I Understand the Command, but What Does it Look Like When I walk it Out? (Part Two)
Read: Romans 12:12; Romans 8:28-39
Last week, we looked at the first command that is given to us in Romans 12:12. We are to rejoice in hope; so, let's move on to the second of Paul's exhortations in this short but weighty verse. We are to be patient in our afflictions.
Let's be honest about something. If we were reading in Romans 12 and came across that command for the first time, might we wonder why God was asking us to be patient in our afflictions? After all, afflictions hurt. No one who is stable wakes up in the morning, makes the bed and then goes outside hunting for troubles; so why would God desire that we patiently walk them out? For one thing, Romans 12:12 has eleven chapters that precede it. In these chapters, precious truth is unfolded for us:
For example, in chapter 8, we are reminded that when we belong to Jesus, nothing that happens in our lives will ever separate us from Him and His love, Romans 8:38-39. We learn that He is praying for us, Romans 8:34 and that the Savior is for us, Romans 8:31. We are also supported by the precious truth that the One Who gave His life for us will also give us all that we need in the here and now, Romans 8:32. We discover the fact that the Lord is at work in our lives with the goal that we will grow to resemble Jesus more and more in how we act and react, Romans 8:28-29. He is actively working for our good and His glory. These truths and so many more are laid out for us to buoy us up prior to our having come across even one command in Romans 12. Before we even hear the command to be patient in our troubles, we are told that we are loved by the One Who has given the command. With that in mind, let's begin to unpack the second part of Romans 12:12.
Let's look into what the Bible says about afflictions: Job says that life is filled with them, Job 5:7, and the psalmist says that many are the afflictions of the righteous, Psalm 34:19. Yet, thankfully, the verse doesn't end there. We are told that the Lord delivers us out of them all. Jesus agrees. He says that in this world, we will have trouble. Yet, we are to be of good cheer because He has overcome the world, John 16:33. Paul also agrees. In 2 Corinthians 4:7-8, we are reminded that though there are all kinds of difficulties that squeeze us, they will not destroy us. Because of Jesus, we are victorious. The truth is that even though we are undergoing difficulties of many kinds, God is not aloof. I love John 11:3-4 where we learn that though Jesus delayed coming to Mary and Martha when He was told of Lazarus' illness, it wasn't because He didn't care about them. He loved the three siblings. It must have not felt that way as they waited for the Savior's arrival; yet, Jesus had a plan. That brings us into the next truth. God is sovereign. A simple way to look at that vast truth is that He is able to do or not do anything that He chooses. How does that help us to be patient in our afflictions? If we truly believe that God is at work in our everyday walk, we can take our hands off life's steering wheel because He is guiding and overseeing our lives.
I must pause now to say that by no means do I mean this truth to be cold or uncaring. Knowing that the Lord is in charge is very comforting, but understanding it doesn't take away the pain of weariness, loss or any other difficulty we are enduring. If there were no tears in this life, God would never tell us that He takes note of each one, Psalm 56:8. If there were no weeping, God would not encourage us that He has a day when it will cease and He will dry His children's tears, Revelation 21:4. In Isaiah 63:9, we are reminded that when God's children are afflicted, He also is afflicted. In addition to all of this, it is precious that this life's difficulties are not happenstance with no meaning. They are not like huge bouquets of flowers that are simply thrown together without an arranger to bring beauty out of the individual blossoms.
With those truths as background, let's think of being patient in our afflictions. The knowledge of God's truth can help us to undergo life's difficulties with a calm endurance. Each of us who belongs to Jesus is known and loved by Him. We are valuable to the One Who died for us, and being certain of that helps us to patiently undergo our trials. Here is a true story to illustrate the joy of being known and valued.
It was 1993 when firefighter Derek Bart was called to a house fire. The electricity was out, and the family had been using candles. They had gone to bed when the fire began. Bart entered the house, going from room to room. He saw the bunk beds and knew there must be a child somewhere. He looked in the places where children typically hide and saw the little girl who had hidden in the bathtub. Her face and hands were badly burned; so, he scooped her up and ran out of the home. He was too sad to even go to the hospital, but he wondered as the years passed by how she was doing. Twelve years later, he saw a woman with a name tag at Walmart. Her name was Myeshia, and her hands and face bore the marks of a bad burn. He had to find out if she was that child he had rescued. Yes, she was that little girl he had carried out of that burning house, and thankfully she was doing okay. Today, I heard both Myeshia and Derek on STORYCORPS. Myeshia was touched that the firefighter remembered her, and Derek Bart wanted her to never forget that she is valuable. How meaningful it was for Myeshia to hear those words.
How wondrous for us to hear those words too. Each of us, and each person we encounter is valuable to God. Each of us was knit together by the Lord, Psalm 139:13-16. Yet, so many people all around us don't know their value and that the Savior died for them, John 3:16. Yet for those of us who belong to the Lord, John 1:11-12, we have His love and sovereignty upon which we can rest. These truths enable us to be patient in our trials.
Next week, Lord willing, we will finish Romans 12:12.