Today’s message will highlight the lectionary selection from Romans 8:12-25, where Paul the author encourages life by the Spirit.
The holistic way in which God created people means that humans are a combination of spirit, emotions, intellect and physical bodies. Thankfully, God calls each person to accomplish is a life of wellbeing that maximizes potential for each of the four vital areas. Paul repeatedly emphasizes the contrast between the spiritual side and the more troublesome parts, which are the self-destructive attitudes and behaviors. “[F]or if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13).
Paul next highlights the beloved family status of believer’s in God’s kingdom. We are God’s children, not slaves to sin. And if we are children, Paul declares, then we are also God’s heirs, alongside Jesus. Do you feel that you are part of this special faith family? As a person accepts salvation, the process of redemption creates a splendid new status in God’s larger spiritual fellowship. Many earthly families are plagued by troubles, but in God’s kingdom our relationships are transformative and we become new creatures.
As special as it is to be part of God’s family, the human condition still involves pain and challenges. Even as God’s children, Christians are not immune to problems. Moreover, death afflicts everyone. Denial isn’t a good strategy to overcome life’s problems. A true, clear-eyed view of reality requires acknowledging troublesome facts. Inconveniences and threats are everywhere and just by being alive people are constantly bombarded with problems. It isn’t easy to accomplish the best possible life, but the result is a marvelous existence not otherwise possible.
Rather than be burdened or stymied by the human condition, successful people admit what they face and seek an intentional partnership with God. As we do this, we’ll become stronger, more resilient in the face of challenges. “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). This keystone verse is all about maintaining a proper perspective.
Despite obstacles, don’t allow distress to rob you of vitality. Resist anything that drains you so that you’ll progress toward that revitalized person God is helping you become. Don’t focus on what you don’t have, on all the situations that contribute to dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Such complaining or blaming fuels a bad attitude, which sucks energy from more positive pursuits. As always, life gets worse when you allow yourself to get stuck in self-defeating attitudes and behaviors.
Having the goal of overcoming challenges can help build the bridge between current problems and the greater goal of wellbeing, which can also be described as a life of joyful fulfillment. Part of this is choosing to view situations in a better perspective. It isn’t easy to overcome negativity because it takes practice and patience to restructure thinking, feeling and behavior. It may require a mighty effort to overcome bad habits, but the glories of God’s blessings are worth the effort.
Although suffering defines human existence, we have hope for a glorious life both now and in the future. Following God means that we are blessed, equipped with all that we need to live triumphantly. As we do our part, God as the power of love will transform us. Claim God’s promise of redemption and join the faith family. Together, we’ll develop a new perspective on life and boldly share the exhilarating, holistic gospel message.
–Reverend Larry Hoxey