Aloha Friday Message – May 31, 2013 – Stay the Course

1322AFC053113 – Stay the Course

Read it online here, please.

Today’s scripture can be found here: Romans 12:11-12 especially verses 11 and 12.

Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

Do you ever feel so tired that you just cannot imagine going one step farther? Have you ever felt so defeated that it just didn’t matter anymore whether you win or lose, stay or go on, perhaps even live or die? IF so, I urge you to read the entire twelfth chapter of Romans (and eventually read the whole book of Romans). This part of Paul’s letters sounds a little like the book of Proverbs or other Wisdom literature in the Bible. Verse 9 says, Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good. That sets the tone for the rest of the paragraph you read by using the link above. The three phrases in this verse – when taken as instructions – could look like this: Love sincerely and without deceit by rejecting the bad things that happen and hanging on to the things that are good.

That is good, sound advice about relationships. Turn loose of the bad stuff that is bound to happen, and hold on to the good stuff that will surely happen. Be honest. Keep the good. Forget the bad. The same sort of good advice appears in verse 11: Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. If you are no longer enthusiastic about your faith, your marriage, your work, or your gifts – if you’ve lost your zeal – you can restore that enthusiasm by being ardent in spirit and serving the Lord. Most of the time when we burn out trying to be all that we can be, we forget to keep God in the equation. Paul is reminding us that we can be passionate and committed in our attitude toward life whenever we remember that we are best when we are serving God by serving others. We are worst when serving ourselves before others. Don’t hold back. Hold on. Or as in verse 10:Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. And honor God above all.

In verse 12 above, Paul directs us to “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” When I look at that I think about all the ups and downs we have in life. If only it could be true that instead of peaks and valleys, toil and danger, trouble and care we marched along a straight, level, safe, and well-made road without struggles or doubts. But we know that’s just not going to be the case, not in this world. And yet, Paul gives us instructions on how to smooth that road a bit so that the changes are easier to handle. First, as expected, we should rejoice in hope. I see that two ways: “Rejoice because have hope” and “rejoice hopefully knowing things will be better still.” It is hard to rejoice without hope. Rejoicing is about hope, either hope fulfilled or hope in things to come. Rejoicing because of hope is pretty easy; in fact, we can sometimes overdo it because it’s so uplifting.

It’s not always so easy to be patient in suffering, though. When I suffer, I also whine, groan, squint, and frown. It’s pretty hard to miss the message: “I’m suffering here! Have a little respect for the sufferer!” I think it’s easier to be impatient with the suffering than it is to overdo the rejoicing. Rejoicing feels good, but suffering does not. Sometimes we enjoy the sympathy so much we begin to enjoy the suffering, too. We are way off course then, and it’s easy to get lost on the road to recovery. Some of us, though, must suffer – we may have cancer, or deep emotional scars, or live in oppression. When the likelihood of recovery is taken away, it is difficult to rejoice and more difficult to suffer patiently. Paul gives us the remedy to restore balance in that situation.

We are to “persevere in prayer.” We must stay the course in prayer, keep at it, stick to it, make it last. That word “persevere” comes from Latin perseverare “continue steadfastly, persist,” from persevereus “very strict, earnest,” from per- “very” (see per) + severus “strict.” In Greek it is proskarterountes προσκαρτερέω (proskarterountes) and it carries the meaning of ” triumphant strength” – properly, to consistently showing strength which prevails (despite all difficulties); to endure (remain firm), staying in a set course; to devotedly continue to do something with intense effort.

This all has a familiar ring to it. If you turn to 1 Thessalonians 5:15-19, you find the same sage advice. And at the very end of that passage it says, “Do not quench [stifle; extinguish] the Spirit.” It is in the Spirit that we find our strength for perseverance. We are reminded not to give in to things that counteract the influence of the Holy Spirit. Do not expect to be able to rejoice fully when encumbered by sin. Do not expect to suffer patiently when praying for an end to the suffering rather than praying for the strength to endure the suffering. Stay the course. Remember your Destination. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

How in the world can we do that? In the World, we cannot, but “with God all things are possible” if we will remember His command to “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved.

 

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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