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Thrive

Date: Dec. 30, 2018

Author: Bob Henkins

Romans 8:1-39

Key Verse: Romans 8:37

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Do you ever feel like you are just barely surviving life? Maybe it seems like you’re running from day to day just trying to keep up? For parents, life seems to revolve around your kids, you struggle to keep them healthy, get their homework done, drive them from here to there, get them fed and put them to bed. If you have 10 minutes to think of anything else, you’re lucky. For workers, life in your work place may be a struggle as you labor to keep up with the work or demanding bosses or with people whose value system isn’t the same as yours. For students, life seem to always be going from one assignment to another to an exam putting out the biggest fires first, only to start it all over again the next quarter or semester. As far as finances are concerned, life seems to throw us surprises and we barely make ends meet, sometimes we even have to rob Peter to pay Paul (pay one bill this month and another bill another month alternating) During my college years, life was a struggle. I had to work 3part time jobs to pay my rent and have food to eat. My school work was always a struggle, I remember doing my homework while I worked at a gas station. Sometimes I didn’t have enough money for things I needed such as when my car broke down and I couldn’t fix it and I had to ride my bike in winter. Or when Julia and I first got married, I remember I had to push start my car because the starter had broken. I’m not looking for sympathy, these were just facts of life. None of these were life threatening unlike what is going on now in Venezuela. They are in an economic crisis. Their hyperinflation is so bad that their annual inflation rate reached 83000% in July and the costs of goods are doubling every 26 days. For example, in 2016, a cup of coffee cost $450 Bolivars, in comparison the same cup of coffee cost 2.5M in 2018. Things are so bad that in one family, the mother and father switch off eating everyday so that their child can eat every day. This is an extreme case, I know, but this reveals that life struggles are real. We need to pray for the people of Venezuela, especially our ministry there. We are in day 9 of the government shutdown, my brother in law, as well as roughly 2M other “essential” people, are working for no pay, while the other roughly 850K government employees are not working at all.

Is this really what life is all about? Is this how it is supposed to be? We may desire to have it all, to live on a beach with someone serving us day and night, with no worries at all. But how realistic is this? How many people can actually achieve this in life, not a large percent. And even if you did, it would eventually become meaningless. This may result in an ever-consuming drive to find the meaning of life. Many people start out with dreams and desires, but in the course of time, sin and failure crush and kill those dreams and we’re left with emptiness. When we reach this point our daily life wears us out and we become weary, wondering, “Is this all that life has to offer?”

Life is difficult because we live in a fallen world where sin abounds. But it wasn’t always that way. In the beginning, God created the world and it was like a paradise. And when God created mankind, he said we were good, when God saw all that he had made he said it was very good. God created mankind for a purpose, we were his children. God created us to be the best that we can be, but then sin entered the world, and Satan tempted mankind and we fell for his lie and disobeyed God’s command. Because of our sin, this world fell under curse, the once lush fruitful garden would now only produce thorn and thistles. (Gen 3:18) Life went from a paradise to a battle. When God created mankind, he blessed us to be fruitful, but it is hard for a plant to bear fruit when it has been cut off and is drying up and that is exactly what sin does. Sin cuts us off from our creator who is the source of life. And since we live in this fallen world, sin derails us from our original purpose. But thank God the story doesn’t stop there. God in his great mercy sent his one and only son Jesus to restore this world and redeem us from the sinful life. Jesus said that he came so that we can have life, and have it to the full. Through this we realize that God didn’t make us to just survive, we were made to thrive. (This relates to our advent passages which have the themes of peace, comfort, joy & strength.)

And so I’d like to present “Thriving” as the theme for us in 2019. For I believe that is what God’s original intention for us when he said, “Be fruitful and increase in number…” (Gen 1:22) Also Jesus said, “The thief (referring to the devil) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) Because of these verses, I BELIEVE that God made us to thrive. But this is a very wide and broad topic. So, what does it mean to thrive, to have life to the full? As a basis for this, I centered this on Romans 8:1-30 because I think this passage gives us some practical direction and help to thrive while living in this world.

If we really want to thrive, one of the first things we have to realize is that once we have put our faith in Jesus, we no longer live under condemnation. We have been set free and we don’t have to listen to the devil’s lies any more. Take a look at verses 1-4. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” One of the devil’s tricks to make us powerless and keep us from thriving as God intended is to beat us down with guilt. We have a conscience that is guided by the Holy Spirit, but when we sin and go against our conscience, we feel guilty. And that is a good thing because it helps us to know right from wrong. But if we linger on that too long, we become powerless and that is what the devil wants. Now I’m not telling you to go out and ignore your conscience, you’d become a sociopath, but God sets us free from our self-condemnation, because only God can condemn, and if he sets us free, then we are free indeed.

In order to really thrive, we need to live according to the spirit, not the flesh. Take a look at v5-8. “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” We live according to the flesh all the time. When we get hungry, we eat. When we get tired, we sleep. These things are natural and needed. The problems arise when the flesh and spirit collide. For example, when eating becomes a problem and we become gluttons. Or when we continuous lay down and we become lazy. Or when lust gets ahold of us and we give into the desires of our flesh. Make no mistake, our fleshly desires are very powerful, hunger, sleepiness, lust, coveting etc are very powerful and difficult to overcome. Sometimes they are oblivious to everyone, and sometimes we hide them well. These deep-rooted sins will keep us from thriving. They can even become like an idol for us. Like in our Genesis study when Rachel held onto her family idols. So, we need to examine ourselves to see if we are holding on to a sin or an idol that is blocking us from thriving and repent of it. It could be anything, like envy, lust, anger, etc. Our hidden sins have a compounding sin of hypocrisy, like yeast in Jesus’ parable in Luke 12:1. Hidden sin leaves room for the devil to get a foot hold in your heart. The Bible tells us that “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13) and we should not let the sun set if we are angry, we must resolve the issue with the one we are angry with otherwise the devil will see the crack and get in and cause damage. ““In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27) We can learn from King David after he committed murder and adultery, he cried out to God for forgiveness and asked for God to create in him a pure heart. (Psalm 51) The flesh is hostile toward God and when we remain in that realm, we can’t please God because in that state, our mind doesn’t think about him. To combat this, we should delight in God’s word and meditate on it. We should surround ourselves with God’s people, who can help and encourage us. When we do this, we will be blessed and whatever we do will prosper. We will thrive. “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the Company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law, day and night. 3 That Person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.” (Psalm 1:1-3)

In order to do this, we need the spirit of God to live within us. Take a look at v9-13. “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. 12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” We need to ask God for help, so that he may send us our counselor, the Holy Spirit to inspire and guide us in our daily life and put to death the misdeeds of our body.

The next thing we notice from these verses that help us to thrive is that we are heirs of God. Take a look at v14-17. “14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Early on because we sinned and rejected God by our  disobedience we were the enemies of God, but by the grace of God and Jesus’ sacrifice we’ve become part of the family with all its rights and privileges. And since we are heirs, we have an inheritance and that inheritance is kept for us in heaven.

If you are in the midst of struggles, one thing that should give you comfort is knowing that our struggles are not in vain. Actually our struggles lead us to hope in God. Take a look at v18-25. “18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” It’s comforting to know that our struggles can produce fruit in our lives because they turn our eye to Jesus. God can use even those negative events for a good purpose.

We can be thankful that the Spirit helps us to pray even when we don’t know what to pray for. Take a look at v26-27. “26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” Thank God for his mercy upon us when we are stuck in our weakness, because Jesus said he would send us help in the form of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit intercedes for us and helps us even when we don’t know what to even pray for and we can only groan. God knows our heart and our needs and he works on our behalf.

A major help to us in thriving is knowing that God is working for our good. Verses 28-30 say, “28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” When we thought about the concept of thriving, the subject is vague, we need some clarity and practical. So we wonder, what do we have to do? What direction do we have to do? Is this for personal or ministry? Is this for sacred or secular aspects of our life? But I think these verses make it clear and I believe this applies to ALL aspects of our life. God works four our good in all things God.

When we thrive, we overcome and conqueror our sins & struggles. Verses 30-32 say, “30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? ” Thriving means you’re happy, you don’t have to be rich, famous, or super successful, but you are content no matter what our situation is. This reminds me of Paul, who said he was content is all circumstances, ( Philippians 4:12) We come to understand that peace, joy, contentment etc are byproducts of living to please God, this is thriving. But more than that, thriving means that we are growing to be more like Christ. Where we are pleasing to God and a blessing to others. Thriving has this picture of flourishing, like a  blooming flower, but in order to do this we should learn from Paul who wanted to know Christ. He said, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” (Philippians 3:10) We thrive when we overcome sin and mature as a Christian, when we have more victories over sin than failures in our life. You know that you are thriving when you leave a legacy, where others around you are influenced by you in a good way. Also we thrive when we have peace, that comes from God. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) If we are anxious, that is not thriving, that is agony. Even in the midst of struggles we can have the peace of God which transcends all understanding. (Philippians 4:7)

However, the most important thing we should realize is that not only do we survive, we are more than conquerors, we are children of God. Verses 33-39 say, “33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”As we thrive, we come to know God better, and also we have the desire to make Jesus’ name known.

One of our ministry prayer topics is that we may use our Bible house to make Jesus known to the campus and community. Living water flows through us, we grow to be more like Jesus, pleasing to God and a blessing to others. The prophet Jeremiah taught us that God is the source of living water. He said, “Lord, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water.” (Jeremiah 17:13) But Jesus said “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”” (John 7:38)

To thrive means to flourish, this kind of makes me think of a garden, like our garden. In previous years, we planted in our back yard and while it produced some vegetables/fruit it wasn’t very productive, but this past year was a bit different. We set aside a more sunny space for it, put down some new good soil and it produced much more fruit. 1 Cor 15:57. Our lives go up and down, sometimes we stumble and fall, but we live in a community, where others can help us when we fall and we can help them when they fall. The relationship between the church and each personal is symbiotic where each one blesses the other.

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