I’m sure you’ve heard of placebos and the placebo effect. Clinical trials have shown that some people who believe they are getting a real medication will get better – even if it’s only a sugar pill. Scientists have even shown that if someone is given decaffeinated coffee, but believes it is caffeinated, scans will show that their brain has been activated in the same way as if it had been real coffee.
Hope can be easily manipulated. Here’s the downside to placebos: False hope will eventually disappoint us.
Then what do you do when your hopes are dashed and life feels empty and meaningless?
At Mountainview, our journey through Romans 8 came to an end this past weekend and it did so in grand fashion. On the one hand, Romans 8 is filled with weighty theology. The mistake we often make is to think that theology is theoretical, not practical.
Not so with this passage. It gets right to the heart of our hope.
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” — Romans 8:31-37
Did Paul pick random questions? Was he looking to reach a certain word count so he threw in a few questions?
Each question is about the kind of God we believe in. The image you hold of God will shape how you live, make decisions, approach challenges, and even how you face death.
Let’s look at each of the questions:
- If God is for us, who can be against us? Answer: no one can defeat.
- He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Answer: God will not be stingy.
- Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? Who then is the one who condemns? Answer: Because God has justified us, no one can condemn us.
- Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Answer: Nothing.
God doesn’t promise to remove the trouble, hardship, or danger from our lives. He does promise to stand by us.
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 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. — Romans 8:37-39
At the time this letter was written, the Roman Empire was the greatest empire in human history. Yet Paul still referred to the out-numbered, oppressed group of Christians in Rome as “more than conquerors.”
Was Paul trying to mislead them? Was he simply playing the role of motivational speaker?
No … he was convinced that because Jesus conquered the grave, he could conquer anything that life might throw at him.
What difference would it make in your life if you lived every moment, every day convinced that God was 100%, absolutely on your side?
During the Cold War — a period of unrest between major world powers in the last half of the 20th century — Americans lived under the threat of nuclear war.
They built bomb shelters and schools had safety drills. An alarm would sound the students would hide under their desks — to protect them from atomic bombs.
I’m not a nuclear scientiest, but I’m assuming that if a nuclear bomb goes off around the block from your school, hiding under the desk isn’t going to help. In fact, it may even give you a false sense of security.
Some of our own attempts at finding security won’t help either.
- Financial markets go up and they go down.
Mood-altering substances eventually wear off.
Parents get divorced.
What we saved for retirement gets tapped for medical bills.
You’ve probably heard someone say only two things in life are certain: death and taxes.
Although humorous – and a bit cynical – it does make an important point: people often feel defeated and have nothing to place their confidence in.
As people who follow Jesus, God has made us a promise that is absolutely – 100 percent – certain:
God will always be BY your side and ON your side.
It’s my prayer that you will live every day 100% fully convinced of that.