What Can Separate Us?

Romans 8:31-39

November 14, 2012 RA Dickey waited patiently as he awaited the results of the National League Cy Young award race. As he waited he reflected back on the roller coaster career he had had in Major League Baseball. He was drafted in the first round in 1996 and after a physical found out he was mission an ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, and he should not even be able to turn a doorknob. This significantly dropped the amount of money teams were willing to pay him. Dickey was faced with a choice. To continue to play or quit and lose his dream.

Dickey decided to continue to play. He struggled with pitching in the minor leagues and was quickly losing hope. After 10 years and learning a whole new pitching style he made his major league debut as a knuckleball pitcher. He allowed 6 home runs. Dickey notes it as one of the toughest days of his life and admits to trying to attempt suicide that night. However, he notes that it was God who stopped him. He talks of God’s presence next to him stopping him from harming himself.

Dickey went on to continue to struggle through relearning how to pitch in Major League Baseball, but he did not let that bog him down. He continued to recognize God’s love and presence in his life. He talks about struggles in his marriage, and with his family. He talks of abuse from his past. And he recognizes the hurt and pain he had experienced in his baseball career and in his life in general. However, when he talks today he holds his head high because he knows that through all of that nothing has separated him from God’s love. Even in his darkest time when he thought he had nothing. God’s love was still there.

For Dickey it has been God’s love that has been ever present in his difficult journey. Dickey persevered and got through the bad stuff in his life knowing God’s love was with him. As he sat there on November 14th, 2012 his name was called as the winner of the Cy Award, the award for the best pitcher in baseball. Dickey had persevered primarily because he would not let himself get separated from God’s love. He allowed God to continually be in his life. That is not why he succeeded, but it is why he was there to succeed.

We too must always remember that nothing can separate us from God’s love. In all that we do God is always there for us.

We have combed through Romans 8 to discuss what Paul views as a Christians life, and in this search we have sought what it means to be showered by this gift of the Holy Spirit that is offered to us by God. We have seen what God’s love means in our lives, and have come to understand how we carry that love with us all the time.

Paul begins this passage saying, “What then are we to say about these things?” Paul has spent all of this time talking about grace, salvation, sinfulness, suffering, and hope. And not just in Romans 8 but all throughout Romans thus far, and this question brings our focus in from everything that Paul has said. Paul is asking this question to focus us on what he will say next.

He says, “If God is for us, who is against us?” With all of these things Paul has said we recognize that if God is for us then Paul asks who is against us? This passage is the conclusion of Paul’s arguments he has laid forth through Romans 5-8, and this is the culminating argument.

However, this is not merely just victory. This is not God destroying everyone or everything that comes against. People often misconstrue the passage in this way. However, if we continue to read Paul’s words here we see that Paul is talking about it in terms of God’s love. Paul is saying that if God is for the really nothing can get in the way of that.

Basically what it all boils down to is that through all of this we can say that nothing can separate us from God’s love. God’s love is always present, and as the rest of this passage unfolds we are revealed this truth and exactly what that means. Paul lays this out with these two questions that he opens this passage up with, but continues to explore it as he closes out this section of his letter to the Romans.

Now we looked at these first two questions, but if we look at the first five verses it is just a string of questions and answers that Paul is asking. These questions each answered right after. These questions prodding at what the love of God means. Paul is prodding at our faults and what makes us human.

Paul is answering who will bring charges and who will condemn not by saying God or Jesus do it, but that God justifies and Jesus intercedes. These times in which we think it is so easy to take these tasks up ourselves and often we use it to hurt our relationship with God. And we distance ourselves of our own accord. Paul has examined our sinfulness and the things that we feel lead us away from God, and he is asking these semi-rhetorical questions to lead himself to showing us what he asks in his final questions.

Paul asks the question in verse 35 and he says, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Paul is leading us to this point because in our lives we can be so quick to judge ourselves. We can be so quick to punish ourselves, or even to blame God. And we can often through our own thoughts diminish our relationship with God.

However, Paul emphatically retorts in verse 37 when he says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” I imagine this part like a speech. Paul is asking all of these questions about things standing between us and God, and then all of the sudden you get this emphatic and probably loud NO!!! These questions that Paul asks are questions that we ask ourselves all of the time. Maybe not in this exact form, but we ask questions. Questions about our own judgement and we often end up condemning ourselves. In a way we often separate ourselves from the love of God. We create these invisible walls because we cannot fathom how God could ever look at us the same way.

A youth recounted of a time when he had done something he felt was unforgivable. This youth had been a Christian his whole life and though he had grown stagnant in his relationship with God he would have stilled considered himself within God’s realm of love. However, this time was different. The youth had been a part of something bad and in that moment had truly thought there was no way that God could still love him. For how could God love someone who had done what he had done?

We all have this feeling sometimes. When we do something wrong we sometimes question whether God’s love is still there. We sometimes let these feelings get the best of us. We let our troubles take over and drag us down.

However Paul is saying “NO!!!” We are conquerers over this because of God’s love. God’s love is always there. Then he lists out all of these things. He says, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation…” None of this stuff can get in the way. We can conquer all of the bad stuff in our lives because none of that “…will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Nothing can get between us and God’s love. No matter what we believe. We can feel lost and forsaken and alone, but rest assured that God’s love will always be there. Paul is reassuring us of this, because we all know that we are imperfect.

RA Dickey had his moments where he felt he was outside of God’s love. Deep and dark times where he could not fathom anybody loving him. He thought that death was the only way out of those times. However, he recognized that he was not alone and that God’s love is always with him.

The past 6 weeks we have gone through Romans 8 and here at the end Paul tells us what it is all about. Along the same lines of what we talked about the first week. God’s love reigns over all and nothing can separate us from it.

RA Dickey throws one of the most unique pitches in Major League Baseball it is called a knuckleball. It is unique because every other pitch in baseball relies on how the ball spins and what kind of spin the pitcher can put on the ball. However, the knuckleball has no spin. The one constant in every knuckleball is no spin. However each knuckleball’s journey to the plate is much different. Because it has no spin the outside elements have more control over the ball. It tosses the ball about as it heads for the plate, and moves the ball around to the point of confusion by batters. However, it never has spin and it never gains spin by being tossed around by the elements.

In our lives God’s love is the constant, and the world knocks us around and tries to take away God’s love from us, but it is impossible because nothing can separate us from God’s love. Because God always loves us.

AMEN!!!

 

Notes:

1. Bits of R.A. Dickey story taken from http://www.iamsecond.com/seconds/ra-dickey/

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