Often in scripture I come across statements like the one here in Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.” And I find that the last item in the list is usually the place where you start and that leads you to item number two and finally to number one. Here we find that being persistent in prayer will indeed lead you to being patient in affliction, and we’ve previously talked about Romans 5:3-4, “We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.”
Let’s follow the path given us in Romans 12 though, and start with rejoicing in hope. We talked in episode 23 about the word hope meaning confident expectation of what is going to happen. You get that confidence from experience. My kids, when I tell them something is hot, they have experience to put confident expectation in what I am telling them. So we have this same thing with God. We have this experience that when God says something that it is true. So Gods promises we can have hope in them. We can this confident expectation that they are going to happen. When we trust and hope in God He is honored and worshipped by it, especially when we rejoice in that hope. Habakkuk 3:16-19 says, “I heard, and I trembled within; my lips quivered at the sound. Rottenness entered my bones; I trembled where I stood. Now I must quietly wait for the day of distress to come against the people invading us. Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though the flocks disappear from the pen and there are no herds in the stalls, yet I will celebrate in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! The Lord my Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights!”
In the first two chapters of the book of Habakkuk God tells its author that He is going to send Babylon to occupy the Israelites as a judgment against them. Based off the tone and wording used in the third chapter I would estimate that it was written after the people of Israel were taken captive by the Babylonians. You can read more about all of that in the book of Daniel, but here in Habakkuk chapter three we see the prophet crying out to God from a place where it seems like there should be no hope: the fig tree does not bud, there is no fruit on the vines, the olive crop has failed and the fields are producing no food, the flocks have disappeared from their pens and there are no herds in the stalls. Can you imagine it? Your whole life as a nation, as a people, as a person has become desolate and you’re in captivity. And yet, Habakkuk says he is going to celebrate in the Lord and rejoice in the God of his salvation. Habakkuk has a confident expectation that God will keep the promises that he’s previously made concerning the people of Israel. Even there amongst an occupying army when he is surrounded by evidence to the contrary Habakkuk rejoices in the Hope that he has.
Just as we honor and worship God with our trust and hope, one of the ways we serve God is with our patience in the face of affliction. James 1:3-4 says, “You know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” And 1 Peter 2:19-20 says, “It brings favor if, because of a consciousness of God, someone endures grief from suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if when you do wrong and are beaten, you endure it? But when you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God.” My favorite theologian, Matthew Henry, said, “Patience for God’s sake, and with an eye to his will and glory, is true piety. Observe, those that rejoice in hope are likely to be patient in tribulation. It is a believing prospect of the joy set before us that bears up the spirit under all outward pressure.”
Lastly, or firstly as it ends up being, we must be persistent in prayer. It is said that prayer is a friend to hope and patience and is our duty of respect to God. In Luke 18:2-8 Jesus tells a story, “There was a judge in a certain town who didn’t fear God or respect people. And a widow in that town kept coming to him, saying, “Give me justice against my adversary.” For a while he was unwilling, but later he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or respect people, yet because this widow keeps pestering me, I will give her justice, so that she doesn’t wear me out by her persistent coming. Then the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. Will not God grant justice to His elect who cry out to him day and night? Will he delay helping them? I tell you that He will swiftly grant them justice. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on Earth?” We have to be persistent in prayer constantly before the face of God like the widow was with the judge. The scriptures are full of commands to pray; Ephesians 6:18-19, “Pray at all times in the spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.” Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.” Over and over throughout scripture we find this theme of prayer; pray, pray, pray without ceasing, pray, pray pray.
When we turn to the book of Hebrews chapter 5 starting in verse 7, talking about Jesus it says, “During His early life, he offered prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. Although He was the Son, He learned obedience from what he suffered. After He was perfected, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him, and He was declared by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.” All that to say if you find yourself overwhelmed by this area or lacking in fulfilment here, then you should really cut yourself some slack, it took Christ his whole life to truly fulfill this idea of rejoicing in hope, being patient in affliction, and persistent in prayer.
Until next time…