If only Paul had stuck to his theme. I mean, it’s his best-known brand logo — sung at weddings, preached from pulpits. What could be better than faith, hope and love? Obviously nothing, right? Even he said, “the greatest of these is love.”
Did he have to mess it up with patience? Really?
Yep, that’s what he did, right in the middle of his letter to the church in Rome. The letter we happen to be trying to focus on. Paul can be so irritating. Listen to how he gets it wrong:
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.*
Was it really too hard for him to substitute love for patience? Of course, then he also talks about affliction. Like we need to be reminded of that!
Well, for Paul’s sake, we’ll break it down and see if we can swallow this pill any easier.
Remember, we’re talking about living the transformed life. It’s a high calling, but someone’s got to do it, and Jesus wants it to be you and me. Just in case you’ve forgotten, some of that requires loving sincerely, clinging to good things, being lovingly devoted to others and showing them honor, while maintaining your spiritual fervor.
How are you doing so far?
No worries, I’m right there with you. We’ll press on by his grace.
So, in this short, but painful verse, Paul tells us to “be joyful in hope.” Have you ever seen a sad hopeful person? If we’re honest, we can all say, “Yes,” because there are some pretty miserable Christians out there who are just counting the days until Jesus comes back, because this life is not worth living. I don’t know anything more depressing or that provides more reason for nonbelievers to want to stay as far away from Christianity as possible.
Do you think that’s why Paul had to remind the Romans to stay joyful in their hope? I do, because the next phrase is a big giveaway for the reason: He said be “patient in affliction.”
These first-century believers were living under the oppressive thumb of a ruler who not only thought himself god, but didn’t want anything to do with those who followed “The Way.” One of them even burned the city and blamed it on the Christians, just to cause them problems. How much more affliction could you want?
But Paul says, be patient in what you’re suffering. Don’t let your affliction suck the joy from the hope you have in Christ. Does this resonate with anyone out there?
That’s probably why he ends his little triplet with telling them to be “faithful in prayer.” Oh, how that affliction should bring us to our knees. However, sometimes we find that when, after we’ve prayed once or twice for our cup of suffering to pass, we stop when God doesn’t seem to answer. That’s why we have to be faithful.
Don’t stop praying when troubles come. Stay faithful in prayer. Keep the line of communication open with God.
Prayer powers patience.
Patience powers joyful hope.
So, even though we have three wonderful things in the Christian life — faith, hope and love. Sometimes we need patience to see us through.
Grace and Peace
Romans 12:12 (NIV)