Hope, Suffering, & Prayer

Be joyful in hope, patient in suffering, faithful in prayer… Romans 12:12

Happy New Year! As we begin 2023 this morning we look at just one verse from Romans chapter 12. It’s made up of three short phrases which encourage us toward three actions.

 Be Joyful in Hope

Can we be joyful just by trying to follow a command? Can we make ourselves hope-filled – hopeful – just by thinking about it?

No, joy and hope are a result of other things:  being told “I love you” or… “Don’t worry, it will be all right” may be statements that give us joy or hope. Family love, feeling needed, having things turn out…all of these will occasionally result in a sense of joy or hope. Here is a strong promise by God to the people of Israel through the prophet Jeremiah. Listen to these words this morning as if they were spoken directly to you.

Jeremiah 29:11

11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Seeking God’s plan for us…accepting God’s will in our lives…believing that God has wonderful plans for us….creates hope  and joy. Here’s another well known scripture about faith and hope.

Hebrews 11:1

1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

How can we seek God’s will….how can we know God’s will for our life? Whether it’s through scripture, friends, or a direct word or vision from God…. It always requires faith.

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

This is the title of a famous piece of music by J.S. Bach. In this text, Jesus, himself becomes the source of our hope and joy. So perhaps we can rejoice in hope this morning by understanding that God has plans of future and hope for us, as well as recognizing the hope and joy we have in a relationship with Jesus.

Be Patient in Suffering

This second phrase is difficult. Why would we want to be patient in the midst of suffering?  What good does it do? This well-known passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans may give us a few hints.

Romans 5:1-5

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;

4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.

5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

I don’t pretend to be able to unpack all of this for you. But the inference seems to be that God can use our sufferings and difficulties….to make us more patient, to help us grow deeper in our faith. Perhaps you’ve experienced this in your own life.

  • Our hope and our sufferings are connected.
  • Our growth is connected to suffering.
  • Therefore our joy is also connected to suffering…. or how about this passage from James?

James 1:2-4

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,

3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Here we are not only commanded to be patient….but to rejoice (!) whenever we face trials or suffering. Again, the inference is that these trials and difficulties may be used by God to mature us and complete us!

So be patient. Let God use the struggles and problems in our lives for his glory and for our growth.

Remember, God doesn’t protect us from difficulties….He sustains us in those difficulties.

Be Faithful in Prayer   

Prayer is how we most directly communicate with God. Of course, there are many different kinds of prayer. In the psalms we find examples of prayer that include complaints, thanks, laments, as well as praise.

We are also told that the spiritual weapon most feared by our enemy, Satan, is prayer. Prayer is a life-long communication and we continue to grow in this practice and skill. If we’re ever confused or wonder HOW we should pray….remember that the simplest (and often most effective) prayer is to shout the simple word “HELP!” God is always near. Paul concludes his letter to the Ephesians this way:

Ephesians 6:18-20

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,

20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Let’s be a praying church this year. Find your manner and rhythm to regularly speak with God.

(the above is a summary of a few of the thoughts shared during our worship time on January 1, 2023.)