0245 Coping or Copping Out
Encounter Radio Outline #0245
Air date: 11/10/02
Coping or Copping Out
by Dr. Stephen F. Olford
XII. How to Cope with Confrontation in Our Social Life (v. 21)
In this final exhortation we have the summation of all that has gone before, and therefore a fitting conclusion to a great chapter. In meaningful terms, Paul is implying that our presence in the world constitutes a threefold confrontation:
A. The Confrontation of Social Contact (v. 21)
The apostle Paul teaches, first of all, there is the desirability of personal involvement (Rom. 14:7). Man is essentially a social being and therefore cannot be isolated from others. From the very beginning, God made it clear that man must have social contact.
Secondly, there is the responsibility of personal involvement (Rom. 14:8-9). Each living man bears a relation to the whole race and, even more important, to God Himself. So whether we live or die, we are the Lords, and for this reason Christ died, rose and lives that He might be Lord. This places an inescapable social responsibility upon us. Every moment we live, we effect an impact upon the world around us. We are to act as a catalyst, exerting an unconscious influence upon one another, and producing results of the most vital and lasting importance.
So we see how responsible we are in the circle of our society. But the apostle takes us further and point out the accountability of personal involvement (Rom. 14:12). One day we have to stand at the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of the impact we have had upon our contemporary world. Like our Savior, our task is to affect others for good in the midst of evil.
B. The Confrontation of Social Conflict (v. 21)
Although the word “evil” in our text primarily refers to those who would persecute us and do us harm (vv. 19-20), it cannot be limited to this context. The term covers the whole area of wickedness, iniquity, depravity and malignity found in the world today. To be in the world is to be involved in social conflict. We cannot live a day in our contemporary age without being lured by the impressiveness of what we see, the seductiveness of what we feel, and the attractiveness of what we want. But as we have already seen, we are not to be “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2), for there is a sensuousness, a covetousness, and a glamorousness which are totally incompatible with the life of Christ in us.
But what is more, the Christian is in conflict with the hate of the world (John 15:18-19). This animosity is very real to the Spirit-filled Christian who is not prepared to compromise (James 4:4). If the world does not hate us as Christians, we can be sure that we are being unfaithful to our Lord and Master. Let us not be surprised, if we sense hatred and hostility in the circles in which we move.
Then, also, the Christian is in conflict with the god of this world. No Christian can live in the power of the Holy Spirit without being brought into conflict with the forces of Satan. The people in the social circles that we influence each day may not even be aware of their slavery to Satan’s strategy and destiny. In every sense of the word we are engaged in a conflict. There is an incessant battle going on between good and evil. Truth contends with error, reason with superstition, conscience with passion, virtue with vice, law with crime, order with chaos, and religion with infidelity. And none of us can be neutral in the struggle. Whether or not we are consciously fighting, we are engaged in a holy war that is ever raging. Therefore, we are constrained to take sides. He who professedly withdraws from the conflict does in reality side with the enemy of God, for to pretend that there are no moral claims upon us is to fail to respond to the trumpet call of duty (Matt. 12:30).
C. The Confrontation of Social Conquest (v. 21)
The essential meaning of “cope” is “to be a match for” or “to contend successfully on equal terms.” The wonderful thing about it is that Christians are “more than conquerors” (Rom. 8:37). We do not merely contend on equal terms because we have an extra, a plus, another dimension, or a secret weapon. As we have seen, that secret weapon is the dynamic love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ, which fills the life of a truly yielded believer. What we bring to God, He takes; what we yield to God, He fills, and out of the fullness there issues a quality of life and love which can cope with any situation. Call it persecution, jubilation, provocation, retribution, or confrontation, Jesus Christ in us is more than adequate.
Conclusion: So we have seen what it means to cope with persecution, jubilation, tribulation, adaptation, aspiration, ostentation, provocation, dedication, interaction, retribution, opposition, and confrontation. The secret, each time, is what we have come to know as the mind of Christ – that attitude of lowliness and that servitude of lovingness in Him. It is a quality the New Testament calls humility, and the more we have thought of that word “humility,” the more we have learned that humility is Deity clothed with humanity. This is authentic Christianity, the ability to react to any situation, even as Christ would react, since He is always adequate.
As we study the New Testament, we discover that Christ overcame the lust of the world with His life of purity, and He overcame the hate of the world with His life of charity. The exciting thing is that His accomplished victory can now be celebrated in and through our lives as we trust Him. So we see how Paul’s exhortations can be fulfilled in our lives – “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (v. 21). By the indwelling purity, charity and victory of our Lord Jesus Christ we can triumph over the lust, the hate and the god of this world. In other words, there is no situation over which we cannot be “more than conquerors” (Rom. 8:37). Thus Christianity is the ability to cope. The question is, are you coping, or are you “copping out?”
Stephen Olford Center for Biblical Preaching
P.O. Box 757800 Memphis, TN 38175-7800
Phone: (901) 757-7977 or (800) 843-2241 Fax: (901) 757-1372
Comments? Send mail to: OMI@olford.org