By Kirk Roberts, CCPC Session Elder
Many years ago, our pastor challenged our church to memorize Romans 8. Journeying through that experience, I remember how many individual verses from that chapter were familiar, and it was interesting to put them into context. I also remember when I was done thinking, “Ok, that was a good accomplishment.” Then I moved on, not grasping the true benefit in that effort—until one of those “forever memory” events happened: September 11, 2001.
I was in my office early that morning when a colleague walked in and asked if I heard that a plane crashed into one of the towers in Manhattan. The first reports he heard were that a single-engine plane had gone off course and accidentally crashed into the building. You know what my first reaction was? Over the next few minutes, we started telling jokes – imagining how stupid, incompetent or drunk the pilot must have been. It is one of the things in my adult life I regret more than most – making fun of another human who had died.
But then someone came in with the report that it was actually a commercial airliner that crashed and that the whole tower was on fire. We rushed downstairs to a small television, and as we watched and listened to the speculation of what had happened, we stared at the next plane fly into the second tower. And then we heard the report that another plane had crashed into the Pentagon.
Nineteen years ago, but it’s one of those days that virtually everyone alive remembers exactly where they were when they first heard the news. There are many small pieces of that September day that I remember like it was yesterday. One clear memory: after I got home and hugged my wife and girls, I sat down and a verse from that “accomplishment” years before came to me.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
As that verse raged through my head, raising questions and convicting me of my idiotic initial reaction, the only thing I could focus on were: “those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose…” I remember at that moment understanding why scripture is so powerful, not only lifting us up in times of need, but convicting us when we don’t act as one of His children. To claim this verse, with the Spirit’s help we need to love Him and be about His purpose. It was a sobering time, not unlike what we are living through now.
The test of faith is the ability to trust God when life is at its worst.
For me Romans 8:28 is an awesome verse, a cornerstone of the Christian faith in times of trials. But this verse has been often misunderstood. It has been tossed casually at so many situations that I fear it can make light of people’s pain or situation. Maybe this is directly related to the “ears of the listener.” Because situations change, our attitudes and moods change, and even our trust in God at times can change, especially in times like these. Our job is to be prepared in our faith, to have ears to hear, and practice the habits of strong faith, even when we don’t feel it or when craziness takes over!
In his most well-known work, Mere Christianity, CS Lewis says this is because, rather than falling back on our faith, we so often fall back on our “reasoning”:
Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable; but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue; unless you teach your moods “where they get off,” you can never be a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with the beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently, one must train the habit of Faith.
9/11 trauma came and went, and America recovered. But Paul did not write Romans 8:28 to make light of difficult times or mood changes, but to shift our perspective to God’s view. And to grow our faith as a “necessary virtue.” May we all have eyes to see that view, and ears to hear His directives as we navigate this and every day. In every time of crisis, He has a plan of all things working together for our good.
Precious Jesus – You know all things and are right there with us in the middle of hard times like these. May we have a true sense of Your presence, Your purpose and Your direction that we may obey and follow. And may each of us truly have ears to hear You and You alone, as You captain our ship through these challenging waters. For it is in You and Your purpose that we are called to serve and follow. Amen.
Daily Devos is a blog that gives insight and encouragement into this troubling season of Social Distancing due to Covid-19. Jesus is the answer to lasting hope in this time, and we can live unafraid.
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