Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.—Romans 12:12
A truly prescriptive verse, this serves like a field guide—direct, simple, yet certainly not “easy” in terms of accomplishing it.
First, if you are in Christ, you should be joyful. That couldn’t be more directly stated here. That joy is not necessarily synonymous with “happy”—I imagine in early Christianity when droves of followers were being martyred, Pharrell’s hit wouldn’t have made the cultural playlist of the day. No, this joy goes much deeper because it is not based on circumstances. It is based on hope, and hope—genuine hope—cannot be upturned by wily circumstances. Bad finances, divorce, sickness, death—the thing none of these can touch is future hope, protected by its very ‘futureness’ and the goodness of the promise-maker. We are joyful because we have hope, and when we feel our joy slipping, it is a strong reminder of hope that will restore our joy to us. If you are in Christ, you should be joyful. If you are in Christ and you are not joyful, it is an indicator that you are overly focused on the chaff-like dot of this life, and not the blissful, solid line that is eternity.
Second, we are to be patient in affliction. Sure, it is easy to be patient in the good times, like when the bank teller is counting out my money behind the counter—a hypothetical for me for lack of money! But it is much tougher when we deal in pain and inconvenience. Deeply we are to breathe and exit our own selves from the center of the universe, and, in doing such, allow for a peace that goes beyond our selves. Patience is an elusive thing, make no mistake, which may be way the last directive in the verse rings so true.
We must be faithful in prayer, and truly it is through this third command that the other two are made possible. When my joy is drying up, I pray to be refreshed and renewed by a steady deluge of hope. When I am impatient with my spouse, or my child, or a business situation, I am to pray to the God who showed ultimate patience with me in saving me, and daily patience with me in growing me. We are to be faithful in prayer because that is our nod that it is not in and of our own strength that joy and patience is achieved, but by the power of God in us. We rely on Him to empower us toward Christ-like achievement.
So today, be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and when you find yourself struggling in these areas and assaulted by the afflictions of the day, faithfully pray for God’s strength to rule your heart, change your ways, and compel you to love.