I did not have to travel to Ireland, like Finley Sinclair of there you’ll find me did. Instead I found the grace of God’s words on my dry soul sitting my living room opening my Bible. See, in Jenny B Jones’s newest novel the main character Finley, whose name means warrior, goes on a mission to rediscover the love of God she thought she lost after her brother’s unexpected death.
I can’t relate to that. I haven’t lost anyone that close to me. I also couldn’t relate to Finley’s eating disorder or perfectionist personality begging for control over the multitude of uncontrollables in her life. However I can relate to her need to FEEL God’s love. I can relate to wanting to tangibly touch and feel and know that the Almighty is okay with me, because to be honest I am a wreck inside. And I often think that only Him and I know that. So if I can’t seem to love me very much than either could He, right?
Do you ever feel that way? Take my hand and let me lead you down a road that Jenny B Jones, her character Finley, and God took me on this week.
Let’s turn to Romans chapter eight. This is where the key verse from the novel comes from. Verse 37 to be exact.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
First let me point out that even though the word ‘loved’ is a past tense verb, God’s love for us is not past tense. I had often grappled with this – why is His love often written in the past tense. I finally discovered why. (To be honest I do not remember where I got this from, but it was when I was studying for my camp talks this summer.) God’s act of love was sending His Son to die on the cross. It was his 'once and for all time' stamp on our lives. That action was past tense. His love is forever and it is past, present and future. When you see the past tense form of ‘love’ it is probably referring to the act of love that God bestowed upon us. Christ. On a cross. For me.
In the novel, Finley recites this verse as her mantra when she starts feeling overwhelmed by stuff – by life. I think she often doesn’t exactly know why or what she is to receive from it, but it is an act of faith or of obedience. It isn’t until the end of the book that someone points out for her the context surrounding what she is actually conquering. She wanted to be victorious in the sense of not being overtaken by her faults and weaknesses. She wanted to be rescued from her pain and her grief. She wanted to feel God instead of her physical condition. However the verse is not about that. It is about overcoming ourselves and becoming like Christ.
Let’s talk a walk through Romans together. (I am no theologian so study for yourselves what God wants you to hear from His word. I simply want to share with you a message He imprinted on my heart.)
The beginning of this particular passage starts in verse 28. A familiar verse, no doubt to many.
“And we know that in all things God works together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
How many times have you heard that verse? Read that verse? Or even recited that verse? I say it to myself anytime I don’t understand why things are happening. Like the other day when I discovered a friend has stage four cancer. Or today when I heard of another friend who lost a baby. So when I'm in a fog I recite to myself that God has a plan. And within His plan all things will work out well.
Until today I had never taken a further step. A deeper step. Ms. Jones led me to take another step closer to God's perfect and good plan when I read her novel.
Verse 29-30 “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”
Therefore, I am:
1. Foreknew – He knew me before I was born. Psalm 139:14 “I am fearfully and wonderfully made...” Psalm 139:16 “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” God knew I would be right here, standing here holding all this stuff (junk, pain, fears and concerns) I am clinging to right here and now.
2. Predestined to become Christ-like. Even with all the JUNK I am holding I am becoming more like my Saviour. To be like Christ I must start thinking like him. That seems so hard most days, but Philippians 2:13 tells me the truth about this. “For it is God who works in ME to will and to act according to his good purpose.” So basically I can’t do it myself. All I need is to do what he wants me to do and trust HIM to change my desires. So what does He want me to do? Philippians 2:5 says,
“Your attitude should be like that of Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grapsed but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a SERVANT, . . . he HUMBLED himself and became OBEDIENT to death"I need to focus not on where I am standing and what I am holding, but on what I can do for someone else. What difference can I make for someone else by serving them? (This was something first forced upon our brave and witty heroine, Finley. However she soon discovers more about herself in helping someone else.) What am I doing for my neighbour while I am in the throes of my own angst?
3. Called – this word means summoned or invited. You need to discover in your own life what God has called for you to do. I know what He has (and is) continually asking me to do in His name.
4. Justified – this is the act of God declaring us – or me “not guilty” of my sins. I am made clean. I am made new. I am a pure spotless bride. This does not happen because I deserved it, or because I look good in white. It has happened because God made it so. Just try to undo something God has put in motion, my friend.
5. Glorified – this is the ultimate state for a believer when I become Christlike. This doesn't happen here on Earth in front of my mirror. It happens when I stand before the Lord Almighty and Christ covers me and my sin before His Father and counts me as one of His own.
In case you didn’t notice there is not one thing on that list that I can do for myself. I am simply the recipient. I get to hold the prize. That’s all. I am known, predestined, called, justified and glorified only because God wants to do that for me. God loves me.
Verse 31 – “What, then, shall we say in response to this?”
If you need to hear this as much as I did, my brother or sister, write it out. Recite it. Remember it.
- If God is for me, who can be against me?
- If God willingly gave up His Son for me, will He not also graciously give me the things I need?
- If Christ freely gave up His own life for me, will He turn away from me, his beloved?
- Will He choose to withhold from me everything I need to understand this, believe this and live this?
- Will my advocate, my interceder also stand as my accuser? (The one who justifies me and glorifies will not whisper or shout accusations in my ear. That is Satan who tells me I am not worthy, or pretty, or smart, or acceptable, or wanted, or capable, or . . . )
SO, nothing in all of this crazy thing we call life can ever separate me from His love. Not trouble, not hardships, not persecution, not famine, not nakedness, not danger, not failure, not insecurities, not errors, not mistakes, not even death ...
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved ME.”
Blessings on you today as you go out and discover just how precious you are to Him and how much He plans to do with you, in you and through you.