A sermon by Robert Browning, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Frankfort, Ky., on October 30, 2011.
What do you know for sure? I have heard television hosts ask that question of their guests, and it always stops me in my tracks. I may be reading or walking through the room when the question is asked, but I’ll pause to hear the answer. I suppose that’s why they ask it.
Based upon our text, I think I know how Paul would answer this intriguing question. “What do I know for sure? I know there is nothing, and I mean nothing, which can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“Now Paul,” the host may say, “that’s a bold statement. Are you saying you are absolutely certain nothing can come between you and God?”
“I am,” I can hear Paul respond, “not hardship, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword. I am convinced that neither death, life, angels, rulers, things present, things to come, powers, height, depth nor anything else in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“Why are you so confident?” the host might ask. “Because I have experienced just about everything on that list,” I can hear Paul say, “yet I felt God by my side the whole time. You see, God did not prevent bad things from happening to me or rescue me from these dangers, but God saw me through each one. Beyond this, by God’s grace, there was a silver lining around each cloud that hovered over me. In time, God made good things come from bad.”
Who needs to know God will always be there for them? Among your family and friends, who needs to know there is no place they can go which is beyond God’s grace, there is nothing they can do to make God quit loving them and there is nothing that can happen to them to keep God away from them?
Evidently, the believers in Rome needed to hear these reassuring words. Perhaps they were facing severe challenges that threatened to undermine their faith, and they wondered if God was aware or cared. Paul wanted to put their minds at ease, and let them know that not only did God know what they were experiencing, but He would see them through it just as God had helped Paul on many occasions.
Who needs to hear this message of hope today? Is it a daughter in college or a son in the military? Is it a family member going through chemotherapy, or a distant relative trying to rebuild their life after a natural disaster? Is it someone dear to you going through a divorce or coping with the death of their mate? Is it someone losing a battle with a terminal illness who may not live much longer?
What could you do this week to communicate this life-saving message? Could you share your testimony with them over a cup of coffee or in a note? Could you share this passage with them? Never underestimate the power of influence or miss an opportunity to tell them of God’s abiding presence.
One of the toughest days of my life as a parent was the day I took my oldest child to the Marine Corps recruiting station and dropped him off. I went back to the house after hugging my nineteen-year-old goodbye and cried as hard as I ever have. For the first time in my life, I was going to be separated from one of my children as I never had. There would be no communication between us for several weeks.
So, what was the last thing I said to him? I don’t remember exactly, but I recall telling him even though I could not go with him, he was not alone. God would take each step with him and provide what he needed.
A few years later, my daughter, Amy Blair, moved to New York and lived in Manhattan while her husband, John, completed his first year of residency. For the first time in her life, she was going to be far away from family, facing life on her own in very intimidating surroundings. She had only been in New York a couple of weeks when I went there on a mission trip. My former church has a partnership with the Metropolitan Baptist Church, and members go annually to help with summer camp and Back Yard Bible Clubs.
I saw Amy each day I was there, but the final day of my visit arrived. Both of us dreaded this day but knew it had to come. On my last day, Amy met me near Grand Central Station, where I was to catch a bus to the airport. We hugged and I said all the things that fathers tell their little girls when they are parting. I walked to the top of a flight of stairs and watched Amy as she made her way back to work. She was walking in the middle of a large crowd of people, but I knew which one she was. I followed her closely with my eyes until she got farther and farther away. All of a sudden, she disappeared from sight, lost in the masses.
Well, I cried again and also prayed. “God, I can’t go with her any farther today or tomorrow or any day soon. Please take each step with her and protect her. I will be eternally grateful if you will.”
Who needs you to pray for them? Who needs to know God will be there for them even when you cannot be? Find the time to tell them this week.
Who needs to know you will always be there for them, that you love them unconditionally and always will? I believe the reason Paul wrote this text was not merely to reassure them of God’s loving presence in their lives, but also to encourage them to be the presence of Christ in the lives of those around them. He wanted every believer to model God’s unconditional love.
Are you doing this, even for those who have made bad decisions and have brought on the problems they are experiencing? Are there boundaries to your grace? Are there things that can separate others from you?
On March 30, 1981, John Hinkley, Jr. tried to assassinate President Reagan as he left the Washington Hilton Hotel. At first, no one thought the President was injured as his motorcade headed back to the White House. Of course, this turned out to be wrong and thanks to the quick decision of a Secret Service agent, President Reagan was taken to the hospital where he immediately had surgery, which saved his life.
Hinkley was captured soon after the shots were fired and taken to a nearby jail. The next day, his parents were allowed to visit him. After that visit, Hinkley’s father went before the cameras to answer questions.
“What did you say to your son?” the first reporter asked him. “What do you say to your son who has just tried to kill the President of the United States?” he asked. “I told him I did not understand why he had done this, but he was my son and I still loved him. In the midst of all he was facing, I wanted him to know that.”
Who needs to hear you say this today? May God give you the grace to say it.