More Than Conquerors

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us.                     Romans 8:37

What a most curious statement!  Have you ever thought about that?  What does it mean to be “MORE than a conqueror”?  We often read the statement as if it says “in all these things we are conquerors through Him Who loved us.”  But there are two extra words there:  “we are MORE THAN conquerors.”

How can you be “MORE THAN a conqueror”?  Once you have beaten, “whipped the tail off” something; once you have “trodden underfoot”, humiliated, overcome, won over, smashed, and whatnot else – isn’t that it??  What more can you do?  How can you be more than a conqueror?

Perhaps this is being a bit too picky in regard to the text – after all, the immediate understanding of this passage is simply that despite the list of catastrophes and calamities that St Paul gave just before this – hardship, trouble, persecution, famine, and the rest – that none of these things can defeat us, when we are in Christ Jesus.  So maybe Paul was being very enthusiastic about conquering what normally sends people into a tailspin – that’s why he added on the extra words.

Obviously that is very true.  Yet might not there be “MORE THAN” that to those simple words “we are MORE THAN conquerors”?  Is it possible that Christians do have the ability to go beyond conquering, when it comes to overcoming terrible situations in life?

I think back to a particularly rough time in my life, a very painful experience for me.  I remember that one of the things that I held on to as an anchor during that time was not only that the Lord would see me through it, but also that somewhere, somehow, I would be able to use this experience to help others.

Perhaps this was the thought behind Paul’s words.  A conqueror is one who has destroyed a foe or an enemy.  But NOW what is to happen?  To be “MORE THAN a conqueror” – would that suggest that you can go BEYOND the victory in order to build up?

For instance, in the example in my life, I not only looked toward when that situation would be overcome, but also I had a greater hope than that, that this experience would become my tool, something that would equip me in a far better way to serve my Lord.  The very thing that enslaved, harassed and weakened would now become the humbled tool which would be a strength and powerful resource for me.  And it has been, many times throughout my career it has given others the confidence that I am indeed walking with them in their own situations.

What a strange thing for a human being to do, to look on an event in his life, an event which others might despise or even fear for the rest of their lives, or an event which could inflate one with self-pride at his ability to conquer it, but for the Christian, he would prize the event and look forward to when he might use it to touch more lives for the sake of Jesus Christ.  Here indeed is someone who is “MORE THAN a conqueror”, for he has more than conquered the event, he has also conquered his attitude toward it.

To do that, the Christian would have to have a very real sense of the partnership that he has in life with Jesus Christ.  Perhaps that is also what Paul was getting at in the verses which follow, as he describes that nothing – neither life nor death, angel nor demon, present nor future; neither “tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, nor sword” – nothing: “nothing will separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.”

This love of God is not the way we often think of love – at least the way that fills the  radio and music videos.  This is not a love based merely on an attitude of endearment, but rather a love that was willing to take on flesh and blood, one willing to roll up its sleeves and put His own shoulder under our burdens, one willing to share the yoke of human life in order to make it easier for us.  This love is not merely some emotional feeling, but a very concrete and real partnership in human life – YOUR daily human life.

Here’s where the Body of Christ doctrine in the Bible gains awesome power.  Jesus somehow in Baptism makes you a part of Himself, therefore He feels what you feel, He is a direct participant in all that you do.  “You are in Me, and I in you” [John 14:20] is the way He put it.  He therefore is directly involved in whatever the catastrophe or calamity is that has befallen you.  No matter how cruelly you are mistreated, no matter how painful the situation has become, you cannot go through it alone.  You simply CANNOT go through it alone, because that is what it means to be the Body of Christ and a member of one another.

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But that doesn’t mean that He will run away from pain either.  Just like if we were to see a cup of hot coffee about to fall on a child, we will risk the pain of scalding our hand in order to save the child, so also when Jesus allows pain in His own Body – you and me – it can only happen with a purpose.  That purpose may not be immediately evident, but the Jesus that we see in the Garden of Gethsemane, in a bloody sweat as He faced the ordeal He knew was coming, is definitely not One Who will trivialize pain.

Yes, whatever we go through will indeed be used somehow – there is purpose behind the pain, especially because we know that it is a shared pain.  What a comfort to know that there is indeed nothing that can separate us from God’s Love in Christ Jesus.  But there is even more.

Isaiah (55:1-5) and Matthew (14:18-21) remind us that there is more to equip us to be “MORE THAN conquerors”.  In the feeding of the 5000, this was not merely an act of compassion, nor merely an example of Jesus’ power.  In the context of Paul’s words, this is another reminder to us that God has the startling ability to dramatically change the tone of any event.

Here was an occasion that was obviously doomed to fail – I mean, really, feed probably close to 15,000 people with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish??  Yet God the Son stepped in, not inhibited by circumstances and made it an event that people just could not forget.  He turned a disaster into another tool to be used to touch people’s lives.  He demonstrated that He is indeed “MORE THAN a Conqueror” in the twelve baskets of leftovers.

Isaiah now steps in with just as powerful an attitude-changer.  It lies in the fact that we have a most precious message to share.  Yes, it is precious to us and to all who receive it, but we forget how precious it is to God Himself!  This is a message that He desperately wants everyone to hear about, a message that Jesus was willing to die for.  With such a yearning on the Lord’s part, do you really think that He will sabotage you as you represent Him to the world?

However, the Lord never promised that it would be easy – not because He is making it hard on US, but because HIS JOB is not easy.  Have you ever thought about how difficult HIS JOB is?  True, He could merely command and instantly everyone would be compelled to obey Him.  Yet He chooses to draw people to Himself through love – and that is NOT an easy task!  HE has a hard, painful, and persecuted task to do.

St Paul speaks of us as “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” [Romans 8:17].  This is a mystery: not only are we recipients of the blessings and wonderful benefits of being part of the Body of Christ amid the flow of Love and sharing within the Trinity, we are also join Him in the suffering of fighting evil and rebellion in this world.  As we share HIS task, as we realize the partnership we are in, then whatever we experience becomes a joint task between the Lord and us – HE shares in our pain, WE share in His joy.

This is why we celebrate Holy Communion so often, because this is more than just a reminder of our connection to Jesus, this is the physical declaration of the fact.  This is what it means that we are in partnership with Jesus, because He enters us – He truly enters us.  He has placed Himself right in the middle of everything that is happening to you, the things that you feel, the calamity that you experience, the joy of your mutual conquering.

What a source of strength that this is!  The dismissal at the end of communion, “the Lord is with you,” are no mere words of vague, theoretical hope.  They are words of concrete reality.  Jesus really is with you and in you.  Therefore you cannot be alone – you simply cannot, no matter how bad any situation may seem.  This is what it means to be the Body of Christ, this is what it means to be in partnership with Jesus.

Now we have the basis by which to understand why Paul would add those two little words – no, we are not merely conquerors, but we are MORE THAN conquerors through Him Who loved us.  In Jesus we discover not just the ability to conquer a situation, but also to conquer our attitude toward it.  We have the ability to not just live through an experience, but then to go on and use it powerfully in the Name of the same Lord Who right in the middle of it all is sharing everything with us.

So now, look at your life.  Where would YOU like to be “MORE THAN a conqueror”?  What a wonderful uplifting attitude St Paul shares with us today, because no longer are we struggling through life, but rather we can even catch a hint of excitement in the midst of pain – because, after all, in Jesus, we ARE “MORE THAN conquerors”!

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