The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:16-17 ESV
How do you define yourself? When you think about your identity, what comes to mind? Do you define yourself by your marital status? Your employment? Your achievements? Most of us introduce ourselves to others by what we deem to be most impressive or important about ourselves. We look into ourselves and see what we like most about ourselves, and we try to put that foot forward. We let so many things play into our “identity.” However, how often does this leave us with the same question still roaring in our minds: “who am I?”
This passage of scripture in Romans 8 is such a vivid reminder of how we should really be defining ourselves. If today you call Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior, then your identity is no longer defined by who you are, but rather whose you are. This passage lays that out for us perfectly.
First, you are a child of God. Let that sink into your hearts and minds right now. Seriously. Stop… Now, do it again… It doesn’t matter what you have walked through or what pain has encroached upon your life, God Himself calls you His child. And if God is your Father, and He is who He says He is, then what your Father says about you trumps or outweighs what everything else in all the universe says about you. If every person on this planet is against you, hates you, and speaks evil about you, but God calls you His child, then that is who you are. God’s say is the final say.
Secondly, if you are children of God, then the Bible says that you are not just children, but you are children with an inheritance. When the Bible calls you heirs, it is saying that because you are children, you have stepped into the family. And because you have stepped into the family, you will receive what is due a son or daughter of the King. You see, just like the prodigal son, we have all strayed from the perfect plan of God. However, the Father is waiting for you to return to Him and you don’t have you to earn your sonship back. It can’t be earned back. Jesus paid for our identity on the cross. Therefore, just like with the prodigal, as we try to make our speeches, the Father is already putting a ring on our finger, sandals on our feet, and a cloak around our back.
Finally, this passage says that all of this is ours with one stipulation. We are heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him. This verse used to make me think that I needed to move somewhere with extreme persecution toward Christians. However, as I have learned more about life and more about the character of God, I have had my eyes enlightened to the meaning of this verse. Suffering looks different based on our context. You and I have been called to our community. Therefore, we are called to grow where we are planted. If this is the case, then we have to look at what suffering looks like in our lives.
My most simple definition is this: the giving up of things in order to continually honor Jesus with our lives and bodies. This may mean that we are ridiculed for the music we listen to or the way in which we raise our children. This may mean that we are belittled for our faith. Maybe it is the way we treat our spouse that causes us to receive ridicule, or maybe even the way in which you spend your free time. Any suffering you receive in the pathway of obedience is producing in you an eternal weight of glory. Therefore, do not lose heart. God is at work in your life. Fight for your identity. Fight the weight of this world that seeks to entangle you. And fight it through prayer.
When you feel the pressure to give in, know that Jesus felt this same pressure. The disciples felt the same pressure. Millions of Christians feel this same pressure every day. However, in bringing this passage full circle, the Holy Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are children of God. Let us be a people that are defined by what God says about us. You are a child of God. He loves you and desires you. Let that define your identity.