Christians must respond to #tribulations as people of eternity.
Romans 12:12b “…be patient in tribulation…”
It’s human nature to want the good news. We want to hear that we are loved and cherished and taken care of. These are the things toward which all humanity works. However, the reality is that this life is largely about tribulation; it’s about enduring trials and setbacks and disappointments with the occasional reprieve of good news. After all, the world is imperfect, so therefore its results will tend toward imperfection. How is a Christian supposed to respond to disappointments as children who are heirs to eternity, men and women who are the bride of the King of kings? We remember precisely that. We set our eyes on the eternity that is ours, and then we respond as people of eternity, not people of the temporal. Our joy and our love are based on the reality of being a child of God, so we live in those things not outside of the trials, but in spite of, and even sometimes because of the trials. But above all else, we set our hearts and our minds on the glory of God, remembering that all that we are and all that we do should be toward the goal of demonstrating the greatness and majesty of our Lord. For the heirs to eternity, this should be done as we celebrate the good times and as we are patient in the bad times.
Study/Meditation: Read 1 Peter 4:12-19. What does Peter say should be our reactions in the midst of trials and tribulations?
*Father, help me display Your glory to the world in the midst of my troubles. Give me wisdom to deal with life appropriately and lovingly, setting my eyes always on You. Amen.
The ultimate #hope of every believing heart is the glory of God.
Romans 12:12a “Rejoice in hope.”
Paul is a great proponent of rejoicing. He speaks of believers rejoicing in Romans 5: 2-3, 11 12:12, 15 15:10; 2 Corinthians 3:11; Philippians 3:1, 4:4; and 1Thessolonians 5:16. However, in all of his letters he is perhaps most clear in the one to the Romans on where to rejoice. He writes that we should rejoice “in hope.” He certainly doesn’t say to rejoice in our circumstances, nor does he even tell us to rejoice in our salvation, though that is surely a reason for rejoicing. No, in the context of God’s mercy, grace, and love, Paul tells us to rejoice in hope. He used this same phrase earlier in the letter in 5:2 which explains more on what this hope is in: “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” The hope in which we are to rejoice is God. John Piper said, “The ultimate hope of the human heart is not forgiveness or justification or heaven or freedom from disease. The ultimate hope of every heart is the glory of God. You were made to see and savor the glory of God.” (“Happy in Hope, Patient in Pain, Constant in Prayer,” John Piper, 2004, desiringgod.org) In all things we must set our minds and our hearts on the moment and eternity when we live in the magnificent presence of the Almighty Creator God, the Lover of our souls. This is truly a hope well meant for rejoicing.
Study/Meditation: In what ways can you practically, in your day to day walk, rejoice in the hope of the glory of God?
*Father, You are magnificent and mighty! You are my hope and my joy and may shield. I love You and worship You in all things. Amen.
“Resolved: To live with all my might while I live.” Jonathan Edwards
Romans 12:11 “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”
Paul has been writing in the previous verses about how the Christian is to love by God’s mercy. For the next couple of verses he will speak to the character traits that should embody a Christian, and he begins with character balance and focus as we serve the Lord. Paul had already used the word “zeal” in verse 8 when he said to lead with zeal. Now in this first phrase Paul is reminding us to not be lazy when we work for the Lord. He makes reference to this sort of steadfast working for the kingdom in 1 Corinthians 15:58 as well, but he quickly adds that with this steadfast working in the kingdom we are to be passionate and heartfelt too. There must be hands and heart, action and passion. Jonathan Edwards wrote it like this: “Resolved: To live with all my might while I live.” Our focus for this action and passion must be to serve the Lord. One must not win out over the other. We cannot be all heart and no work, nor can we be all work and no heart. Let us set our hearts on God’s promise to us in Jeremiah 29:13-14 as we serve Him today: “You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, declares the Lord.”
Study/Meditation: How do Jesus’ words in Luke 10:27 echo Paul’s words in Romans 12:11? What should this look like in your life?
*Father, help me be passionate and productive in Your kingdom. Show me where I should work and help me develop a heart that is pleasing to You in this work. Amen.
Honoring one another is to be other-centered. #service
Romans 12:10b “Outdo one another in showing honor.”
One sociologist has described the world today as “other-directed.” That is not what Paul is calling us to here. To be “other-directed” is to be focused on what others are doing and saying and how they are living in order to determine the best course for our lives. Showing honor to the brethren is not a weak approach to living where we are not anchored in God’s Word and His ways. Honoring one another is being “other-centered;” it is focusing on the needs and desires of others ahead of self and working to meet those needs. Again Paul is speaking to all of these directives in the context of love. We love each other by showing them honor, and this is oftentimes when we may not think they deserve it. We seek not to judge whether to honor others in our service and in our love or withhold it because of past hurts, but to give it selflessly because that is exactly what our Father has done for us. This is an expression of genuine love. If we love each other the way God wants us to love, then we will give of ourselves freely, seeking to honor one another in service as an expression of that love.
Study/Meditation: What does the bible say about honoring even those who aren’t necessarily worthy of that honor? (Read 1 Timothy 6:1, 1 Corinthians 12:21-26, and James 2:1-7)
*Father, show me how I might honor my Christian brothers and sisters today. Thank You for giving me the opportunity to do so. Amen.
Choosing who to #love with brotherly affection is not an option in the family of God.
Romans 12:10a “Love one another with brotherly affection.”
Most people don’t realize that brotherly love between peoples who had no racial, familial, or ethnic ties was absolutely unheard of in ancient times. Paul was calling his Christian brothers and sisters to something he knew was out of the realm of their comfort levels. Consequently, we shouldn’t be so surprised that we are being called to the same thing today, even when we look out across even our own churches and see people we really don’t want to love. God has not commanded something He doesn’t expect, nor does he command something He hasn’t equipped us to do. Augustine prayed this to God, “Lord, command what You will, and give what You command.” Remember that this section of Paul’s letter began with the phrase, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God…” (Romans 12:1) God has mandated that we not only get along with one another and serve one another with gladness, but He commands that we love one another as family. So, even though we all may seem fully unlovable at times, we lean on the mercies of our Father who gives us the hearts to do what He commands. We are the family of God. We share Him, and we love each other for that reason above all others.
Study/Meditation: What makes love for each other a “family love”? How might that look on a practical level?
*Father, thank You for bringing me into Your family. Help me to love my brothers and sisters as You command that I should. Amen.
Authentic #love discriminates.
Romans 12:9b “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”
In order to correctly deduce Paul’s meaning in the second half of verse 9, we must understand that in the original Greek, he did not begin a new sentence. In fact, verse 9 should read more like, “Let love be genuine, abhorring what is evil and holding fast to what is good.” Therefore his reference to making a distinction between good and evil is in direct relation to displaying authentic love toward one another. In other words, love discriminates between right and wrong, between good and evil. True love cannot be expressed in glossing over what is evil. Non-discriminating love isn’t love at all; it’s just universal tolerance. Love may choose to manifest itself in the face of evil, and it often does, but it will not ignore the distinction between good and evil. As Ligon Duncan said, “True love has its eyes wide open as to right and wrong, enemies and friends, and love manifests itself in such a way that those distinctions are not evaporated.” (“A Call to Love and Other-Centeredness,” Ligon Duncan, www.fpjackson.org)
Study/Meditation: How do you show love in a practical way while still making clear distinctions between right and wrong? Why is making this distinction vital in the Christian walk? (Hint: Read 1 John 5:2)
*Father, I look to Your Word to discriminate between good and evil. Give me the wisdom and discernment to make those distinctions so that I can correctly love Your people. Amen.