The Power of His Presence
From Romans 8:28-39
By Iverna Tompkins
Transcribed by Jane Vaughn
I’d like for us to read an extremely familiar passage in our Bibles – beginning at Romans 8:28. We often quote this first verse in particular to one another for encouragement when things around us look rather difficult. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”
But we really must not stop reading right there, good as that is. Let’s continue reading to get the whole context: 29“For whom He did foreknow, He did also predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified. 31What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
Paul goes on to ask the questions: 33Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It’s God that justifieth. 34Who is he that condemneth? It’s Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation…?” Unfortunately, it does separate many people from God. It (the tribulation) doesn’t really separate, but in their minds it sadly does.
“Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written, ‘For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ 37Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. 38For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” A familiar portion of scripture, as I noted.
How often we have read this simply to encourage ourselves. But we’re selective in our remembering and sort of skip over some of those tribulations and trials. In fact, here in America, honestly, it’s very difficult for us to think in terms of distress and famine and nakedness and peril and sword. We have been so blessed in this nation – so protected – I believe, by the hand of God. The whole discussion about wars – is, almost, far removed from us. Our whole nation was in a state of absolute shock when 9-11 occurred in New York City – when our buildings on our land were attacked by those explosive planes and utter destruction happened, destroying not only the buildings but thousands of people. We were shocked! “That can’t happen in America! This is America! Don’t they know who we are?” We have always sent our men and our women overseas to where there is warfare and a need for fighting – over there – somewhere else. But we didn’t expect armies or any attacks to be here on our own soil. We still don’t.
I don’t know exactly what lies ahead of us and I’m not a “doom-and-gloom” or a “be-careful” kind of preacher, but I believe that today, the Lord is endeavoring to prepare His Church for His Kingdom to be able to stand tall – no matter what is ahead for us. We just can’t spend all of our prayer-life in fear: “Oh, God! Keep it away from us. Keep it away from us! Keep it away from us!” It’s time for us to rise to a new level – of who we are – in Christ Jesus.
If I was to take a roving microphone and interview individuals in a congregation, my question would be: “What do you think God wants from you?” I suppose I would get as many different answers as there are people to ask. That’s because we conjure up in our thought-life what we think or imagine is true. “Oh, what God wants of me is…” Or, “I hope what God wants for me will be…” As a result of our own thinking about this, some people unfortunately endeavor to thrust themselves into a call that is not from God, and then spend their entire lives miserably trying to fulfill something God never intended. If you got that – just quit reading – you got it! That’s enough! :-)
I have recently come into contact with a book written by Ed Delph (the title of the book is Church at Community. Creation House. 2005.). In it, the author reminds us that our primary purpose as individual Christians – or as a church, or even as churches – is to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom.8:29). That is predestined to be so, as we read above.
In some circles – certainly in my own church background – we don’t like to use the word predestination. We’ve been afraid to say anything is “predestined” because that seems to take away the choice of mankind, or our freewill. The idea that something is predestined by God, however, in actuality does not remove our personal volition. There is a very genuine and scriptural term that says, “God has predestined some things for your life.” The only problem is that God alone has the foreknowledge of what He predestines. He simply knows the path that I shall take – before I take it.
So many of the Old Testament prophets said it – like Jeremiah – “I know the plans I have for you…” (Jer.29:11). Then Paul said it here in Romans 8, and James said it also in the New Testament: God knows the path that I take (Jas.1:18b; 2:5). He knows it because it’s all part of His plan for me. There is a plan for your life and that plan is not this: Are you ready? It is not that you should spend your entire Christian life trying to discover the plan! :-)
We are in the plan of God. We’re in it right now. We are destined to some things. But some of us take a few more detours than others. :-) Do you know how I know the truth of that? I could draw you a detailed map of my many detours. I would go down one way (by my choice) and it just came to a dead-end; it wouldn’t take me anywhere I wanted to go – a blind alley. I’d come back and the Lord would simply say, “Hi. I’ve been here waiting for you.” :-) Sometimes I’d go down a certain path and it would be a detour (rather than a blind alley) and it would bring me the loooonger way around. :-) Then, when I’d get back to the main road, He’d still say, “Hi, there. I’ve been waiting for you.”
Have you ever tried to shake off God? :-) You can’t – He just waits for you. He simply determines… You know, God is determined to have sons. Now, it’s okay when someone wants to acknowledge the females in an audience and includes us as “daughters.” But the truth is – there’s neither male nor female in Christ (Gal.3:28). And if we girls can’t be “sons of God” then you guys can’t be the “Bride!” :-) So, God wants many sons and if it’ll make you happier – and daughters. " :-) [the Greek word is actually /tekna/ or /teknia/ better translated children – see e.g. John 1:12; 1Jn.3:1,2,10).
God wants a family but He doesn’t want just any family. He wants a family where the “kids” are the exact replica of His Son (“conformed to His image”). Everything in scripture will change for you if you get that point. That is God’s will for your life – that you become more and more like Jesus! Day by day, more and more of Jesus is to shine through your humanity. Someone has said, “More of Jesus, less of me.”
It’s no wonder that we Christians have not won thousands to Christ. It’s no wonder that we have churches full of believers and not one has won a soul for Christ that week! Or, that month! It’s no wonder that our church growth often is dependent upon “upset the applecart.” That’s when someone gets mad at another church and comes to yours. Hello. I know this is hard to hear and face, but it really is no wonder that we merely have transfers among congregations – people going from church to church to church – instead of lots of new babies every time we meet together. That’s because the not-yet-believers in our little worlds hear one thing from our mouths and see another being lived out in our lives. And that is hypocrisy. We are guilty too many times!
People hear us talk a good talk, but they’re looking for our lives to reflect what we’re saying – to see if we are prospering – to see if the joy of the Lord is demonstrated through our own being – to see if we are emitting that glory we talk about. We tell them it’ll be a new life – “old things are passed away and all things will become new” (2 Cor.5:17). But the trouble is we often sound just as they do – just as negative as they are – just as down – just as discouraged and depressed as everyone else. We are no different from the whole population! We don’t see ourselves as the seed for them and their lives. Nor do we believe that planted, the seed can grow. But you see – if they don’t see anything different or of value in us – why would they want what we have?
Everything good that I want in my life I see in Jesus Christ! He is the perfection – He is God Himself – He is beautiful! He is merciful! He is true! He is just! He is perfect in all His works and in all His ways. But I didn’t actually see Him on earth – just that short span of time we know about – some thirty years or so.
And I didn’t see Him complaining. It was not a complaint in the Garden of Gethsemane when He said, “Father, if it be Thy will, let this cup pass from Me” (Mt.26:39; Mk.14:35; Lk.22:41,42). That was not a complaint! “Well, then, why – why did He weep and sweat great drops of blood?” (Lk.22:44). I think it was because – He didn’t want to miss accomplishing the purpose for which He came. His prayer actually was: “Oh, Father, if there’s any other way we can save every man – every person we call mankind – if there’s any other way to achieve that… Oh Father, then let this cup pass from Me and do it that way!” He was not afraid to die!
Well, it’s a worthy thought – an “I suppose…” And I’d guess you won’t be able to get away from it now either. Great was His desire towards mankind – and that motivated Him. The Son just wanted to be successful – for the Father’s sake.
It was following that time of prayer in the Garden that the mockery of a trial and the horrendous beatings all took place – and the hanging on the cross (Mt.26:67,68; 27:26-50). Jesus did it all “unto the Father.” It was for God. And Jesus knew – They both knew – that for awhile – for some moments of time – the Father would have to look away from His Son because He became sin! (2Cor.5:21). Father – holy Father – cannot behold sin! (Hab.1:13). I think that was the unbearable dread of the cross – Jesus knew – “the Father will have to take His eyes off Me for a few moments of time” and that was unthinkable!
Oh, my Friends – if I don’t get anything else across to you, I pray that I can communicate the importance of placing yourself under His eye – every single day. Start each day… Okay, if you’re not “a morning person” as I am not – when that old alarm goes off, there are many non-spiritual thoughts that just come without invitation. :-) Thoughts of – lying – calling in sick – and other things. :-) But – that’s the best time – the first thing in your morning – just spit it out – even before you brush your teeth: “God, I place myself under Your direction today. I choose You this day!” You’ll be surprised that it won’t take long before the song of the Lord will come into your spirit.
The “song of the Lord” rises many times when I’m voiceless. I’m not talking about singing aloud with gusto – “I love You, Lord, and I praise Your Name!” That’s later in the day after about three cups of good coffee. :-) But right at first, the song rises up! I can hear it – it’s Him! He sings in you! Learn to recognize it! Let it come forth and flow through your own lips.
Because I’m an old lady and grew up with a certain genre of music, :-) lots of the songs He sings to me – through me – inside of me – are the old hymns. It reminds me that that foundation was firm! “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord….” We used to sing it and I still find the resounding “Yes!” of agreement rises to that truth within my spirit.
Recently I told a few younger ones, “With great pomp, we used to sing ‘Onward – Christian – Soldiers – marching as to war!’” And then I asked this question: “What has happened to that attitude?” We shuffle along and drag into church – for whatever reasons – family pressures sometimes, or perhaps no place else to go. But what has happened to the concept of – “We are the Army of the Lord! We are soldiers! We have before us the cross of Christ! Behind us is the strength of His glory!” (Ex.14:19; Isa.52:12; 58:8). What has happened to that?
We are so self-centered! I know the truth often hurts, but we are so full of “us.” That’s not a pleasant thing – old flesh – it stinketh! Do you realize that? “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing…” (Rom.7:18). There is nothing pleasant about the attitude of self-centeredness or self-importance. We need to reach above us – beyond the self – or the flesh – because that’s what Jesus did when He came. He was born of a woman – born into the flesh. He lived thirty years, doing what? Learning a trade He’d never use. It is true. He “learned – obedience – by the things He suffered,” the scripture says (Heb. 5:8).
Now, I am not without a point here – I have one! :-) Many times our attitude is: “I’m going to be this…” (when I grow up! :-)) Or, “I’ve studied for this…” And then we meet the Lord for the first time, or in a new way on this life-long walk, and He says, “I’m going to change your course.” Far too often our response is: “You can’t change my course. This is what I am – it’s my career. I’ve studied nursing…” or, “I studied business…” or “I’ve studied some other thing…” “You can’t change my course. I’ve got too much invested in this one.” As a result of that “me” attitude, you spend the rest of your life out of the pleasant will of the Lord because you won’t change your course.