We continue to look at how to properly respond to God’s great mercy toward us by the worship of our God as we become living sacrifices, giving up seeking what we want from life and learning to know and serve what God wants. That begins with using our spiritual gifts to serve each other in the church.
Paul’s list of commands we are studying describe a lifestyle of setting ourselves aside (Matt 16:24-26). Our goal as Christians is to love and lift each other up. We must focus our expectation on eternity and wait with patience and prayer for our Father to provide. “Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.” (Rom 12:9-12)
The first command to Christians in today’s verse is to “rejoice in hope”. This charge comes directly on the heels of instruction to serve the Lord continually out of spiritual fervor and passion for Him. When we are walking in the Spirit and living out of our relationship with Him (Gal 5:16-18) then these things will naturally occur in our lives because each one of these is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). These fruits are His characteristics and traits, so these characteristics in our lives are a byproduct of our relationship with Christ. As we become more and more like Him we start resembling His character on a daily basis.
Often, we resist instruction about what we should feel: that we should change our attitudes to be joyful. This command is not about our feelings of happiness, but about declaring ourselves as having reason for joy. It’s to have the right perspective on our situation. We should agree with God that our hope is worth rejoicing over. What hope? Paul is referring to the hope of the redemption of our bodies and being united with our Father forever once our adoption is complete (Rom 8:23–24).
The next command is to “be patient in affliction”. This becomes much easier if we are keeping the bookend commands in this Scripture. Those who see their future worth celebrating and who pray to the Father continually will have a much easier time being patient during hardship. Paul is not downplaying the genuine pain of those experiences. Life can be unpleasant, and not all moments are happy moments. Yet Paul has pointed out “that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18). So, we wait with patience (Rom 8:25).
The final command of the verse also connects with Paul’s thoughts in another epistle. “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess 5:16-18) We’re commanded to “be persistent in prayer”, or to keep praying continually. During any time of suffering, while waiting for what we’re hoping in, we should pray. Prayer brings a connection with our Father through the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:26–27). He hears, understands, and helps in response to even our clumsiest attempts to communicate with Him. When we pray, we are asking for the Lord to intervene on earth, which releases His awesome power on this earth.
Lord, thank You for the eternal hope You have given us so that we can be patient in all circumstances because nothing here on earth can compare with the eternal glory You will show us. Lord, it is Your perspective we need in every situation, so staying persistent in prayer is the way we will know Your will in any given situation. Thank You for understanding even our groanings when we don’t know how we should pray. In the precious name of Jesus, amen.