Scripture: Romans 8:26-39
Sermon: “Headwinds” By Pastor Todd Buurstra
This is one of the most powerful passages in all of Scripture, but to fully grasp it you need to remember what it felt like to walk against a strong headwind. As you walked you may’ve lost your hat, so your hair got blown, if it was a really strong headwind you had to bend over to reduce resistance, and if it was gale force winds, your cheeks might have flapped in the G forces. To make progress you needed help. And help in a headwind is what God is all about.
For we all face headwinds of sorts. Take your money: the middle class has been stagnant since the 70s, but we can’t just correct that because we’re $15 trillion in debt, adding another $1.5T this year, and we can’t just correct that because unemployment is at 9.2%. Or take your place as a Christian in culture: religion is increasingly described as that which “just starts wars,” the Bible as an old-fashioned book, and the church as a bunch of judgmental finger pointers. Those are general headwinds; many of you have a personal headwind that makes progress tough.
Paul’s church in Rome faced headwinds, too. This is before Nero’s persecutions, so it’s before they were dessert for starving lions in the coliseum, or before Nero doused and lit them as human torches in his garden. It was building toward that, but in their day, Emperor Claudius had issued yet another edict, like yew juice for snake bites, but this time it was, NO MORE JEWS IN ROME BECAUSE OF RIOTS. Returning after Claudius’ death in 54 AD they’re wary of Nero’s gathering headwind. So how does God help us to make progress against a headwind?
If you remember the same headwind, and you imagine that you had steel cables pulling you forward toward the goal, you’d be confident to make it, right? In this passage those steel cables are the fact that you are God’s chosen. Huh? I’ve missed that in this passage for decades, but here it is as steel cables undergirding everything. Verse after verse reflects election:
vv. 29, 30, 33…
Divine election is even implied in Paul’s four rhetorical questions in vv. 31, 33, 34, 35…
But just the idea of God choosing you raises all sorts of theological questions. Christian have walked away from each other over this controversial doctrine. It’s why we have Baptists and Reformed folk. (I always say the best Reformed members we got are former Baptists, can I get an Amen!) The problem the Baptists have with us Reformed folk saying God chose us is that it can make us lazy. I often hear: just because you sit in a garage does not make you a car, just because you sit in a church does not make you a Christian. Fair enough. So they emphasize human choice. They baptize only believers who have chosen Jesus. Then Reformed folk say to Baptists, the slippery slope of your free will argument is that your salvation is as consistent as a car flicker: saved, not saved, saved, not saved, saved… The truth is the Bible says both: God chooses us, and we must choose God. How they can both be true at the same time, we’ll never know. So rather than explain it logically, here’s a picture. As you approach the pearly gates you will see the sign: Whoever wills may come. After entering heaven you look back over your shoulder to read on the back of that sign, But you were chosen–an incredibly important mystery.
For when you face headwinds, you need the confidence that steel cables pull you forward Or to change metaphors, even if you let go of God, you are held, as Natalie Grant sings…
So, if the reason that we make progress against life’s headwinds is that we are held, i.e., God has chosen us, then how does that work out in this most powerful passage? One sentence:
1) Our conclusion is assured,
2) even though the cyclone continues,
3) because our Companion chooses to stay by our side.
Our conclusion is assured. Paul promises that God will make all things work together for good for those who love God. The all includes these words from v. 35.
Even though the cyclone continues. It was about to get worse for the Roman Christians as Nero fiddled, Rome burned, and Christians became fuel for his garden lights and food for the coliseum lions. It may get worse yet for us, but even though the cyclone continues…
Because our Companion chooses to stay by our side. You are chosen. And in this lyrical climax to one of the greatest passages in the Bible, Paul concludes for us all.
So, I don’t know your headwind, but I do know you can be confident for you are chosen.
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