I found an old notebook the other day and noticed the multiplication table printed on the back cover. I rehearsed the table by memory and patted myself on the back every time I advanced up the charts until I got to the nines. Dumb nines. What happened to my recall? I repeated that multiplication board a hundred times while growing up, and now that I am older, I stumbled on the higher numbers. I have become dependent on a calculator and forgotten the basics.
I thought of that the next morning when I read Romans 8:38-39, which says, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I wondered how Paul convinced himself of God’s love knowing he had undergone every form of physical pain while held in jail. How could he convince himself that God still loved him despite his suffering? Could it be that Paul repeated and memorized God’s promises so there would be no doubt in Paul’s mind of his relationship to Christ?
If we think about it, we spend all of our lives repeating the same functions, knowing that we will receive a positive reaction. For example, we sit in a chair, assuming it will hold up, we place our key in the ignition without wondering if the car will start, and we turn on the faucet knowing water will pour out of it. In time, simple repetition becomes faith, and that faith becomes second nature.
Likewise, in Deuteronomy 6:6-9, Moses urges the Israelites to remember everything he taught them, and he instructs them how to commit those principles to memory, he says, “These words I am commanding you today are to be upon your hearts. And you shall teach them diligently to your children and speak of them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as reminders on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and your gates.”
We can see Paul’s thinking in 2 Timothy 4:13. Paul requests Timothy to bring him a coat, his books, and his parchments, not food, medicine, new clothes, nor money to bribe the soldiers to release him from jail. No, Paul asks for his books, the items he used in the past to glean information about God’s law. Whatever those books were, Paul wanted to get back into Scripture and remind himself of God’s promises. Paul continued to build upon a foundation of faith, which convinced him of God’s love in any situation.
The majority of us will never face trials as Paul did in his life. However, I know some of us are undergoing long episodes of sorrow. Enduring pain can cause our thoughts of God to grow dim. However, it is during trials that we must convince ourselves of God’s love. We must draw from what we have learned, what we have experienced, and what we have seen through the lives of others. Thus, we can have evidence of God’s faithfulness, and the proof will lead to the peace that nothing (not death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height…) can separate us from the love of God that is through Christ Jesus.