As you might’ve noticed, 12:9-21 is a staccato burst of short little commands which Paul gives to us as believers. Keep in mind that this is all under the heading of “Therefore” in verse one. Because of what God through Jesus has done for us, we need to think and act a certain way. Concerning today’s reading, is there any type of pattern? I could be wrong (wouldn’t be the 1st time), but it seems to me that these verses seem most apropos as to how we’re supposed to react when life gets rough, especially in times of persecution or extreme hardship. When the squeeze is on, we need to. . .
· be joyful in hope. Let’s reverse it: Hope should make us joyful. Why? Because when you know that the ending of the Story is a happy one, you can revel in joy. From MacArthur, joy is “[a] happiness based on unchanging divine promises and eternal spiritual realities. It is the sense of well being experienced by one who knows all is well between himself and the Lord.” It’s not a feeling that falls upon you like a meteor from the sky; it’s a conscious decision to focus on God’s truth which will lift your spirits.
· be patient in affliction. This parallels nicely with the last command. When the heat is on, we can call upon his Spirit to produce within us the fruit of patience. Of course, you can be patient when you have something better to look forward to (in hope).
· be faithful in prayer. This should be obvious. Naturally, being “faithful” in prayer means you come to his Throne on a regular basis when times are good as well as bad.
· share with fellow believers who are in need. In verse 13 Paul moves from our vertical relationship to our horizontal ones. Of course we should be generous with everyone, but we have a special responsibility to siblings in Christ. This certainly fits into my pattern of seeing these commands as being especially appropriate when we’re facing extra pressure in life, right? One of the main purposes of the Body of Christ is to support each other. If one part hurts, we all hurt. If one part is in need, that’s my need as well.
· practice hospitality. According to the NASB and NET Bible, this would be better translated as “pursuing” instead of merely practicing. It might not make a huge difference, but it seems as if when you pursue something, you go out of your way and expend some effort, as opposed to merely letting someone in who comes to your door. And please keep in mind that when the early generations of Christians were persecuted and had to flee, they often would have to rely on the hospitality of fellow believers who’d take them into their own homes. This could literally be a life saver.
It seems to me that when life gets rough and puts the squeeze on us, a general pattern seems to be that we need to look up--in hope towards the skies, and around us--to other believers to comfort and provide for each other. Sounds pretty good to me. How’s about you?
Lord Jesus, when I feel life is crowding around me and pushing in from all sides, it’s good to know that through you I can have joy in hope, and I can have support from the other parts of your Body. Thank you so much.
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