Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us…
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not look like they were winning. These were men who’d been trying to live as God’s people under circumstances that were less than ideal. They were in exile, living in a foreign land not of their choosing. And yet they did everything they could to serve the Lord in this land that was not their own. They tried to be a blessing to the people God had placed them with, and they worked hard to serve the king of Babylon. And everything was okay… until one day the king decided he was going to build a huge golden idol. The king commanded everyone to bow down and worship—to do as the king commanded—or be thrown into a fiery furnace.
So, everyone who was there—thousands of people—bowed down as the king commanded… except for these three guys, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And in that crowd of thousands, they were the three loneliest people on earth, about to lose everything. Yet, as they stood before the king, seeing the hot wrath in his eyes, and feeling the hot glow from the furnace nearby, they knew this was where the Lord wanted them to be. To be God’s people in a world that didn’t know God.
You also are called by God to be yourself in Christ to the people around you. The world is becoming more and more like the world Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego lived in. A world that doesn’t know God. It’s exciting because of all the opportunities to share God’s love in Jesus. And yet it’s scary too. Sometimes we’re afraid to simply be ourselves in Christ—to be who we are as Christians, sharing God’s love with those around us. But do we really need to be afraid? In these closing verses from Romans 8, God assures us that we don’t need to fear being ourselves in Christ. That’s because in Christ, even when we don’t look like we’re winning, we are super-conquerors!
1. In everything that tempts us to fear and despair.
We are super-conquerors in everything that tempts us to fear and despair. The list that Paul lays out here—tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword (v. 35)—these things are real! They were real for Paul at various points in his own life. And they were real for the Christians in Rome to whom he was writing. And they’re still real for Christians today. In this electronic, internet age where every picture gets posted on the internet somewhere, there are some missionaries who don’t get their pictures taken—because they’re serving in sensitive areas and we don’t want to put them in any danger.
As you stand on God’s grace alone in Jesus Christ, as you go forth in His love, His peace, His joy, His forgiveness, which of these things on Paul’s list are real to you? Maybe you’ve felt the pressure to “be more like everybody else.” Maybe you’ve felt the distress—the emotional tension that comes when you realize you’re the only one in the room who believes what the Bible says. Maybe the target’s been on your back. Maybe you lost a job because you refused to cut corners and be dishonest. Maybe you’ve even had someone threaten you with bodily harm if you ever mention Jesus around them again.
Tribulation, distress, persecution (v. 35)—they tempt us to fear and despair. When we experience them, they’re harsh reminders of how the sinful world really sees us Christians: “we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (v. 36). And there are few things in the world that make you feel more alone than suffering and persecution. We’re afraid of these things. Afraid to the point that we’re sometimes afraid to be ourselves in Christ. Afraid of losing everything. And yet—if we lose all our friends, our livelihoods, our freedom—have we really lost everything?
Scary things happen all the time. Remember when you were a kid, and when you went to bed at night and saw the open closet door in the darkness, and out of the corner of your eye you thought you saw something move in there? You’d lie awake staring in fear at that closet door, heart pounding in your chest. Yet what did your dad do when he found you still awake and afraid? He flipped on the lights, and flung open the closet so you could see everything inside. “Nothing here!” And then he’d crawl under your bed and pull everything out he could find. “No monsters here!” He made sure you knew that there was nothing to be afraid of!
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (v. 35, 37). There’s nothing to be afraid of! In all these things that tempt us to fear and despair, God says “we are more than conquerors” (v. 37)! We are super-conquerors! Even when it looks like we’re losing, we’re still winning! Not on account of ourselves and how well we’ve fought the good fight, but through Him who loved us, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Throughout His life Jesus proved again and again that He had all power and authority over everything we’re afraid of. In fact, in all those things that tempt us to fear and despair—that’s where Jesus won His ultimate victory! No one felt more alone than Jesus did on that cross. Yet no one ever won a greater victory than Jesus did when He cried out, “It is finished!” While He looked to the whole world like He was losing, He was conquering everything that fills us with fear and despair! He opened the doors, turned on the light over sin and death and declared to each and every one of us, “There’s nothing to fear!” By His grace, by His love, His victory is ours!
2. Through the inseparable love of God in Christ.
And when dad finished checking the closet and the bed, he’d come and sit on the edge of the bed and give you a hug and say, “You know how much I love you? As long as I’m around, you don’t have to be afraid.” That’s the kind of love that you and I have in Christ. Even in the things that tempt us to fear and despair, we are super-conquerors through the inseparable love of God in Christ.
For the love of God Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego faced that fiery furnace. But when they reached the floor of the furnace, the king couldn’t believe his eyes. Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego were alive! And they weren’t alone; there was a fourth man in the furnace with them—who looked like the Son of God. And when they came out of the furnace, everyone saw how their clothes weren’t singed. They didn’t even have the smell of fire on them when they came out! God’s love had been with them the entire time!
When everything else is gone, and all we have left is Jesus—that’s not nothing. That’s everything! “God demonstrates His own love toward us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). And not only did Christ die for us; He was raised to life for us, the firstfruits of our resurrection! He has reconciled us to Himself in Christ! And in His love, He will always be there—to never leave us nor forsake us, to be with us always! “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 38-39). God’s love in Christ is inseparable from us! We can refuse it; we can reject it. Yet once we have the love of God in Christ, no angel in heaven, nothing now or in the future, will ever take His love—His care, His protection—away from us.
So don’t be afraid to be yourself in Christ! In a world that more and more doesn’t know God, don’t be afraid to stick out for believing in Jesus as your Savior. You never know how the Lord is going to use your Christian life, your brave witness to His love in Christ to bring more and more people into His kingdom. We don’t know how He’s going to use our suffering for the gospel either.
But one thing we do know: in these things we are more than conquerors—super-conquerors—because of the inseparable love of God in Christ. When you feel the fear rising, remember the words of the psalmist: “In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Even when things are at their worst, God’s love is still there! Hold onto that love!
At the end of the day, because of Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego, how many of those thousands who worshiped the golden statue found themselves thinking about another God, the true God, who graciously and faithfully delivers His people from evil. Maybe a handful, maybe a few hundred, who knows? All because those three men were right where God wanted them to be—living as His people, trusting in His inseparable love.
As super-conquerors in Christ, you and I can trust that same love. The love that nothing in this world can ever take away. The love that guarantees us that—even when the world thinks we’re losing—we have the final victory in Jesus. Amen.