Rejoice. Be Patient. Pray.
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 12:12a (Holman) Rejoice in hope;
Paul is extolling the radiant beauties of a loving life. It yields sincerity and kindness (v.9), family affection and humility (v.10), diligence and energy (v.11). Verse 12 presents the buoyancy of love. It gives resiliency in life’s hard struggle.
Living in an atmosphere of love lets us rejoice. God loves us so much that it gives us hope. Being convinced of His love helps us face the future with optimism. Christianity blesses us with the assurance God will take care of us.
Life grows bland when it loses the ability to anticipate future good. In Greek mythology, Pandora was given a box the gods warned her never to open. When curiosity finally overcame her, she raised the lid, and immediately all the world’s vices, sins, diseases, and troubles flew out. She instantly slammed shut the lid, but it was too late. Misery and despair were everywhere. Later, her husband looked again into the box and found at the bottom hope, people’s only consolation.
The loss of hope is distressing. Longfellow compared it to the “setting of the sun.” Our culture, veering from Christianity, is spiraling downward into hopeless fatalism. Prechristians know yesterday, and revel in today, but are clueless about tomorrow. Fear of the unknown makes them like ostriches in regard to the future.
Rather than contemplate what is yet to come, they stick their heads in the sand. The result is an uneasiness that ever lingers, a nagging realization that this present world does not satisfy completely, and a haunting sense it is not all there is.
Peggy Noonan, former presidential speech writer, wrote in Forbes magazine, “We have lost the old knowledge that happiness is overrated. . . .Our ancestors believed in two worlds, and understood this world to be the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short one. We are the first generations of man that actually expected to find happiness here on earth, and our search for it has caused such unhappiness. The reason: If you do not believe in another, higher world, if you believe only in the flat material world around you, if you believe that this is your only chance at happiness, . . . then you are not disappointed when the world does not give you a good measure of its riches – instead you are in despair!”
Bernard stated it bluntly, “This life would be little better than Hell were it not for the hopes of Heaven.” Only Christian hope can soothe the troubled mind.
Thank God for Christian hope, a hope which is not wishful thinking, a hope having no doubt attached to it. Christian hope is an assurance, a sure thing. We know Heaven awaits us, and hope allows us to enjoy it now by anticipation.
God’s love provides believers a confidence that the best is always yet to come. Of believers it can be said, “there are no hopeless situations in life; only people who have grown hopeless about them.” There may be nothing more pathetic than the sight of a believer who has lost hope. We should never despair.
Knowing a kingdom awaits us, we can tolerate a bad day every once in a while. We move from house to house here, but know a permanent mansion awaits us. Some faces we see are hard and cruel, but someday we’ll see Him face to face
Though divided by death from friend and family, we live in hope of a reunion. The grave will release its prey. The sea must give up its dead. We will all be caught up together to meet the Lord. Therefore, let us “Rejoice in hope.”
Romans 12:12b . . .be patient in affliction;
A life of love includes patience. God’s love is a consolation, a stabilizing source of strength in any stormy trial. “Patient” does not mean passive acceptance. It involves steadfastness, triumphant fortitude, as Beethoven showed when at age 28 deafness began descending on him. It seemed life would become an unbroken disaster, but the composer refused to yield.
Someone said to an individual going through a hard time, “Suffering colors all of life, doesn’t it?” The gallant sufferer replied, “Yes, it does, but I propose to choose the color.” What a powerful thought! Troubles can cause us to see only a dark, gloomy thundercloud, or can allow us to see frequent rainbows in the cloud.
The martyr Nicholas Burton was led to the stake; he displayed steadfastness, even to the point of being downright cheerful. The executioners could not believe a person was able to face death with that much happiness. They decided the devil had already come, robbed him of his senses, and in advance taken his spirit to Hell.
Is it still possible for people to have victory in life? Can we rejoice in hope, and be patient in tribulation? Yes, a thousand times yes. Paul will now tell us how.
Romans 12:12c . . .be persistent in prayer.
A life of love is prayerful. This is no surprise. If we love, we want to communicate with the beloved. “Persistent” means to give something constant attention, unbroken concentration. Here is the key to finding joy and patience. Be earnest, pressing, urgent with regard to prayer.
As the martyr Hudson neared the stake to be burned, his faith momentarily faltered; he lost joy and patience. When he stopped in his tracks, many thought he intended to recant, but it was not so. He stopped in order to concentrate totally on God. In a few moments he resumed his trek to the stake, and with a smile, was able to say, “Now, I thank God, I am strong, and fear not what man can do to me.”
Joy and patience are nourished by prayer, our powerful resource of the soul. If we cease praying, we rob ourselves of the strength of Almighty God. Christians don’t understand how people without Jesus can face life’s most difficult struggles.
“If all the trials which come from heaven, all the temptations which ascend from hell, and all the crosses which arise from earth, could be mixed and pressed together, they would not make a trial so terrible as being told there is no help for us from God” (Spurgeon). We believers know this, and shudder at the possibility, yet it is a reality prechristians live with every day. Any who insist on living life alone, in their own strength, should not be surprised when life collapses around them.
This is the dilemma of prechristians. They have no stable refuge outside themselves, no sure harbor to run to in time of trouble. Thus, life becomes fatalistic, something to be handled at best by stoicism.
We Christians should never forget our precious, secret weapon. We need to live in a constant attitude of prayer. We can pray anywhere, anytime, and should.
Being a Christian means being a person of constant prayer. Spurgeon said fishermen at Mentone used nets so large that they covered acres of the sea. Often these men would let down their huge nets, but not bring up as much as a sardine for all their efforts. To Spurgeon’s amazement, though, no matter how many times they failed, the fishermen continued to cast out their nets. Why? Because they were fisherman, and fishing is what fishermen do. They could do nothing else.
Why do Christians need to pray? Because praying is what believers do. There is nothing else to do. We must throw out the net of prayer. If we get only one small answer, pray again. We have no other recourse.
Learn to wait constantly on the Lord. This trait has ever been a hallmark of the greatest saints. James, our Lord’s brother, was said to have knees as hard as a camel’s, due to his continual kneeling in prayer. It was said of one lady, she was so given to prayer that her knees seemed to grow to the ground. Of another it was said her elbows became as hard as horn by leaning on a desk where she always prayed.
Our objective as believers is to reach the place where we pray without ceasing. We need to develop an effective daily private time, one which spawns an unending mental focus toward God, a subconscious reference to God in all we do.
Daily set aside an official private prayer time, and then often lift prayer to God throughout the day. Time set aside for private prayer becomes a source, not a substitute, for prayers offered all the time. If faithful in the private place of prayer, thoughts of devotion will come easily and often throughout the day. But if we neglect private prayer, ongoing thoughts of devotion become difficult to maintain.
Continue constant in prayer. The godly John Fletcher, who lived a life saturated in prayer, said, “I would not move from my seat without lifting up my heart to God.” When greeting another believer, his salutation was, “Do I meet you praying?” May God grant us a spirit of joy and patience based on constant praying.