Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
I love the way J.B. Phillips phrases this verse: “Base your happiness on your hope in Christ. When trials come endure them patiently, steadfastly maintain the habit of prayer.” What Paul was saying is that the exercise of grace affects our convictions. What I mean is that your beliefs affects how you behave?. It’s true. As James told us, you know your faith by your works. You know you are standing beneath an apple tree because of the fruit hanging over your head. You can also tell what you believe by how you behave. Many Christians think they believe many things that they really do not believe. How do I know they don’t? Because they don’t put them into practice. Don’t say you believe God heals, and complain that you are sick. Don’t worry over your finances if you believe God is your provider.
Also, if you really trust the Lord and are committed to Christ, then you are going to obey him. You are going to do what he says. Your life, your words, your conversations, your friends, every aspect of your life are reflected by what you believe.
We are looking at how beliefs affect behavior, and we see that what verse 12 points to is the evidence of faith in God. It says that we are to “Base your happiness on your hope in Christ . . .” If you are down and depressed, you have no hope in Christ. Your trust, confidence, anticipation will be governed by your belief in your Messiah. When trials come you can “endure them patiently, steadfastly and maintain the habit of prayer.” The only way to rejoice in your hope is to have a hope based on your faith in Jesus Christ. There is always something to be thankful for and something to look forward to. Alexander Whyte, the Scottish preacher, always began his prayers with an expression of gratitude. One cold, miserable day the church people wondered what he would say. He prayed, “We thank Thee, O Lord, that it is not always like this.” Well, that works. Our hope is based in Jesus. Do you believe that?
I have a plaque I have displayed at work that was given to me by one of my daughter-in-laws, last Christmas. It reads: “Lord, this will be a good day!” (I added the explanation point). But did you notice, it does not read, “Oh dear God, please, please, make it a good day.” No! It sets my anticipation right from the start. Even if I was the worse customer, I can maintain my peace, and yes, it may take me more time, but I will resolve their problem and have a peaceful day.
As the days progress, we are going to face difficult days. Jesus told us quite plainly that in the end of days, times would be difficult. Well, the only way we are going to persevere in tribulation is to know that the Lord is with us in the midst of it and to trust his leadership in those hard times. The only way to be devoted to prayer is to believe that prayer works, to believe that there is a God who answers prayer, who is personally involved in your life. All of this boils down to whether you have a living faith in a living God. What are your convictions? What are those things you truly believe? If you find that by your behavior, you betray a lack of convictions, then go to your Father and ask him to give you a revelation of Himself, a revelation that will change your life. It will also change the lives of others around you.
If you are hopeful, others will be encouraged to hope. If you persevere under tribulation, others will know that they can persevere too. If you believe in prayer, others will benefit from your ministry to them through prayer. God’s grace flows through you to others.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome