David Jeremiah - More Than Conquerors
Late one evening, while attending a conference in the German city of Hamburg, John Roth boarded a commuter train and headed for an outlying suburb. The train car was completely empty at that late hour, and he dozed sleepily as it rattled past the harbor, then through the industrial district. Several minutes into the trip, an old man dressed in rags and clearly suffering from a mental disability shuffled into the car, closely followed by four teenagers. The young men, sporting an assortment of chains, tattoos, and body piercings, entered the car, following this old man laughing and talking really loud. Almost immediately their attention focused on this homeless person who had seated himself near the center of the car. They began to taunt him, shouting obscenities and making humiliating references to his mental state, but verbal abuse wasn't enough. Without warning, they began kicking his legs with their heavy boots and punching him in the arms and in the face.
Seated toward the back of the car, John Roth whispered a deep prayer, got out of his seat, and walked toward the old man and his attackers. As he got near, he said, "Hans! Hans, how are you"? And then, slipping between two of the surprised teenagers, John embraced this man who he'd never met before in his life, helped him to his feet, and said, "Come sit with me. We have so much to catch up on". The old man followed him toward the rear of the car and slid into the window seat. The teens looked on, not sure what they should do, and for a time they talked among themselves. When the train pulled into the next stop, they got off. And at the following stop Hans got off, mumbling a word of thanksgiving. Looking back on that event, John Roth made an incredible evaluation. He said, "The common sense of our culture teaches that the only way to respond to fear is a cowardly retreat or a fight to the finish. The beauty and power of the gospel is that Jesus Christ offers us a third alternative: Trust in God, in the transforming power of his love. Don't be afraid. Stand up. Enter into the middle of the conflict and bring something nobody ever would expect. Bring love".
In this next section and the last section of Romans 8, we're going to discover a force that is so powerful, that it will conquer the worst things that could possibly happen to you. In fact, this force is so all-encompassing that nothing lives outside of its walls. Open your heart to the incredible possibility that whatever is going on in your life, God is more powerful than that, and that his love is unquenchable, unstoppable, and will never let you go. The story begins at the last couple of verses of Romans chapter 8, where we read in verse 37 these words, "Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us". In all these things we are more than conquerors. Now, the word, "more than conquerors," more than conquerors, is three words in the English language, but in the Greek language from which this was translated it's one word. It's a big, long word. The word is hypernikomen.
Now, most of us know what "hyper" is. If you got any two-year-olds, you know what hyper is. Hyper is kinda like outta control, over the top. The middle word is the word "nike". If you're a sportsperson, you know that word. The word means victory. That's what the word "nike" means, so hyper-victory. So, the Bible says you and I are hyper-victorious over all these things. We are more than conquerors. And Paul's not talking here about something that will happen to us. He's talking about things that are happening to us right now. In the midst of these things we are more than conquerors. And we're not merely conquerors. We're not just neutralizing the things that happen to us. Paul says, no, we're overcoming them. We're overwhelming them. More than conquerors so that whether it's death, or life, or angels, or principalities, or things present, or things to come, whatever it is that's going on in our life, because of God's love for us, we can overcome that.
We are more than conquerors. We are overcomers. We're not simply enabled by his love to hold on. Neither is this the case, that we'll just manage this and get through it somehow. How many of you know that's the way a lotta Christians approach their life? "Well, how's it going for you"? "Well, we're doing okay. We're just hanging on. We'll get through it somehow". No, Paul says it's gotta be more than that, if you understand what he's teaching. Because of what God tells us about his love for us, he gives us the strength to overcome things that we would never ever be able to overcome.
I was taught to study the Bible from the English language by a professor named Howard Hendricks when I was in seminary, and he called his course Inductive Bible Study. And I don't want to go into a lotta detail about that except that he taught us to look for things that jumped out at us because they were repeated. And if you look at Romans 8, you'll notice that in the 28th verse of Romans 8 it says, "And we know that all things work together for good". And then, you get down to verse 31, and it says, "What shall we say to these things"? And then, you get to verse 37, and it says, "Yet in all these things". Now, what kinda things is Paul talking about? Well, he told us in the last lesson. He's talking about storms and peril, and he's talking about famine and persecution and nakedness. He's talking about the sword. In fact, even says, "For your sake we are killed all the day long".
Paul was literally saying every day he faced death, so what is he saying when he says we are more than conquerors? He's saying, "All these things that I've listed, all of this long list, we can be more than conquerors when these things happen". How do we go about proving that to ourselves? Paul says that he is persuaded that this is true, that we're more than conquerors. Are you persuaded of that? Are you bouncing around these days with all the stuff that's happening to us? Are you hitting the wall? Are you wondering, "Where did that come from? And now what do I do"? Well, he's going to teach us some things about God's love, but before we look at his methodology, let me tell you a brief story.
George Matheson was born in Scotland in 1842 and as a child he had just partial vision. It was pretty obvious when he was born that he had visual problems. By the time he was 18, he was totally blind. He did not let his blindness get in his way in terms of his student ability. He graduated from the University of Glasgow. He later graduated from seminary. He actually became a pastor, and he was a pastor of several churches and ultimately a very large church in Edinburgh. There in that church he was greatly loved and revered. He was a wonderful pastor. During the early days of his time in Edinburgh, he met a young woman, and he fell in love with her. He thought she had fallen in love with him. They went together for a short time, and then she came to him and told him that she had decided that she could not be married to a blind man for the rest of her life. And it just about destroyed him. It was so painful. What a disappointment. And out of that he wrote a beautiful little song, and you probably have never heard this song.
I grew up in a church where this would often be sung as a solo from time to time, and I don't think the words of the song will stick with you, but the first line will. Here's what he wrote: "O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee. I give thee back the life I owe, that in thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be". So broken by the loss of the love of this woman, he fell back on the love of God, and this is what he said, and I love this line, "O love that will not let me go". And I wanna tell you this morning about the love that will not let you go. Paul is going to prove this to us in a very interesting way. It will surprise you to know and it will just shock you to know that when I was in college I was an English major. Please forgive my teachers for not doing a better job. Please forgive me for not being a better student, but that's the truth. I was an English major. And in English there are certain tools that help you and one of them is called a merism. I'm pretty sure most of you have never heard that word, unless you're an English teacher.
What is a merism? Well, it's a way that in English you state a pair of contrasting words to represent the full range of everything in between. Here's a good illustration. "He knows his subject from A to Z". That's a merism. What does that mean? He knows everything in between. He knows it from A. He knows it from Z. Now, Paul's gonna use five of those statements to prove to us the answer to the question you find earlier in the text. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? He's going to teach us in this text that no one or nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Here's the first one. Not the crisis of death, nor the calamities of life. In the text he says neither death nor life. Paul said, "Who's gonna separate you from God? Neither life nor death can do that".
Paul knew about death. He's the one that wrote 1 Corinthians 15. "O death, where is your sting"? Paul wasn't afraid to die. He actually said in Philippians, "For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain". He wasn't afraid to die. Paul knew something. He knew that death cannot separate you from Christ or from God, because what death does, it ushers you into the full glory of his presence. Death doesn't take you away from God. Death ushers you into his very presence, so death can't separate you from God. And if death cannot separate us, what about life? Paul says neither burdens or bitterness or disappointments or uncertainties or physical misery. All of these things could pull one away from Christ if he were not in control, but here's what you need to remember, men and women. This story is not about our love for God. It's about God's love for us.
If it were the other way around you could understand, "Oh, yeah, these things can keep you from loving God," but we're not talking about that. We're talking about how much God loves you and what it would take for him to ever stop. Here's what we've learned so far: not the crisis of death and not the calamities of life. Paul goes on to say not the intervention of angels or the intrusion of demons. He says neither angels nor principalities. Most writers believe, when he's talking about angels here, he's talking about evil angels, because I can't imagine any good angel that would wanna pull you away from the love of God. But why can't angels pull you away from God's love? Because angels report to God. They are in submission to him. He's the one that runs the angelic force, and demons cannot overcome him because he is more powerful than they are.
Lucifer and the full range and ranks of forces in between do not have sufficient power to break the hold of God's love upon his children. O love that will not let me go. Angels and principalities cannot destroy us because God protects us. They are powerless in the shadow of his love. So, it's not the crisis of death, nor the calamities of life. Not the intervention of angels, nor the intrusion of demons. Here's the third one: not the cares of today or the concerns of tomorrow. Nor things present, nor things to come. Now, this is a concern along a horizontal line. Paul says that on the continuum between the present and the future there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.
There's a woman who has written a lot, and I have read a lot that she's written, and I've always been blessed when I read it. Her name is Ruth Harms Calkin. Listen to her prayer that understands what we're learning. Here's what she prayed. She said, "God, I may fall flat on my face, I may fail until I feel old and beaten and done in, yet your love for me is changeless. All the music may go out of my life. My private world may shatter to dust. Even so, you will hold me in the palm of your steady hand. No turn in the affairs of my fractured life can baffle you. Satan, with all his braggadocio, cannot distract you. Nothing can separate me from your measureless love. Pain can't. Disappointment can't. Anguish can't. Yesterday, today, tomorrow can't. The loss of my dearest love can't. Death can't. Life can't. Riots, war, insanity, hunger, neurosis, disease, none of these things nor all of them heaped together can budge the fact that I am dearly loved, completely forgiven, and forever free through Jesus Christ, my Lord".
Wouldn't that be a prayer to pray every day? We've already discovered that the things in the present can't disarm us because we learn, well, God is for us, who can be against us, right? "And Jesus came and spoke to them, and he said, 'All authority has been given unto me.'" Why can't any of these things get through? Because they all are under the authority of Almighty God. They're in submission to him. He has determined to love us, and no one can release his grip upon that love. Not the crisis of death or the calamities of life. Not the intervention of angels or the intrusion of demons. Not the cares of today or the concerns of tomorrow. Listen to this one: not the pinnacle of heaven, nor the pit of hell. Nor height, nor depth. Paul says not anything so high or so deep can ever separate you from the love of God. What does that mean? Well, imagine traveling millions and millions of miles upward into the heavens, straight up into the deep space till you reach the outer edge of the Milky Way galaxy. It's impossible that the suns and the nebulae or the novas you would see out there would pose any threat to God's love for you. Neither would you find such a threat if you turned around and drilled downward into the hot core of the earth. This is a concern along a vertical line.
If time cannot separate us from God's love, neither can space. Psalm 139 tells us there's nowhere we can ever go to get beyond God's love, or in the words of Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis, "We can run, but we can't hide". God has every inch of the universe covered. He made it. He's the Lord of it. His love is deeper and wider and all the dimensions of creation can never get in the way of his love for you and me. Not the crisis of death or the calamities of life. Not the intervention of angels or the intrusion of demons. Not the cares of today or the concerns of tomorrow. Not the pinnacle of heaven or the pit of hell. Here's my favorite one of all because it's everything we've already said in one merism: not anything mighty, nor anything made. Paul said it this way, "Nor powers, nor any other created thing".
Paul ends his list of the things that cannot separate us from the love of God with a handy catch-all phrase: nor any other created thing. It's almost like Paul is saying, "And if I have forgotten anything so far, if I have left anything out that you might think could separate you from the love of God, if there's anything still laying on the table, let me take care of it here. Not any created thing can ever separate you from the love of God".
We're Christians, and we have trouble, and this verse is not telling us that if we're Christians we won't have trouble. God's pledge is not that suffering will never afflict us, but that it will never separate us from God's love. In fact, we have discovered, have we not, that in the midst of suffering, in the midst of trials, in the midst of deep-seated difficulties, we find God in a way we could never find him in times of prosperity. When we are in the deepest need, he comes to us in a way that we can't even explain. It's that peace that passes all understanding. Our confidence is not in our love for him. Men and women, our confidence is in his love for us. In the words of George Matheson, his love will never let us go. He will never let you go. He loves you. You cannot get out of the grip of his love. If you're a Christian, if you have accepted Christ as your personal Savior, you're in the family of God. Father God has your back. He has your hands. He's got you, and you will never escape from his love.
You know, often, when you study the Bible, you find passages of Scripture that illustrate other passages of Scripture. I want you to join me in reading Psalm 46. Psalm 46 is a wonderful psalm and let me just tell you upfront that it is the portion of Scripture from which Martin Luther wrote, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God". So, what we're gonna do here is we're gonna stand up, and we're gonna read that passage of Scripture out loud so that it will imprint itself in your hearts. Let's all stand together. Now, here's what you need to do when you're reading Scripture out loud, especially from the screen. I'm gonna ask you not to read it from your Bible because there are so many different versions. It won't make a lotta sense if we do that, so we'll read what's on the Scripture. This is the New King James Version of the Scripture. Read it authoritatively. Let's read it out loud together. Let's read it like we really need it, and then let's hear it like it meets that need. Are you ready? Here we go.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Come, behold the works of the Lord, who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; he burns the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Perhaps the finest of Luther's great hymns, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God". Its majestic and thunderous proclamation of our faith is a singing symbol of the Reformation. Inspired by Psalm 46, Luther caught up in the hymn the very essence of faith which he found in the psalm. Throughout the ages, men have been stirred by the realization that the eternal God is available to them and that nothing, literally nothing, can overwhelm or destroy a man when he lives in his faith. Nothing can separate him from the love of his God.
So, as we close our service today we're going to sing the first and the last verses of Martin Luther's hymn. I remember singing this as a boy coming up in the church. I didn't know really much about it or why we sang it, except it was a big song and it had an organ playing behind it. We have an organ. Did you know that? And we brought it out for this hymn, this hymn alone. And we're going to sing verse 1 and verse 4 of, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God".
♪ A mighty fortress is our God ♪
♪ A bulwark never failing ♪
♪ Our Helper He amid the flood ♪
♪ Of mortal ills prevailing ♪
♪ for still our ancient foe ♪
♪ Doth seek to work us woe ♪
♪ His craft and power are great ♪
♪ And armed with cruel hate ♪
♪ On earth is not his equal ♪
♪ That word above all earthly powers ♪
♪ No thanks to them, abideth ♪
♪ The Spirit and the gifts are ours ♪
♪ Through Him who with us sideth ♪
♪ Let goods and kindred go ♪
♪ This mortal life also ♪
♪ The body they may kill ♪
♪ God's truth abideth still ♪
♪ His kingdom is forever ♪
And here's the truth: we are part of God's forever kingdom, amen? How long is forever? It's forever, and nothing can separate you from his love. Not any of the things in Romans 8 or anything you can make up this afternoon. Not any of the things that run through your mind. God loves you with an everlasting love.