Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
This section of Romans is loaded with pithy aphorisms as guides to life, much like the book of Proverbs. This particular verse is more compact and poetic in English, but the Japanese gives a little more depth of understanding because of the particular characters used. “Joyful in hope” is pretty straightforward, but the characters used for “affliction” explicitly include illness, and are the same combination used in John 16:33. There are those who teach that “Healing is our birthright,” and somehow imply that anyone who isn’t in perfect health is lacking in faith. That is a terrible distortion of Biblical truth. It is indeed true that Jesus healed “all who were oppressed by the devil,” (Acts 10:38) but it is clear that Paul, Timothy, and others had various physical problems. We aren’t more “spiritually advanced” than they were! God is indeed our Healer, (Exodus 15:26) but sometimes physical healing waits for heaven. When it comes to “faithful in prayer” the Japanese tells us what that looks like: “work at prayer without giving up.” That sounds like Jesus’ story of the widow and the unjust judge! (Luke 18:1-8) We don’t like to think about “working at” prayer. Prayer is a privilege and a joy, but let’s face it, we get tired. We are spoiled by an “instant” culture, and have little tolerance for delayed gratification. Psychologists will tell you that traps us in immaturity, since tolerance for delayed gratification is one of the hallmarks of maturity. From our perspective we can see that the early believers indeed “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) in a remarkably short period of time, but for those living through it, it still took years and years. We need to adjust our perspective and leave timing in God’s hands, without giving up either faith or hope.
Well, this certainly applies to me! I am too prone to let things blunt my joy and I have plenty of room to grow in prayer. By God’s grace I have learned a lot about enduring medical problems, but more in my wife’s body than in my own. However, as Paul pointed out, there’s not much distinction there. (Ephesians 5:28) Rather than being complacent about anything, I need to keep pressing in for more of God, being more and more conformed to the likeness of His Son. (Romans 8:29) I need to encourage others, not as someone who has “arrived,” but as someone who is on the road with them, having tasted the grace and mercy of the Lord. I don’t think there’s any honest person alive who can go through this section of Romans and check everything off, but there’s no question that the better we follow this, the more we will be filled with the peace and joy of the Lord.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for all that You are doing in and around us. Keep me from being distracted by the “mess of construction,” but rather look forward with joy to the completion that is in store, whether I see it in this life or not. Thank You. Praise God!