by Trillia Newbell
As I’ve mentioned before, my dad was one of my best friends. I never wondered if I was his child because I could see our family resemblance. I looked like him, and in so many ways I acted like him. But of course our bond was more than biological and more than environmental. I knew in the depth of my soul that I was Daddy’s little girl. That I belonged to him.
Sadly, not everyone can say the same about their earthly fathers. Some men abandon their children, sons and daughters, leaving their families to fend for themselves. Other fathers stick around physically but remain emotionally absent. Some are addicts or abusive. Some become ill or even die and are unable to be there for their families. If any of this is true for you, you may have pushed against the idea of belonging to someone, especially a father, as a way to protect yourself from heartache.
But the message of Paul for all of us—for people like me whose earthly father was loving and dependable and for those whose fathers couldn’t or wouldn’t fulfill their obligations—is that in Christ we belong. We belong to God—our perfect Abba Father. And what’s more, we know it.
This text tells us that the Spirit confirms to us that we are children of God. The Spirit bears witness with our spirit to prove that it is true. How does this work? Let me ask you a few questions:
- Have you ever been in a desperate situation and found yourself calling out to God as Father?
- Have you ever sensed that something you have done was wrong and then asked God for forgiveness?
- Have you ever rejoiced or felt comforted because you sensed God’s nearness as a Father?
There are likely a number of questions. But if you’ve answered yes to any of these, then it’s likely your spirit—prompted by His Spirit—is saying to you, “Daughter, you are His.” You can do this because God “has put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Cor. 1:22). Or as Derek Thomas puts it, “We cry. The Spirit cries. The Holy Spirit cries with our spirit (Rom. 8:16). This communion between us and the Spirit is the surest indication of our adoption as sons of God.”1
1Derek Thomas, How the Gospel Bring Us All the Way Home (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust, 2011) loc. 583, Kindle
Trillia Newbell is the author of Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God’s Good Gifts (2016), Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves (2015), United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity (2014), a children’s book, God’s Very Good Idea: A True Story of God’s Delightfully Different Family, and a six-week Bible study on Romans 8, If God is For Us: The Everlasting Truth of Our Great Salvation. She is currently Director of Community Outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention. Trillia is married to her best friend, Thern, they reside with their two children near Nashville, TN.