"O wretched man that I am; who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God . . . through Jesus Christ, our Lord." -- Romans 7:24-25a
Experiencing deliverance from the power of sin in my life is NOT a matter of crying out to God for that deliverance, but 1) Seeing in the Word that I AM delivered; Christ HAS delivered me through my identification with Him in His finished work on the Cross (Romans 6:1-11) and 2) THANKING Him for that deliverance already accomplished AND ALREADY MINE.
We thank someone for something received. Paul could cry, "I thank God . . . through Jesus Christ, our Lord," only because he fully believed he HAD the deliverance he cried out for in the depths of his being; that it was already his; already a done deal. It was common in ancient Greek to leave a few words out in a sentence if they were easily understood from the context. I really think that is the case here. Romans 7:25 is Paul's exultant response to his own cry of despair in 7:24. What is he thanking God FOR? What words should be supplied by the context between "I thank God . . ." and "through Jesus Christ, our Lord?" "I thank God THAT HE HAS DELIVERED ME through Jesus Christ, our Lord," Or, "I thank God THAT DELIVERANCE IS ALREADY MINE through Jesus Christ, our Lord." Paul is thanking God because he clearly sees he already HAS the deliverance he cries out for as the "wretched man" in verse 24. He thanks God BECAUSE HE SEES IT, HE BELIEVES IT, AND HE IS APPROPRIATING IT. "I thank God" is the clear indication of a man who is appropriating the victory that he sees he already has IN CHRIST. "I thank God" is the cry of a heart that has believed and is appropriating God's gracious provision.
Key point: It seems highly significant to me that we are not to wait to thank God until we have EXPERIENCED that deliverance we so desperately yearn for. That is the way we commonly think and operate, isn't it? We cry out to God begging Him for something we need or crave, and we hold off thanking Him until we have that thing right there in our hands, and are enjoying the EXPERIENCE of possessing it (that is, IF we remember to thank Him even THEN!). But Paul reverses the order here. Paul does not wait until he's on top, enjoying THE PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE of deliverance in Romans 7:24-25. He thanks God at the very time he is at rock bottom in his practical experience, because he is appropriating that deliverance BY FAITH!
I thank God because I KNOW it's mine. I know it's mine, NOT because I experience it, but because GOD SAYS IT. And I so trust my God, if He says it's mine, that's as good as actually experiencing it, as far as I'm concerned. In fact, it's BETTER. I trust His saying so MORE than I trust my own experience.
We experience deliverance AFTER we appropriate by faith, not before. THAT is the life of faith in God's amazing Word.
A simple truth, but counterintuitive, and because it is, most of us miss it more often than not.
The flip side: If God says I already HAVE something, and yet I keep crying out for it in my despair, is that not UNBELIEF?