As I sat down to write this, I received word that my dear friend battling cancer is in really tough shape in the hospital. Our world is exploding again with racial tensions in response to the criminal deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. Neighbors call the police on each other for gatherings that do not meet federal guidelines. Lives are lost every day to COVID. People are impatient to get back to life as normal. Anxiety and fear over what re-entry will look like continue to dominate people’s thought life. Tensions are high.
Frankly, I am really disappointed. I thought that our world would be different. I have been praying for revival, for hearts turned to Christ, for physical and spiritual healing all over the world.
Instead, we see a world still plagued by pain, sickness, racism, judgment, fear.
I am weary.
Today, when I was praying, I prayed this familiar verse over a friend, and it’s power overwhelmed me.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12
Such simple words, yet such profound implications.
Be joyful in hope.
Be joyful in hope? Really? I don’t have a lot of hope right now. I was hopeful at the beginning of the pandemic that people would turn to the Lord, but that hope has ebbed as I’ve seen our world go on and on without inviting God into this pain.
My women’s Bible class table met via Zoom to study the book of Philippians together, and I am reminded that Paul didn’t pen these words as a command to live to some standard. This is how he lived his life, and he wants that better life for those to whom he was writing. His eyes were focused upward on his eternal home in glory, and all of his hope was focused on the cross of Christ.
What does he say about this hope? …”and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5 Another translation says, “this hope will not lead us to disappointment.”
And it dawns on me: the reason I am so disappointed with our world is that my hope has been misplaced. Yes, I’ve prayed for revival, but my hope has to be fully placed in our sovereign God and in His good plans.
Like Paul, my hope needs to be fixed firmly on the eternal, but I also need to do all that I can while I am here on this planet to bring the gospel to a world in need. I remember Pastor Ayars quoting the saying, “don’t be so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good.” You and I have been entrusted with the good news of Jesus Christ, and we need to be faithful to our calling every day that we live on this earth.
Be patient in affliction.
Why does Paul write this? Because it needs to be said. When we are in pain, all we can think is, when will this be over? How long until I feel normal again?
During a workout recently, the instructor encouraged us to smile when you feel the pain of a workout. He said, That’s when it’s working – tell yourself you love that feeling because that tension is where the results come.
Similarly, Paul and Peter and James say over and over in the New Testament – You feel that tension? You are afflicted and suffering? Rejoice! This is when the good things are happening! You are growing, you are developing character, you are becoming more Christ-like, and, on the other side of this, there will be results. Here’s one example:
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…” Romans 5:3-4
And so this morning, I am taking a deep breath and reminding myself to be patient. To move into this affliction and to rejoice in it, trusting that God’s bigger plan is being worked out.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at the next part of this verse: be faithful in prayer.
I am praying that the Holy Spirit manifests joy and patience in you today!