Never Walk Alone


In the course of the last two years, the major lesson God has been teaching me has hit home. That lesson is this:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
—Romans 8:26-31

I used to think that the worst thing anyone can do is to quote Romans 8:28 to a hurting person. Such a wielding more likely leaves marks than heals the hurting. When life is waterboarding you, and the person uttering that verse is completely safe and sound within her ivory castle, that verse has all the comfort of a kick in the teeth.

I’m sure many of you reading this know what I mean.

Recently, I was thinking of some songs that I really like, even if some people consider them corny. John Denver’s amazing “Rocky Mountain High” is perfect from start to finish, even down to the ride triangle. I loved “Could It Be Magic” by Barry Manilow from the first second I heard it. Paul Williams’s “Love Theme from A Star Is Born (Evergreen)” as sung by Barbara Streisand is a great one. And Karen Carpenter’s lush vibrato on “For All We Know” never fails to grab me.

Yeah, I know. Not very hip.

Last night, I recalled an old Rogers & Hammerstein tune from Carousel. Plenty of people have done it as their own, but I particularly like Jim Nabors’s take on “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” That song may very well be a product of the 1940s, but it still works for me.

I think that most people walk alone. They have themselves alone to count on. And when they reach the end of their rope, when it’s too much to bear…well, that’s tough. The darkness settles in like a black, malevolent mold, the rope frays, and all that is left is the numbing fear.

Yet in the last year, especially, I have learned that I am not walking alone. I knew that mentally. Most of us do. But I didn’t really know it in my heart of hearts. I still relied on my own smarts to get us in and out of tough situations. The last year cured me of that.

Never walk aloneI also see that no matter how grim things might be, all thing work together for good for those who are in Christ Jesus. I learned that Romans 8:28 isn’t for people who have reached the end of their ropes. It’s for those who lost track of even that end and are falling from the high point of where they once stood. That verse is for people who are dying, for those who are learning what it means to abandon self. It’s for people who trust God from their hearts, not their heads.

The funny thing about this post is that I intended to write it for Monday morning. Today seems more appropriate, though.

On the island in the kitchen sat a nondescript envelope. As I stumbled downstairs and slogged into the kitchen this morning, that lone envelope seemed out of place. I didn’t recognize the return address or the company represented. After less than six hours sleep, I wasn’t sure I was reading the letter enclosed correctly after I opened it. Less than a page, it stated a very clear reality that may change our future and make me rethink everything.

A couple years ago, I think I would have been storming around the house, racking my brain to come up with some ingenious plan, some way out, some buffer against what the letter said. But I don’t have a plan, and I probably won’t have one. I realized in the last year that I am not smart enough to outwit life. And when that truth finally dawned on me, when I finally made peace with Romans 8:28, I found that no matter what the world throws our way, we are not walking alone. The world may be against us, but God is for us. Always, and in everything.

And that makes all the difference.

Sinners or Saints?


Driving home this evening, I got to thinking about what I’ve written here the last few days. Much of it centers around how we Christians perceive ourselves and what Christ has done for us. Saints of the Most High God!It’s the question of whether we see ourselves as sinners or saints.

The more I read the Scriptures, the more I realize we’re misunderstanding the extent of Christ’s work on the cross. And in that misunderstanding, we fall back into a grossly mistaken position.

The New Testament draws clear lines of distinction between sinners and saints. We, however, like to blur those distinctions whenever we call our post-conversion selves “sinners.” But I don’t see Paul going back to that well all the time. When he writes a letter to a church, he doesn’t say, “To all the sinners in the church of….” No, he repeatedly uses the word saints.

In truth, you and I are saints who are being changed by God through the putting off of our old sin nature. Our identities got swapped out. God doesn’t look at us as sinners, but saints because of the salvation purchased for us by Christ.

So why is it that so many of us go back to that hangdog “sinner” appellation? Aren’t we giving up what Christ did for us at the cross? If we truly are new creations in Christ, if He’s paid the penalty on our behalf, and He’s secured for us access to the Father, why do we fall back into thinking of ourselves as sinners and not saints?

If anything, the epistles drive this home:

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
—Romans 6:11

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
—Galatians 2:20

So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
—Galatians 4:7

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…
—Ephesians 2:19

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
—1 John 3:1a

If we don’t have this mentality, then we’re missing out on what it means to be alive in Christ.

We then

  • set our expectations low and don’t believe God for the impossible because we still think we’re aliens and strangers,
  • fail to appropriate what Christ has purchased for us on the cross, because we mistakenly think the sinner in us is triumphant over the saint, and
  • muddle through and lament, rather than walk in our inheritance as children of God.

I’ve got to believe that our failure to move beyond identifying primarily as sinners is one reason why our churches lack power. It explains why so much of what we attempt for the Kingdom fails. It shows why so many of us limp through our days rather than rising on wings like eagles.

Church, it’s time to step out of the sinner ghetto and walk in the sainthood Christ so dearly paid for!