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He Will Hold Me Fast!

Tom Pennington • Romans 8:31-37

  • 2022-03-13 PM
  • Sermons

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Tonight, I want to step away from our study of Revelation. Lord willing, we'll resume that next Sunday night, but there's a text has been on my mind for a couple of weeks. I mentioned it to the elders at our last elders meeting that I wanted to come to it tonight because of its comfort. You know, again, these are difficult times and people find themselves in the midst of personal trouble and, as well, in the midst of international trouble and I just think it's important for us to step back and to remember where our security lies. I was reminded of that this past week at the Shepherd's Conference. I had an opportunity to see a lot of men that I know from all over the world. There were some eighty-three different countries represented at the conference and there were men that I have known through the years. One of the most interesting conversations I had was with a Russian pastor, a man that I've known for more than twenty years when I've gone over there to minister. And, of course, while our prayers are especially with those suffering in the Ukraine, it is increasingly becoming difficult for our brothers and sisters in Russia, as well. He was explaining that because of the new law that's been put in place that for him to speak against the war brings a fifteen-year jail sentence. His elders allowed him to come to the conference saying, "it might be the last time in a number of years that you're able to go." But they were concerned and asked for our prayers as he re-entered the country, that he wouldn't be arrested. His grandfather, and father, and parents were persecuted for their faith under the former Soviet Union. His grandfather was in prison for many years as a pastor because of his faithfulness to Christ and with, really, tears in his eyes, he said to me, "Tom, you know, I think those days may be coming for those of us who pastor in Russia." And we were just talking about the reality of that, and he was saying, "you know, my grandfather was so faithful in the midst of persecution. My father and my parents were so faithful." And he said, "my prayer and hope is that the Lord would enable me to be faithful, if that time comes." And my mind went to the text that I want us to look at tonight and I encouraged him with it, reminding him that that our Lord will not fail us. The reason we will not ultimately fail in the midst of those circumstances is because our Lord will not fail us in those circumstances.

That's really what I want us to consider tonight. I want us to look at the final paragraph of the great eighth chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans. The theme of this eighth chapter is the absolute security of the Christian. As the chapter unfolds, Paul lays out seven great reasons that you and I who have trusted in Christ are secure in Him. Here they are.

One of them is that God has delivered us from condemnation. "There is, therefore, now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus," verses 1-4. Our condemnation, any future condemnation is gone and, therefore, we are secure. A second great reason for our security is that God has changed and empowered us by His Spirit. In verses 5-13, he unfolds the fact that we are not the people we once were. We are new people. We are we now are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ Who has taken up residence within us. That is the source of our great security. In verses 14-17, he reminds us that God has adopted us as His children. God has adopted us and, therefore, He is committed to us as His children and that commitment will never change. God doesn't un-adopt children that are His. In verses 18-25, our security is found in the fact that God has already destined us for glory. He's already decided that those who have believed in His Son are bound for glory to see the glory of God and to share the glory of God, to be like Christ, our Lord. In verses 26-27, there's a fifth reason for our security and that is that God has given us His Spirit as an intercessor. When we don't even know what to pray for, the Spirit in us knows what to pray for and intercedes on our behalf. A sixth reason is that God has called us according to His eternal plan. This wasn't something God did on a whim when He saved you, you are part of His eternal plan of redemption and His plan for you was set in motion in eternity past when He set His love upon you. And then, in time, when He called you to Himself through the gospel, when He justified you, and someday He's already made the decision to glorify you. And so, therefore, all the things that happen in this life, He's going to use them for good because He's got a plan and He's working that plan. He has called us according to His eternal plan. The last and seventh great reason for our security is in verses 31-39. God has loved us eternally, in Christ. That's the paragraph I want us to look at tonight or, at least a portion of it. Let's read it together. God has loved us eternally in Christ. And that's why we are secure in Him. Verse 31.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring charges against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes rather, was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered." But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The theme of this last great section of the eighth chapter is that there is no one and there is nothing in the universe that can separate us from God's eternal love in Jesus Christ.

Notice how he begins in verse 31. "What then shall we say to these things?" Paul is capturing this section of Romans that begins in chapter 5, verse 1, and runs through the end of chapter 8. He's saying, in response to the security of our justification, what do we say? How do we respond to that? In the rest of verse 31, Paul answers that question with two great affirmations, although, at first glance, neither of them looks like a statement at all but, in fact, they are both massive, sweeping statements of spiritual reality. Look at the end of verse 31.

The first one is: God is for us. God is for us. And the second one is that no one can be successfully against us. God is for us. God is no longer your enemy, Christian. He is no longer against you. He is for you. He is on your side or, better yet, by sovereign grace, He has put you on His side and that will never change. Verse 31, "if God is for us" - or, since God is for us - "who is against us?" This is Paul's great question. Is there anyone who can successfully undermine our justification before God? Remember where we are in the Book of Romans? He's talked about our need for justification in the first three chapters through 3:20. Beginning in chapter 3, verse 21, running through the end of chapter 4, he's explained justification. He's defined it. He's told us what it means to be declared right with God based on the grace of God alone and received by faith alone. Beginning in chapter 5, verse 1, and running through chapter 8, he says that justification is secure. It's secure. And so, when he says if God is for us in justification and all he's accomplished for us in salvation, who is there that can be against us in this matter? Can anyone successfully undermine our justification before God? And in the rest of this paragraph, he considers one by one, every being in the universe that could potentially accomplish that and he proves before he's done that, no one and nothing in the universe can destroy our faith, can undermine our security in Christ, and can ultimately leave us, again, condemned and hopeless. Who is it that can undermine our justification before God?

In verse 32, he says it will never be the Father. That will never happen. Verse 32 is a kind of conditional sentence. Look at it. Basically, it reads like this: "if He did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, then how will He not also with Him freely, give us all things?" The point is: if God has already given us the most precious thing He has, His eternal Son, then what is the likelihood that He's going to withhold something, a much less value, that is necessary for our salvation? Just think about the logic of that, for a moment. If God gave us His Son, if He delivered His Son over to the painful death of the cross, paying the penalty for your sin, what is God going to withhold from you that He really believes is necessary for you. The Father is never going to change His mind about you, Christian. He's never going to fail to provide what is necessary for your salvation because He has already demonstrated His eternal resolve in giving you His most precious treasure. It won't be the Father.

It won't be Satan. Verse 33, "Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies." Who is this who could potentially bring a charge against us? Who is it that is in a position with access to God to accuse us? You know the Biblical answer to that, it's Satan. It's just like what happened in Job 1 when Satan shows up in God's presence and says, "what about Job? He's not all that he's made out to be. He really just is serving you, and following you, and worshipping you, because of what he enjoys but You take that away and he'll curse You." What if Satan were to come to God about you just like he did with Job and argue that God shouldn't save you in the end. And let's admit it, in all of our cases, he has plenty of ammunition to argue that. But what if he did that? Listen, he says, "who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies." If God has already declared that His justice has been fully and finally met with reference to every sin of every believer, what is there left to condemn? What is there last two left to accuse us of? There's no chance that the Father is going to accept any future accusation against us. Satan is not going to undermine our justification before God.

It won't be Jesus Christ, our Lord. Look at verse 34. What if Jesus Christ, the final Judge, changes His mind? Verse 34. "Who is the one who condemns?" Who has the power to condemn you? Who's the only person in the universe who can condemn you to eternal hell? It's the only Judge, our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom all judgment has been committed. So, what if He changes His mind? What if He says, "you are the sorriest disciple I have ever had, I'm done with you"? "Christ Jesus is He who died." And here, notice that Paul gives four reasons that Christ would never do that. It's not going to happen. It cannot happen because of His death. Notice what he says, "Christ Jesus is He who died? Listen, if He died for your sins, to pay the last penalty of every single sin you ever have or ever will commit, how would He ever condemn you? How could that happen? Because of His death, it's not going to happen because of His resurrection, notice, "Christ Jesus is He who died, but rather, was raised." You say, what's the relationship between His resurrection and my justification? Remember at the end of Romans 4, he says, "He was raised for our justification." It was in raising Him from the dead that God the Father stamped His seal of approval on the death of Jesus Christ and said, "accepted." Jesus didn't go through all of that to purchase your redemption to condemn you.

It's also not possible because of His session at God's right hand, His being at God's right hand. Notice, "Who is at the right hand of God." Think about it. He is in the highest exalted position in the universe. He has the greatest authority in the universe. No one can even question His decision about you, much less reverse it. No, one can condemn. And He also, notice, intercedes. Because of His intercession, it's not going to happen. Not only is He not going to condemn you, He is asking the Father to continue His work in your life.

And so, it's not going to be the Father that undermines your justification. It's not going to be Satan that undermines your justification. It's not going to be Jesus Christ, our Lord but there's one other group that we might worry about that could potentially undermine our justification and Paul says, it will not be a human being, in versus 35-37. Look at verse 35. "Who will separate us from the love of Christ?" Now, in the immediately preceding verse, Paul just discussed the work of Christ for us and that's probably why he speaks here, in verse 35, not of the love of God, but the love of Christ. That is not the love we have for Christ, but the love Christ has for us. Notice verse 37. "Him who loved us." So, he's talking about Christ's love for us. And notice verse 35 starts with a question but in that question, as it was in verse 31, he's actually making a staggering point. Within that question, notice what it is? Christ loves us. Christ loves us. Now the individual circumstances in the rest of this verse, the individual nature of those circumstances make it very clear that Paul is not talking here about Christ loving us as a group, although certainly that's true. Rather, the focus here is on Christ loving each Christian personally and individually because these troubles often come on individuals.

Just stop for a moment - and I have to often do this with my own soul - stop for a moment and remind yourself of what Paul is saying here. Let this truth sink into your soul. If you have repented and believed in Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ loves you. He loves you with a perfect love. John 13:1 says, "Jesus, knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end." That is "He loved them" to the maximum degree, to the maximum extent. And you see His interacting with people throughout the gospels, and you see that He didn't just love them as a group, He loved them as His individual disciples. The same is true today. Ephesians 5:2, "Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." But I love what Paul says in Galatians 2:20, and I hope it will encourage you as much as it encourages me. He says - this is Paul - the Son of God, "loved me and gave Himself up for me." If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, you have every bit as much right to take those words upon your own lips as the Apostle Paul. The Son of God, "loved me and gave Himself up for me." Revelation 1:5, we saw it in our early study of that great book. Christ Jesus loves us. His love continues. He is loving us, "and He released us from our sins by His blood." So, in light of the height, and the breadth, and the depth, and the length of Christ's love, to borrow Paul's words, "who will separate us from the love of Christ?" If He loves us like that, who will separate us? This Greek word for separate, literally means "to cause a separation through the use of space between; to divide." Who can put a space between us and the love of Christ? Who can divide us from the love of Christ? The question, notice, is who? That could include any conceivable opponent - could be divine, supernatural, or human. And ultimately, all of the events and trials described in verse 35, come at the spiritual level from God directly, right? I mean, He brings these things into our lives, or from Satan by God's permission, as in Job's case, when Satan requested permission to bring a variety of difficulties into Job's life.

So, at the ultimate, spiritual level, all of the events in our lives come from either God directly or from Satan, by God's permission. But as we will discover here, the focus of the negative circumstances in verse 35, and the focus of the question "who?" is not God, and it's not Satan. Rather, the focus is at a human level. Now, Paul could be thinking about what other people do to us, and all of the circumstances described here can come from other human beings - several of them always do come from others. Paul's question, then, would be: what if the actions of others somehow undermine our relationship with Christ? That's certainly a legitimate question, but that's not Paul's primary concern here. Paul's primary concern is not that the actions of others may separate us from Christ's love. His primary concern is that somehow you and I, in responding to these negative circumstances, may undermine our justification or our relationship with Christ.

Notice verse 37, "we" conquer. His concern is that we somehow fail in the spiritual battle with these circumstances, so that's the real issue here. It isn't what others do to us or what others may do to undermine our justification. The real issue is: what if we fail miserably in these circumstances? What happens then? Ultimately, the actions of others can't separate you from Christ's love for you, but what if you can? What if, in the middle of life's most difficult and terrible circumstances, I changed my mind about Christ? What if I abandon Him? What if I sin against Him in a way that He no longer wants me? Paul's point in these verses is this: if you are in Christ, you can't separate yourself from Christ's love. Whatever circumstances may come into your life, it simply cannot happen. And to prove his point, he begins with a short list of what Christians often experience in this life. Look at verses 35 and 36 again. And again, remember the "who"- not the what, but the who.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written "for your sake wea re being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered."

Now, that list, folks, is not theoretical to Paul. He had personally experienced all of them. Turn over to 2 Corinthians 11:23. He says,

Are they servants of Christ? - I speak as if insane - I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches

You see, Paul had faced all of these things, and they're things that all of us can potentially face, and some of them we have. Now, go back to Romans 8. Here's what all Christians often experience.

First of all, there are just normal trials. That's encompassed in the word tribulation. The word tribulation is literally "pressing, or pressure." It's used of treading out grapes. The English word tribulation actually comes from the Latin word tribulum, which describes a threshing sledge – just a wooden sled loaded with weights and embedded on the bottom with rocks that when the weights are put on that sled and it's pulled across the grain, it threshes it. That's the picture behind this word. It refers here to all the normal trials and trouble of life that press us down, that crush us beneath their way. Normal trials. We certainly know that.

There are also extended trials. Look at the word "distress." This Greek word is a combination of two words that literally means "a narrow space." The leading Greek Lexicon says, in a literal sense, it's "narrowness." But figuratively, it's a set of stressful circumstances. It's being hemmed in by your circumstances. Something, maybe it deals with the internal distress of soul when you're in the midst of that and that's possible. More likely, it refers to extended times of trials in our lives when we're hemmed in, we can't seem to escape, times when we are so Christ and surrounded by trials, that you begin to feel claustrophobic. Like time never end. It just keeps coming.

Religious persecution is another reality in the lives of many believers. In fact, it's a reality in the life of every believer. Everyone who would live godly, in Christ Jesus, will suffer this reality. Again, the great leading Greek Lexicon defines persecution, this weight, as "a program or process designed to harass and oppress someone." In the New Testament, it's used only of being oppressed for your faith. Look at Matthew chapter 5:10. "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." You know, these verses used to seem distant, I think, to some American Christians, not so much anymore as the climate has changed and what we believe is ridiculed and we are ridiculed with it. Verse 11, "blessed are you when people insult you." See, it's not just persecution in the sense of physical harm, persecution can be insults because, "you believe that? Come on, really?" They persecute you. They, "falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Christian's deal with persecution. You deal with persecution. I deal with persecution, at various levels. It may be as simple as the sneer as you walk by a fellow employee who knows what you believe. It may be that you get passed over for the promotion. It may be a laugh. It may be the brunt of postings online about what you believe. On and on it goes. Religious persecution.

So, what do we experience? Normal trials, extended trials, religious persecution, natural disasters. "Famine," verse 35 says. "Famine." This Greek word can mean hunger but here, almost all translators and commentators agree it means famine. It's a reference to what we call natural disasters. Food supplies were precarious in the first century world. Acts 11:28. "Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius." Several regional famines occurred in various parts of the Roman Empire during the reign of Claudius from 41 to 54 AD. There were several in Judea in the early years of his reign. Gentile churches, you remember, took up offerings to send to Jerusalem to help them in the midst of that. But famine isn't the only natural disaster. Live in this world, wherever you live. And there are very few places where you're not going to potentially face that reality. Sheila often tease that, you know, we should start a disaster ministry because we've been in hurricanes, raging fires, tornadoes, riots. You know, on and on it goes. That's not a natural disaster, but you get the point. It's been one like one thing after another and Christians are subject to natural disasters in this world.

Number five: financial poverty. "Nakedness." This word means to be without adequate clothing with the connotation of complete destitution. In other words, it refers to a situation in life in which a person lacks the necessities and has no financial resources to get them. Paul described himself that way and Christians around the world find themselves in this place, some in the States but many around the world.

Personal danger is another thing that we can face. The word "peril." The Greek word for peril refers to danger of all kinds. In fact, back in the passage in 2 Corinthians 11 that I read to you, eight times this word translated "peril" occurs and it's translated "danger" - in dangers of this, and in danger of that, and in dangers of this. It just means danger. We can face personal danger of all kinds.

Number seven: physical violence and death. Notice: "the sword." In the New Testament, the word sword is used for personal violence. It's used for execution by the state. It's used of war. And it's used as a metaphor for death itself. I think here the implication is execution because of the faith because, notice, verse 36. "Just as it is written: 'for your sake, we're being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.'" Paul quotes the Septuagint translation of Psalm 44:22 and, in that context, it reflects the confusion of God's people in the face of undeserved suffering - suffering that came because of their relationship and loyalty to God. Cranfield writes, "the tribulations which face Christians are nothing new or unexpected but have all along been characteristic of the life of God's people." You see, sheep were a cheap, expendable product and that's how the Romans thought of Christians as well.

Look at that list. Folks, we shouldn't be surprised if any one of those things come into our lives. We can be tempted to think - and some are even assured by some of the charismatic segments of the church – that, if Christ loves us, He's going to protect us from all trouble. But the point of this passage and the point of the quotation in verse 36 is that we shouldn't be surprised when we experience these things. John Calvin writes, "it is no new thing for the Lord to permit His saints to be undeservedly exposed to the cruel, to the ungodly." Difficult circumstances can and do come into our lives. God hasn't promised to exempt you from the troubles of life, including any one of these things. The Father didn't protect His own Son from the difficulties of this life when He was here. Think about it. Jesus experienced every one of these things: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and the sword. So, don't think that because God loves you. He's going to keep you from these things. He doesn't promise that but - and it's a huge adversative - but if God does allow one or more of these things or all of them to come into your life, He is not going to allow a single one of them to undermine your security in Christ or to separate you, in any way, from His eternal love.

We've seen what Christians often experience. But notice, in verse 37, how Christians always endure. "But in all these things." Notice the word "but" really connects us back to verse 35 and the concept of what happens if these things come. Will these things separate us, in some way, by our response to them? No. Verse 37 is a note of triumph. Verse 35 is a rhetorical question and it calls for the answer, "no one!" But here, in verse 37, Paul goes farther. Notice further. What. Notice what he says. In the normal trials of life, in times of intense trouble, in religious persecution, in natural disasters, in financial hardship, in personal danger, and even in the face of physical violence and death - "in all these things." Notice the word "in." Our victory does not come by avoiding these things or by escaping them but in them. "In all these things" - when we encounter them - "we overwhelmingly conquer." The Geneva Bible, produced in Geneva under the auspices of John Calvin, introduced the familiar translation, "more than conquerors." Our translation, the NAS says, "we overwhelmingly conquer." That translates a Greek word that's made up of two words: "hupér" from which we get the English words hyper and super. So, "hupér" and "nikao" - from which the brand Nike gets its name - which means to conquer. So literally, this word means to super conquer, to hyper conquer, to be overwhelmingly victorious. It describes a completely lopsided victory in which the opponent is completely routed. This isn't describing the kind of victory in all of the superhero movies. I mean, think about it. All of those - the Marvel movies and all those - what makes those movies work is the tension of the superhero almost losing. You know, he pulls himself up out of the ashes to win an unlikely victory in the end. That's not the kind of victory Paul has in mind here. Or to use a different illustration, this word is not describing the Dallas Cowboys' victory over another NFL team because, if they're playing another NFL team, there's a decent chance they might lose. Instead, the picture behind this word is if the Cowboys were scheduled to play the local Pee Wee team. In which case, there would truly never be a single moment's risk of their eventually losing. That's the picture in this word. We are super conquerors. We are hyper conquerors. We are overwhelmingly victorious, in these things. Here in Romans 8, the word speaks of us as prevailing completely without any real spiritual threat to us. Don't misunderstand. God isn't promising that every time these things come into your life. You're going to be completely victorious. Instead, He's promising that none of these things will eventually overcome or destroy your faith. We'll lose some battles. You will lose some battles. But you will win the war, if you're in Christ. We will be defeated but, in the end, we will be overcomers.

Peter's, I think, a great example of what I mean by this tension. I mean, think about it. Christ allowed circumstances into Peter's life in which he miserably failed. Peter denied the Lord three times in front of a servant girl and a handful of people on the night of Jesus' arrest but then he preached before tens of thousands on the day of Pentecost. Peter, in Galatians, gave into the judaizers and was willing to compromise the gospel under peer pressure, but he eventually died as a martyr for Jesus Christ and the gospel. In spite of his struggles, Peter became an overcomer, a super conqueror. When Paul wrote Romans, he'd already experienced all these things except for death and that, of course, was going to come. Paul had discovered, personally, that none of these things could disrupt or destroy his relationship with Christ. And folks, this is true for every one of us who are genuine Christians.

Verse 37. "In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer." In context, "we" refers back to verse 29 and to those on whom God set His love, those whom He predestined, those whom He called, those whom He justified, and those whom He will glorify. We, in life, overwhelmingly conquer. That means every genuine Christian, without exception. That means you will also. Oh, you may lose some battles. You will lose some battles. But you will, in the end, be a super conqueror.

But how does that happen? Verse 37, but in all these things, we overwhelmingly conquer - I love this - "through Him who loved us." I am no super conqueror on my own and neither are you. Left to ourselves, we would fail, our faith would be destroyed, but Christ our Lord, who is the Super Conqueror will not let that happen because He must. That verb looks back to the greatest display of His love at the cross. Scripture promises that our Lord who loved us so much will protect us through this life with all of its troubles and He will present us to the Father. I mentioned John 10 this morning. John 10:28, "I give eternal life to them and they will never perish and no one will snatch them out of My hand." "I give them eternal life and they will" - what? – "never perish." We overwhelmingly conquer not because of our hold on Christ but because of His hold on us. Think about it. I mean, maybe you've wondered - if you're a thoughtful Christian - maybe you've wondered: So, what happens if I'm diagnosed with terminal cancer. What happens if I lose my spouse? What happens if I lose all of my financial resources and become destitute? What happens if I experience a devastating disaster? What if persecution comes? What if I'm threatened with death? What if war breaks out across Europe? And even, God forbid, we experience the result of it here in the States. What if all that happens? Will I stay true to Christ through all these things? What if I ultimately fail? Listen, if you belong to Jesus Christ, that will not happen. You will overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved you? He will hold you fast. He experienced all these things and He overwhelmingly conquered and we will, through Him.

But how exactly does Christ preserve and protect us from the spiritual harm we might do to ourselves as we face life's difficulties? How does He preserve and protect us from ourselves in the middle of life's troubles? Let me just give you a couple of ways. This is not an exhaustive list, but I love this list.

First of all, He preserves and protects us by praying for us. Luke 22. You remember what He said to Peter, "Simon, Simon behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat." In other words, Satan wants to destroy your faith. He wants to separate your faith from you. "But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." You want to know why, in the midst of troubles like the ones we've talked about, other Christians don't fail but stay faithful to Christ? It's because Christ prays for them. And if you face those realities, you want to know why you won't fail? Because He will do the same for you.

A second way is by not allowing circumstances that would destroy us. In other words, Christ knows what we can face. He knows what we can endure. He knows the line past which our faith might potentially be destroyed and He won't let that happen. He will not allow circumstances to come into our lives that will shipwreck our faith, if we're truly His. There are a number of examples but I love John. Look at John 18. One of my favorite passages because, in it, you just see the tenderness of Christ. John 18. We find ourselves in the Garden of Gethsemane. It's after Judas has come up to betray Jesus. And verse 4 says, "so Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him." I love that. He knew exactly what He was about to face. Went forth and said to those who were coming - the back in verse 3, Judas and the Roman cohort, the chief priests the Pharisees, they all come out - "He goes out and said to them, 'whom do you seek?'" Now, did Jesus need to ask that question? No. He knew exactly what was unfolding. He knew who they were there for. So why? Well, stay tuned. Watch this. "'Whom do you seek?' They answered Him, 'Jesus the Nazarene.' He said to them, 'I am.' And Judas also who was betraying Him was standing with them.'" So when He said to them, "'I am,' they drew back and fell to the ground." For a moment, He allows His majesty to cower them. He says, "I am God," basically. "I am." It's a double answer. "Yes, I am Jesus, the Nazarene, the one you seek" and, "I Am. I am God Himself." And they fall back in terror to the ground. Therefore, He again asked them, "whom do you seek? And they said, 'Jesus the Nazarene.'" So, twice He says, "what's the name on your search warrant?" That's what He says. "Who's on your search warrant?" "It's Jesus." And He says, "that's Me." "Jesus answered," verse 8, "'I told you that I am; so if you seek Me, let these go their way." I love that. Even in the midst of what He's about to face, He's thinking of His disciples. But notice why He did this, why He went through this twice. "What's the name on the search warrant?" "Oh, it's Jesus." "That's me. I am. I told you. I'm the one. So, if you seek Me, if I'm the name on your search warrant, let these go their way." Verse 9, "to fulfill the word which He spoke, 'of those whom You have given Me I lost not one.'" Don't you love that? Jesus knew that, at that moment, if His disciples had been arrested it's potential their faith might have been shipwrecked and He wasn't going to let that happen. He intervened in the moment of His greatest distress to make sure that they were not put in a place where their faith would be destroyed. Let me tell you, I don't think we will know until heaven how many times that's happened in your life and mine.

Number three: He protects and preserves us by strengthening our faith in God's word. 1 Peter 1:5, "we are protected by the power of God through faith." He strengthens our faith in the scripture and that protects and preserves us. 1 John 5:4, "whoever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith." So, He strengthens our faith through the scripture so that when the troubled times come, we're ready.

And, finally, by providing sufficient grace to endure what He brings. You remember Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:8-9, "concerning my thorn in the flesh, I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He said to me, 'what my grace is sufficient for you.'" Christian, this text tells us that whatever comes into your life, whatever God, in His good and wise providence allows into your life, your faith will never fail. You will overwhelmingly conquer. You will persevere. You are absolutely secure in Jesus Christ in the eternal love of God, in Christ. And the reason all of that is true is because He will hold you fast. I love this text and I hope it's as much an encouragement to you as it is to me because we don't know what's coming, but it doesn't matter because He will hold us fast. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for these amazing truths. Lord, you have loved us with an everlasting love and nothing in time or eternity can ever change Your love for us. Lord, with Paul we're convinced that nothing in life nor death nor anything that comes after death, nothing in the universe can ever separate us from Your love to us in Jesus Christ. Father, fill our hearts with joy and gratitude, help us to live in the light of that. Help the load that we often bear to be lifted as we reflect on these truths and, Lord, help us to find great hope for the future knowing that whatever life brings, whatever You allow to enter our lives, in Your providence, we don't have to fear because You'll be with us. You sustain us and ultimately, Lord Jesus, You will hold us fast. Lord, help us to relish, to celebrate, to meditate on, and to live in the light and in the implications of Your eternal love for us, in Jesus Christ, that makes us super conquerors. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.