Gifts require sacrifice. Often the magnitude of a gift is measured by the level of sacrifice and the significance it represents. Milk Duds were a nice enough gift to give my dad as a 7-year-old, but over the years this gift has lost its magnitude.
It should come as no surprise then that the greatest gift you and I could ever receive came with great sacrifice and represents something of great significance. John writes, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.”
However, it is possible that the circumstances in your life have made it difficult to believe that God loves you. If we are honest, perhaps we admit that our circumstances are often very the thing that causes us to doubt the love of God. We tend to view God’s love through the lenses of our circumstances. As a result, when times get tough, we assume it is because God’s love toward us has diminished. Yet, the reality is that the Bible teaches otherwise.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (Romans 8:35)
In Romans 8:35, Paul is asking a rhetorical question. The assumed answer to the question — “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” — is no one. It is important that Paul includes each of these examples because difficult circumstances are a very real part of the Christian experience. John Calvin said, “It is no new thing for the Lord to permit his saints to be undeservedly exposed to the cruelty of the ungodly.” Yet these things are incapable of separating us from the love of Christ.
Paul knew this from experience. Paul had endured each of the trials mentions in vs. 35, except for “the sword,” and they were quite incapable of separating him from the love of Christ. And the last — the “sword,” death by execution — Paul would later overcome and find that it also was not able to separate him from the love of Christ. Paul wasn’t merely speaking in hypotheticals. He was giving personal testimony.
That is why he quotes Psalm 44:22 — to show that this stuff actually happens to Christians. They are not being punished. Paul is touching a nerve because often we look at our circumstances as evidence of God’s love or lack of love for us. But the point is clear: do not think for a moment when the circumstances in life are terrible that it is because you have been separated from God’s love. When you and I feel as if God has abandoned you, you have to cling to the fact that God is for you and not against you — this is your lifeline in the middle of suffering. Suffering is not evidence that God has forgotten you. Instead somehow in the midst of suffering God’s love is made known.
Nowhere is this more clearly seen than at the cross. At the cross, we see the greatest suffering any human being could ever experience, collide with the greatest gift anyone could ever offer. God’s love for you is most clearly demonstrated on the cross. Do you want to know how much God loves you? Don’t look at your circumstances — look to the cross.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
This is an argument from greater to lesser. If God can do this huge thing (giving up his son), then it is no problem for him to do the smaller thing (graciously giving us all things).
Does that mean we will get whatever we want? Does this mean that we will get the car that we want, the job that we want, the spouse that we want, or the health that we want? Obviously not. We have already seen that believers don’t escape the difficulties of this world. But it does mean that we will have everything we need to be conformed to Christ. It means that we will have everything we need to glorify God. Do you want to know how much God loves you? Look to the cross. God didn’t spare his son. So don’t think for a moment that he will withhold anything from you that you truly need. If God didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?