What frustrates you? What things get in the way of your day-to-day plans and ambitions? Maybe you are frustrated by a lack of money to buy what you want? Maybe your health restricts your ability to do what you’d like? Or maybe busy roads or petty bureaucracy are frustrating things that test your patience!
But what about God? Are God’s plans and purposes ever frustrated? Does God ever lose his patience and fall out of love with his people? Thankfully not. Because in our passage from Romans this morning, the apostle Paul wants to reassure us that God’s good plans and good purposes for Christians cannot be frustrated. He wants Christians to be totally confident that we always enjoy God’s love - and confident that we are always destined for glory in the world to come.
If you have been with us over the past few weeks you will know that we have been looking at Romans chapter 8, one of the most momentous passages that the apostle Paul ever wrote. It has been described as one of the ‘high peaks’ and highlights of the New Testament. As we have looked at this famous chapter of Scripture, we have been reminded that Christians face no condemnation from God. We have also been reminded that Christians have God’s Holy Spirit within them. And we have been reminded that every Christian can look forward to a great inheritance – a new body in a new world that is to come.
But in this final passage of Romans 8, Paul considers some of the things that might cause us to doubt God’s love or question his saving power. Things like adversaries, accusations and anxieties. Things that could cause us to question God’s affection for us or doubt his ability to save us. But in a point-by-point refutation, Paul tells us in this passage not to worry – God’s love for us will never fail, and his plans for us can never be frustrated. Nothing, he says, “can separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord”.
So let’s look briefly at why neither adversities, accusations or anxieties can separate us from God’s love - and why none of them can frustrate God’s plan to carry Christians to glory.
- God loves us… despite all Adversaries
If you think about it, Christians have many adversaries. All through history and all around the world, Christians have faced opposition and persecution from many quarters. Oppressive governments, religious fanatics and demonic forces have caused Christians to suffer for their faith for centuries. There have been many persecutors who have considered Christians as “sheep to be slaughtered” – and subjected them to trouble, hardship, and the sword (v.35-36).
In our own day, for example, Christians in Nigeria face attacks from Boko Haram, Christians in Iraq and Syria live in fear of the Islamic State - and God’s people in communist countries like North Korea are forced to keep their faith secret. These regimes would love to stamp out the church and cause Christians’ faith to collapse. Even in this country, Christians’ freedoms seem increasingly under threat. As you will have seen in the news, a Christian baker in Northern Ireland was recently convicted for merely refusing to make a cake he found offensive.
Does such persecution mean God’s plans have faltered? Or worse, are these adversities a sign that God has fallen out of love with us – that his patience with his people has run out?
Thankfully, in verse 31 Paul reassures us that God will never give up on us. “If God is for us” he says, “who can be against us”. God remains on our side, so Christians can be sure that we are ultimately on the winning side. With God on our side Christians can be certain that we will receive our glorious inheritance in the world to come. Our opponents and adversaries in this world will not snuff out our heavenly inheritance. Our heavenly Father will graciously give his children all the future glory that he has promised.
- God loves us… despite every Accusation
As well as adversaries, challenges to our faith and our hope can come from other sources to. For example, our conscience, our opponents and even the devil may all accuse us of guilt. They may point to our sins and try to tell us that we cannot possibly be forgiven by God. They may try to tell us that our past behaviour means we cannot possibly hope for heaven in the future. You see, accusations as well as adversaries can unsettle our Christian assurance and hope.
Thankfully, Paul addresses this problem in verses 33 and 34 today. Listen again to his words: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justified. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus…is at the right hand of God and…interceding for us”.
In other words, Paul is reminding us that God has already forgiven us for Jesus’ sake. We cannot be condemned for our past - because Jesus has already paid the penalty for our sin at the Cross. No one can accuse us of guilt before God, because the risen and ascended Jesus is already at God’s right hand. He is at his Father’s right hand reminding him that our moral debt has already been removed.
- God loves us… despite our Anxieties
Thirdly, in addition to adversaries and accusations, Paul wants to reassure us that our anxieties cannot separate us from God’s love either. None of the things that can cause us anxiety in this world can keep us from God’s love or bar us from the world to come.
In verses 38 and 39 of our passage today Paul reels off a whole host of things that may cause us anxiety. Things that may frighten us and make us feel far from God. Things like great height or great depth. Things like the fear of the future, or the fear of death.
But none of those things can come between us and God. God’s love for his people endures in every circumstance - in every situation we may find ourselves in. If we find ourselves on the top of a mountain or at the bottom of the sea, God still loves us there. If we Christians face an uncertain future or a terminal illness, we can be confident that God’s love for us will not falter.
Conclusion – Look to the Cross!
But how, you may ask, can Paul be so sure? How can Paul be so confident - so confident in the extent of God’s love and commitment to Christians?
The answer is that Paul looked to the Cross. In verse 32 of our passage today Paul refers to the death of Jesus on the cross as the supreme illustration of God’s love. Paul points us to the Cross of Christ as the ultimate example of God’s commitment to saving and glorifying his people. In that verse Paul reminds us that “God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all”. God handed over his Son Jesus to secure our forgiveness and open the way to glory. What love he must have for us to do that!
And having made such an investment in our salvation, God won’t give up on us now. He won’t allow our adversaries, accusers or anxieties in this world frustrate his future plans for us. And he certainly won’t let anything in all creation separate us from his love!