“In, With, and For”
Romans 8:31 (Call to Worship)
I think it’s safe to say that life can be challenging at times, wouldn’t you agree? Life can be demanding… overwhelming. That doesn’t mean for one second that life’s not good: but with all of our responsibilities; work, deadlines, children, grandchildren, all the different expectations that are placed upon our lives - the realistic expectations and the unrealistic ones, too - all the worries of everyday life... from paying bills to fixing that dripping faucet... sometimes there’s not enough of us to go around! We get stretched thin! Physically, emotionally, spiritually.
But no matter what life may bring our way, no matter what we’re called face… we walk by faith, not by sight! And as a people who walk by faith... as followers of Christ, we never walk alone! Of course, we know that, but we also need to be reminded of that truth, frequently. God is in us... He is with us… and God is for us.
Philippians 2:13 tells us, “for God is working in you… to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” In other words, God is working IN us, giving us the desire (the will) and the power (action and ability) to do what pleases him - to do what he has called us to do!
Think about that for a moment: God is working in you! The God who created the stars and planets... the God who spoke light into being... is working IN you.
The word “working” in the original language of the New Testament is the very same word from which we get our English word “energy”. So what the Scripture is telling us is God is the energy… The power… The strength… Our source of life... your life and my life. Our ability to serve God is through His strength, not on our own ability! You and I don’t just run on “willpower” and determination alone. We don’t just get through life own grit and stubbornness (even though those qualities don’t necessarily hurt!).
God gives us the strength we need through the power of his spirit to do his will, no matter what we may be facing. I can’t begin to truly tell you all the times in my own life, and my own faith, that if it had been left up to me, and my strength, and my ability… I would have failed miserably.
I can’t help but wonder what some of my former teachers must think when they hear I’m a preacher. I was so stinking shy when I was young... It has to be God’s strength enabling me to do this - because my favorite seat in the house is the back row.
Of course, when I think back on all the times that God was working IN me throughout my ministry, I know that it HAD to be God - God’s strength working in me. Like the day TWO church members died - on the same day - and I’d been a minister only a couple of months at that time. I was green, and young, and inexperienced... didn’t know what I was doing. But God took what little I had to offer and used it.
But God’s is not only working IN you giving you the strength to face life… But God is WITH you as you face life.
John 14 verses 15 tells us, “If you love me, keep my commands... I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be WITH you forever.” There’s no greater promise in God's word! No greater comfort… No greater realization… Than to know that Christ is WITH us always.
God’s word tells us that Christ is in each of us, and that through the Holy Spirit God is WITH us... as his children... and the Bible goes on to tell us (in Ephesians and Colossians) that our lives are “hidden” (Col 3:3) with Christ in God; and that we have been “sealed” (Eph 1:13) with the Holy Spirit.
Well what does that mean? Think about it... have you ever sealed something? Have you ever canned green beans, or tomatoes... or anything else? To “seal” something is to preserve it... to save it!
So to be “sealed” by the Holy Spirit and to be hidden in Christ… means that when it comes to evil, when it comes to Satan, when it comes to the devil, when it comes to the things of this world - both good and bad - as followers of Christ, you and I have been “sealed” - we have been preserved... and in order to get to you… Evil has to go to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit! That’s multilevel security if I’ve ever heard of multilevel security! And it’s why you and I have no reason to fear life, we have no reason to dread living, we have no reason to fear death.
Romans 8:38-39 - (words that come right after the scripture used for our Call to Worship this morning) reminds us that, “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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.”
But not only is God with us, and in us, but the very best news of all... is that God is also FOR us!
Romans 8:31, “If God is FOR us, who can be against us?”
As Children of God in Christ, you and I can trust God to treat us with goodness and mercy - grace upon grace - because God is FOR us!
In fact, God is so merciful and good that he is forever longing to give us things we can’t earn - and honestly don’t deserve... like forgiveness, and salvation.
But on-the-other-hand... God’s grace and mercy also cause him to NOT give us things we do deserve!
That’s why, in retrospect... in hindsight... we can thank God (as a Country Song puts it) for unanswered prayers. Many times in life, the things we think we need the most... God knows we don’t need at all. And God preserves us... he protects us... he seals us and hides us from those things.
So many people... good people... maybe even some of us here in church today... tend to think that God is “kill-joy” - or an angry parent who’s mad at us, and out to punish us all the time!
But that’s simply not true. God is FOR us... not against us! And the sooner you and I come to that realization - that truth - the better! Because God can use us in ways we never imagined possible, when we come to trust that He is FOR us! And that through thick and thin, good and bad... welcomed and not-so-welcomed - every single part of our lives is useful and beneficial to helping us, and helping others come to faith in Christ.
Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
If you want to be happy - and blessed - if you want to experience God’s presence in the challenges and joys of life...
Try thanking God for being with you... try acknowledging the fact that Christ is in you... and praise the Lord, that God is FOR you!