How often have you heard the claim that “God is on our side”? It might have come from the lips of a sporting figure, or a politician, or a military leader. Often, such claims seem to fall flat when the team emerges on the wrong end of the score line, or the politician fails to secure the majority vote, or the military skirmish ends in defeat. If God was on their side, how could they lose so badly?
Christians sometimes stare in the face of the same reality. There are times when it is evident that God is wonderfully for us, as he was obviously for David in Psalm 124. David writes of a time “when people rose up against” him and his followers and “would have swallowed us up alive” but for one thing: “The LORD … was on our side” (vv. 1–3). The emergency in which he and his people found themselves was dire. They were prey in the very jaws of the predator (v. 3) and helplessly small humans staring at the oncoming wall of a tsunami-like flood (vv. 4–5). The situation was dire. Defeat was imminent. Doom was on the horizon. Their lives flashed before their very eyes.
But God was on their side and what could have happened never did. The predator’s jaws did not snap down on the prey (v. 6). Instead, like a bird breaking free from the snare of the fowler, David and his followers escaped (v. 7). They confidently sang, “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (v. 8). Glorious!
But we don’t struggle believing that God is on our side when he provides deliverance. We struggle when he doesn’t.
In January 1956, 28-year-old Jim Elliot made contact with the Huaorani tribe in Ecuador. God had called him to minister the gospel to these people. He was martyred at first contact, without having ever reached a single tribesman with the gospel. God chose not to deliver his faithful servant.
A few years earlier, Jim’s older brother, Bert, travelled to Peru as a missionary with his wife Colleen. Bert served faithfully for 62 years, planting countless churches and dying in 2012 at the age of 87 in his Peruvian home.
What conclusions do we draw from these two stories? Was God for Bert but not for Jim? What does it mean that God is on our side? What does it mean that God is for us?
The consistent testimony of Scripture is that God being on our side manifests itself far more powerfully than in mere temporal terms. Sometimes we experience temporal benefits, but even when we do not, the eternal benefits of God being for us far outweigh the temporal benefits we might not experience.
Paul lists some of these eternal benefits in Romans 8. “If God is for us,” he asks, “who can be against us?” (v. 32). He then offers at least four eternal benefits experienced by all those who have God on their side.
First, if God is for us, he “graciously gives us all things” we need for life and godliness (v. 32). God gave Jim exactly the grace he needed to accomplish the task that God had set before him and he gave Bert exactly the grace he needed to accomplish what God had set before him. He will give us the same.
Second, if God is for us, nobody can “bring any charge against God’s elect” to negate their justification (v. 33). God had declared both Jim and Bert righteous and therefore no charge of the enemy against them would stand. God has likewise declared every believer in Christ righteous and no charge brought against them will stand.
Third, and related, if God is for us, no one can “condemn” us (v. 34). Our salvation is secure in Christ who continually intercedes for us against the condemnations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. He interceded for Jim; he interceded for Bert; and he intercedes for you, as one of his children.
Fourth, if God s for us, no one and nothing can “separate us from the love of Christ” (vv. 35–39). Here is the glory of the gospel: Even in death, we cannot be separated from Christ’s love. Death by martyrdom in 1956 did not separate Jim from the love of Christ. Death in old age in 2012 did not separate Bert from the love of Christ. And death—whether by disease, of natural causes, or by human hands—will not separate you, believer, from the love of Christ.
If you have believed the gospel, allow Psalm 124 to remind you this morning that God is on your side. And since he is on your side, nothing in life and death or in all creation can separate you from his love in Christ.