What, if anything, are you confident and fully convinced of? How long did it take for such conviction to become established? In our ever-changing world such confidence might appear to be a rarity. Yet, we continually place our confidence in a variety of practices, places, and beliefs.
Many years ago, as the snow melted and small ponds dotted the land, my older brother and I would enthusiastically fashion make-shift rafts from dead tree limbs strung together by remnants of old baler twine. We would confidently push off from shore into the icy waters believing our rickety rafts would support us. More often than not, our expeditions failed. Drenched, but undaunted, we would pull our frail craft back to the water’s edge. After adding more logs and twine, we would try again and again. Spurred on by each other, we convinced ourselves that we would eventually sail open waters.
After a series of failed attempts of his own, Paul tells us of something he became fully confident of — the love of God.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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.”
In Philippians 3, Paul gives us a personal perspective of his former life. I say “former” because the convictions he once held were proved just as frail as the wooden rafts my brother and I made. He says,
” … though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.”
As a Pharisee, Paul taught and obeyed every law with faultless precision. Or at least, he attempted to. He believed that obedience earned him the love of God. If one did enough, obeyed enough, tried hard enough, then God would love and accept you. Only then would anyone earn God’s favor. Zealous pursuit and faultless obedience ultimately proved less than reliable, even futile.
Most of us might identify on some level with this belief system. We relate to the repetitive cycle of trying harder and harder to earn or merit love.
“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.”
He sounds like an unlikely candidate to experience God’s love. Yet, in this space, God entered Paul’s life, turning his direction and conviction around.
I, too, can relate to his experience. God blasted into my messed up and broken life with persistent grace. When anyone meets Jesus, nothing remains the same.
God saw something in Paul — something more than another zealous Pharisee.
” … This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.”
Through His redeeming love, God turned an enemy of the cross into a megaphone for His praise. God’s “chosen instrument” came disguised as a murderous, over-zealous, religious elitist. But God views us through the lens of His perfect love. He recognizes potential no one else sees.
The initial encounter with God’s perfect love formed the starting point. What would follow, only God Himself could have orchestrated.
Under God’s instruction a brave Jesus follower by the name of Ananias courageously looked for Paul. He placed his hands on him and healed him. After Paul received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, he sealed his faith with water baptism before heading into the desert.
“But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.”
At what point did Paul’s faith become conviction? Was it upon His dramatic conversion? Or did it take three years of Holy Spirit teaching to erase the bombardment of religious persuasions. Was it in the quiet desert places, alone with God, that an iron-clad confidence in Jesus took form?
Whatever the process, Paul spoke with absolute clarity, announcing to all who will grasp the truth that nothing — absolutely nothing — can separate us from God’s love.
God’s Perfect Love
Just as nothing could cause God to love us more, nothing could ever cause Him to love us less. Yes, we can choose to roam outside of His perfect will and plan, but nothing (and no human effort) can in any way elevate or diminish His love for us.
“So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!”
Romans 8:38-39 TPT
The Amplified Bible says, “I am convinced [and continue to be convinced — beyond any doubt].” Now that’s conviction — fully convinced that no one and no power could ever separate or diminish God’s unlimited love toward us.
Though my brother and I enjoyed brief moments of rafting success, we never became fully confident of our raft making skills. But through decades of my own desert times with the Lord, I know, that I know, that I know, His love is enough. His perfect love never fails. May you experience for yourself His unfailing, unending, unfading, perfect love.