As I write this, I am sitting in a hospital room watching and waiting for my dear friend Robert to die. You would think that, since every human being has to die at some point, we would get used to death, but for some reason it is never easy. It is not easy for me to sit here. I really didn’t even feel like writing this, but it’s my week to write the Last Word, so I write.
Last night I asked Jesus what He thought I should write about. I hear, “More Than Conquerors.” “More Than Conquerors?” I think. What does that mean? I was reading Romans 8 last night, which is where that phrase comes from, but I still had no idea what I was supposed to write. I couldn’t sleep. Last I looked at the clock, it was 1:30 a.m. I awoke wide awake at 5:30 a.m. After lying there for a half hour I decided to get up and go over to the hospital.
It’s hard seeing Robert this way. A week and a half ago He had an aneurysm, followed by a significant stroke in his frontal lobe. Cognitively, he doesn’t seem to be “home,” but he is still alive. Barely. I find myself praying that God will just end his life now and not make him struggle any longer. The doctors have given him 24 to 48 hours.
But as I sit here watching my dear friend die, I think about Robert and what amazing things God has done in his life. It almost makes it a little easier. In the hospital bed in front of me lies a man who is drastically different because he has been with Jesus. What a crazy story of redemption. I was given the gift of being able to watch Jesus take a worn-down, tattooed, at times grumpy biker in a wheelchair and turn him into something new. On the outside he still looks like a tattooed biker. But even his friends that don’t know Jesus would tell you Robert is different. Robert spent much of his early life in the biker gangs. He has told me of many of the horrible things that he saw and did and for much of our friendship he has been haunted by his past. He’s carried guilt. Shame. Doubt. He sometimes doubted if Jesus could ever really forgive him of his past. Robert also had a problem with his knees that kept him in a wheelchair. He used to feel anger and bitterness at being trapped in the chair.
Change can be so gradual that while it is happening you can’t see it. For a long time I don’t think that even Robert could see the change in himself. But at some point over the last year there was no missing the new man that God was crafting Robert into. What a joy it has been to watch as Jesus chased down Robert and freed him from the burden of his past and anchored him into the reality that “Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” (Romans 8:1). The last few months especially Robert has truly understood and held fast to that truth.
As I sit here in the hospital room I decide to read Romans 8 to Robert. Paul lays it out there. We have been chosen. Adopted. We are now beloved children of our heavenly Daddy. Jesus has conquered the power of sin and death. And now nothing can separate us from His love. Nothing. Because of that we are more than conquerors because of Him in us. There’s that phrase, “More than conquerors.” I look at Robert. I think I understand what I am supposed to write now. Robert’s life is a picture of Romans 8 from beginning to end. Because of Jesus in him, Robert is more than a conqueror. Even if Robert dies now, the enemy has no victory here.
Even if you weren’t in a biker gang like Robert, you may still wrestle with guilt from your past. The enemy may use your past as a way of heaping condemnation upon yourself. But this is not from God. The truth is that Jesus does not hold you in condemnation. “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one.” (Romans 8:33-34). He has made us to be conquerors over sin, over our past. But the key word is “He.” Robert did nothing to be a conqueror to the power of sin in his life. Jesus did it all.
So as I sit here in room 612, I am saddened by the fact that my friend is fighting for his life, but at the same time I find joy in God’s goodness, and His faithfulness that I have seen in His pursuit of Robert. Robert’s body is old, broken down, and dying, and yet he is a new creation.
“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.” Romans 8:37-39