing that amuses only its eccentric cult following? In the same way, what kind of life do you want to live, an abundant, purposeful, and satisfying life, or a weak and disappointing one? Allow me to show you six principles of A-grade living, and encourage you to develop each of them in your life. Don't be satisfied with B-grade living when, through Jesus Christ and God's Holy Spirit, you can have an A-grade life.
Imagine I offered you a thousand dollars to deliver an important parcel to Alice Springs by midnight. Your first thought would probably be, "What's the best way for me to get to Alice tonight?" You would not, for example, say, "I wonder if they grow tulips in Alice?" You would need to ask the right question, and get the right answer quickly.
To live life abundantly, you must get your asks and your answers right. In the nutshell statement for this section (verse 14), Paul says, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God".
Why are you alive in this world? To become a son of God. How can you achieve this? By following the leadership of God's Spirit. There you have the greatest questions you could ever ask, and the answers to them.
The greatest problem in our lives is sin, and the condemnation that it brings upon us. Until we have the answer to that problem, we cannot have an abundant life, because we are condemned to death, being cut off from God's life-giving Spirit. The answer is found in Jesus Christ. "There is no condenmantion to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:1).
Now let's summarise the other verses in this section.
Jesus condemned sin in mankind, just as God's law has always done. But Jesus did what the law could not do by itself: Jesus provided an answer to the condemnation. He died for our sins and arose from the dead, that we might have life through forgiveness in Him. Even though we must still endure the death of our physical bodies, that too will be overcome in the end by our resurrection from the dead. Jesus certainly gives us the answers we need!
By yielding to God's Spirit, by accepting and following the answers that Jesus provides, God's Spirit lives in us. So we live, and live abundantly. Otherwise we die and die miserably.
We would all agree, I'm sure, that the right attitude toward life and its problems is of the utmost importance. You may remember the story of the two shoe salesmen who were sent to a tropical island where everybody went barefoot. One salesman came back defeated. "There's no market for shoes on this island --nobody there wears shoes". The other salesman came back successful. "This island is a shoe salesman's paradise. Everybody there needs shoes!" The attitudes made all the difference.
In the nutshell statement of this section (verse 18), Paul states his attitude toward life: "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us."
In the opening verse of this section (verse 15), Paul tells us that we should have no spirit of fear, but the spirit of adoption. He goes on to say that we are heirs to the kingdom of God, and we are children of God. Our sufferings in this life are our sharing in the sufferings of Christ, and if we suffer with him we shall also be glorified with him.
This is the right outlook on life: we are children of our Father, and joint heirs with Christ, who, after he had suffered was glorified. This is a powerful attitude that completely changes the way we live.
This section addresses our expectations. Most of us would agree that, next to attitudes, expectations go along way to giving quality to life. You have to have hope, you have to believe you are getting somewhere and achieving something worthwhile.
Imagine you hear strange noises underground in your garden. When you dig down to investigate, you find, to your surprise, a gentleman digging a tunnel. When you ask him where he is digging the tunnel to, or what is he hoping to find, he says, "I dunno mate, I got no reason, I'm just digging a tunnel." He would have to be a sad case, this gentleman. If he were hoping to find gold, or to escape from prison, if he had some expectation, you could perhaps think him sane. But if he anticipates nothing in digging this tunnel, why does he dig it?
I am no expert on the problem of suicide, and I don't know why some people kill themselves. But perhaps in some cases it is because they anticipate nothing in digging the tunnel of life, and they cannot live with that sense of futility.
In the nutshell statement of this section (verse 25), Paul says, "But if we hope for what we do not see, then we eagerly wait for it with perserverence." In the verse that opens this section (verse 19), Paul speaks of the "earnest expectation" of a creation liberated from futility. He says that at present we cannot see what we eagerly wait for, but our hope saves us from futility and helps us persevere until our hope becomes reality.
It's our choice whether we live in glorious hope or futile hopelessness.
Attitude and anticipation have to be expressed in action. There is much that a person can do in the here and now to improve life. But perhaps one action stands out above all others. It is prayer.
In the nutshell statement of this section (verse 28), Paul uses the term "work" in a special way. It is hard to separate this work as being God's work alone, and it is certainly not our work alone. It is best understood as a synergy, a work of two working together, God and us. "All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose"
In the opening verse of this section, Paul speaks of how the Spirit helps us in our weakness by his intercession for us when we pray. As we pray, he prays with us, and the ineffectual and imperfect prayers we offer are made perfect and effectual by the Spirit.
When we pray, the Spirit of God searches our hearts. We do not rely on our own mere words, but on the great mind of the Spirit, to take our innermost needs to God for action by him.
Every great goal must be reduced to smaller intermediate goals, which I like to think of as stations. A train stops at many stations before reaching the destination. The arrival at each station is evidence of progress toward the goal. The achievement of each minor goal moves us closer to the achievement of the major goal.
In the nutshell statement for this section (verse 37), Paul says, "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us". In the opening verse (verse 29) he speaks of us as "predestined". There is a great destination at which we are sure of our arrival one day. But in the meantime we must conquer many problems along the way, and God is freely giving us all things that we need to pass every station and continue onward. We know that Christ is at the right hand of God, and he intercedes for us also, so that we can make each arrival along the way, and eventually arrive in glory.
An attitude of confidence, or assurance, is so important that it is treated as a separate principle. In the first verse of this section (verse 38), Paul begins, "I am persuaded..." In the nutshell statement (verse 39), he says that "nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord" .
If we can live with this assurance, then we can live abundantly, and be faithful until death.