Sunday, January 5, 2014

Hope Worthy of Rejoicing (Romans 12:12)

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12, ESV)

“It’s as easy as 1,2,3.” This is a response commonly given to someone who hesitates to do something that the other person who makes the response might consider normal, ordinary, or easily accomplished. But oftentimes the person hearing it does not make the ‘easy’ connection and continues his or her resistance.

Robin’s cat’s name is Mikey (for ‘My Kitty’), and when he wants outside he will generally walk in the direction of the door and sit there facing the door, or he will do this until he thinks you haven’t responded quickly enough and then he might do one of a couple of other things to make sure he has our attention. Observing him sitting there I walk over to the door and open it for him to race outside, which he rarely ever does. Instead, he sits there and looks and left to his own he might sit there for a very long time looking. In response to this I count to three (not quickly, but to three), and he knows that he needs to be heading out the door when I get there or I will close the door. When it is cold outside he’ll delay by shaking his paw once or twice or even three times before he makes a move. Many times when he delays too long the door gets shut until he asks again.

There is nothing difficult about walking out the door and doing it in a timely manner, but there are obviously other factors involved which lead to his delay. These factors might include something he sees or smells or even as stated previously the temperature of the air. It may even have to do with whether or not the other cat in the house (with whom he does not get along) is hovering near him. And there are many times that my counting to three simply ends up with me opening the door, standing there for a minute or so (counting slow), and then closing the door. Whatever is out there is not enough for me counting to move him to action.

There are many truths in Scripture that encourage us to persevere or endure during times of trial. Romans 12:12 gives us three of them, ones that are linked to each other. The first of them is to “rejoice in hope.” In James 1:2-3 we read that we are to “consider it all joy when we encounter various trials knowing….” This knowledge, that trials are being used by God to grow and mature us and make us complete such that we are lacking in nothing, is one that is based in trusting our God leading to a hope that will not disappoint. In Philippians 4:4 we read that we are to rejoice in the Lord always, even having the instruction to rejoice being repeated as a bookend to the object of our rejoicing—our Lord Jesus Christ. In Romans chapter 5 we read about this link between tribulations, hope, and our God. “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3–5, NASB95)

So, when we feel pressed by some trial our response is to turn that pressure into an opportunity to praise God for His faithfulness and to watch and see how He responds. Waiting on Him means that we have to be patient. Philippians 4:5 tells us that the Lord is at hand. In James 5 we read, “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:7–8, ESV) He is at hand now and He is at His coming which is at a time known only to Him. Peter tells us more about the timing of our Lord from His perspective of time and not ours. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9, ESV) As we wait on His coming we also know that He is ‘at hand’ with us now and that He is faithful to act (Psalm 37:5).

“No temptation [trial, test, tribulation] has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted [tested, pushed, pulled or tried] beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NASB95)

So far we’ve considered that we are to (1) rejoice in hope and (2) be patient in tribulation. The third part is to be constant in prayer. In Philippians 4:6-7 we read, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NASB95) Since we are rejoicing in the hope we have in God and we are being patient waiting on His timing and His help, then it only makes sense that we also would turn our eyes and our prayers constantly to Him. In prayer we praise Him for who He is. Trusting in His truths, we also lift the concerns that are weighing on us to Him, submitting ourselves to His way of answering those prayers and resting in the ability that He gives us to endure.

Counting for counting’s sake may give us pause to think on things and make a more appropriate response. But Scripture tells us to count on things that we know as true and to rest in the One who is the source of that truth, then moving forward with the confidence that He indeed will act.

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