Romans 8:36-37. As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
How are we supposed to see ourselves in this life? Are we winners, or are we losers?
This side of Heaven is so full of sorrow and pain. “Groaning” was the word Paul used earlier in Romans 8. But even in the midst of this sheep to slaughter life that we live, the indwelling life of Christ fills us with all of the amazing promises of Romans 8. Promises like all things are working for the good (our transformation to Christ likeness), or God is for us, or there is no condemnation in Christ, or we can never be separated from the love of God.
And now we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
This verse is a favorite for Christians that are trying so hard to overcome some struggle in their life. A simple google search will reveal all kinds of ministries with “More than Conquerors” in the promotion. And listen, I know that the love of God is a truly powerful force in our lives today, right now, this side of Heaven. Through him who loved us IS a life changing truth. Imputed love and righteousness can actually change a person’s outlook on life and thus their choices.
But is this promise only for those who win on this side of the grave? What of those who don’t find victory before Heaven? What of the losers? What of Satan’s victims that give in to the battle? In my own life I’ve felt like I’ve been tied to the railroad tracks of my own addictions, depression, and anxiety and there is nothing left in my pockets to free me. Conqueror? Nope. Much less a “Ultra-Conqueror” or “Glorious Victor” (a hypernikao).
When I sit with a Christian battling depression and addiction we say things like, “this may never go away.” The depression may not leave. The victories over sin may be sporadic at best. Yes, we pray for relief. But we also choose to trust in our union with Christ and the fellowship of his suffering. We carry the cross. We decide that we want to know God more than we want relief. And, like I said above, sometimes trusting this eternal love does bring temporal relief to these earthly struggles. Sometimes.
In the newly re-made movie, A Star is Born, the story is told (or re-told for the third time) of an aging rock star named Jackson Maine (spoilers ahead). Jackson is an alcoholic that is self-medicating his depression. Early on he “discovers” a young singer named Ally, who he helps to become a star. They fall in love. His star is declining just as hers is rising. Through rehabilitation his battle with addiction seems to be getting better but he feels guilt for the ways he has hurt Ally and almost destroyed her career. In the end he simply cannot win, and tragically he chooses to take his own life. One review of the movie said something like, “even love could not overcome Jackson’s demons.”
But the love shown him was a conditional love. His brother/manager refused to reconcile with him. His father-in-law offered no grace when Jackson embarrassed Ally while drunk. Ally’s manager blamed Jackson for everything, showing him no compassion or kindness. And even Ally herself tells Jackson that if he crashes again not to come back to her.
If there was love, it wasn’t a conquering love. It wasn’t unconditional. It was human. It wasn’t God’s love that holds on to us no matter how we let go of ourselves or each other. Even in addiction. Even in suicide. NOTHING can separate us.
The love of God that makes us more than conquerors is the love that saves us EVEN WHEN WE FAIL TO BE CONQUERORS.
We are ultra-conquerors and glorious victors and our victory is assured even when we are losers. Even when we are slaughtered sheep. In fact, it is BECAUSE we are slaughtered sheep.
Isaiah 53:12. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong (the conquerors), because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Jesus is a conqueror not because he escaped death and shame and sin. He is a conqueror BECAUSE he died. Because he was shamed. Because he was counted with the transgressors. He didn’t avoid the cross, he embraced it. He didn’t move around the obstacles, he absorbed and endured them. We are conquerors THROUGH him, even when we don’t conquer.
This is what in all these things means. “All these things” is the slaughter. And we are IN it. Not going around it. Not avoiding it. Not even defeating it. We are experiencing it. All the sin. All the suffering. All the hardships. All the addictions. All the depression. All the self-harm. The Enemy has us by the throat. But even in all these things we are more than conquerors. How? Because NOTHING can separate us from the love of God. No matter how we die, we will rise. No matter how we lose, we will divide the spoils with Christ (Isaiah 53:12). No matter how we are overwhelmed, we will overcome. This is the cross in us. This is Christ in us. This is the upside down of the gospel. Living through dying. Winning through losing.
“To live is Christ” means God can’t lose us even when we lose. It’s the promise of victory, even for losers like us.