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Patience in Tribulation

August 31st 2014 by Joel Schultz

The Epistle reading today is a list of behaviors that are marks of a Christian. The words are pointed and should make us stop and consider our lives of faith. However, this morning I want to direct our attention specifically to verse 12: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” How are we to be patient in tribulation? Read or listen to find out more...

Proper 17A – Romans 12:9-21 – “Patience in Tribulation” - August 31, 2014 The Epistle reading today is a list of behaviors that are marks of a Christian. The words are pointed and should make us stop and consider our lives of faith. However, this morning I want to direct our attention specifically to verse 12: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

I do not golf much. It doesn’t fit into my family life very well right now. As a result, my game suffers from lack of consistent play. In fact, it seems like the only time I’ve been on the course in the last few years is for the LHS golf outing (btw – that is coming October 4th!). It is a good thing that it is a scramble and we simply play the best shot. Although I believe my team played one of my shots last year!

There was one hole out at Drumm Farm last year that I found very frustrating. I believe it was a par 4 but looked more like a par 6 or 7… the flag was a long way away. There was something about that hole that caused me to do exceptionally poorly. I believe that I teed off a dozen times and none of them were even close to being a good shot. I lost my patience and was ready to give up and just watch the rest of the day. Thankfully it was a scramble so I packed it up got in the cart, drove to Gary Levan’s shot , and dropped my ball there.

When problems and difficulties – tribulation – come in our lives it is also very easy to lose patience and to simply walk away or try to take matters into our own hands. That’s why Paul’s words are a blessing for us today. Paul reveals that patience is a gift from God.

In Romans, Paul reveals the bounty of God’s mercies. Formerly, we were enemies of God, but now, because of Jesus Christ, we are the people of God. God’s mercy not only forgives our sins, but it also transforms our lives (v 1). And what is great about God’s mercy, which Paul has been talking about for the bulk of 11 chapters, is that it renews our patience in the face of tribulation.

Paul knows that when we undergo tribulation – difficulty, trials – it is hard not to lose patience. After all, he is not talking about the trials of playing golf. Paul is speaking of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh fighting against us, seeking to take away the comfort of our salvation.

Being a Christian is difficult. Confessing God’s Word to a world that doesn’t want to hear is hard. Showing love to one’s enemies, holding fast to what is good, practicing mercy, fighting for justice, living in peace with others – these things are hard and, at times, we find ourselves saying, “I’m losing my patience.” We are tempted to give up and walk away or take control of the situation ourselves.

If you have ever found yourself falling into either of those errors, listen to Paul, because he has a word of encouragement for you. God in His mercy renews our patience. Standing firm in His grace, we neither walk away nor take control. Instead, we are patient in tribulation because God strengthens us in tribulation, offering us prayer and hope.

Let me share the first of the two main ideas Paul would seek to share with us. First, Patience in tribulation does not walk away but remains constant in prayer. One challenge to patience is the temptation to give up. We are tempted to lay down our arms in battle, to believe that nothing is worth this suffering, to feel that no one cares anyway and, therefore, to walk away.

We go to church. We are faithful. But at time it seems we suffer more than non-Christians. We suffer the ending of jobs, the ending of marriages, debilitating sickness and disease, even the death of loved ones. You know, why believe in a God who would do that/ allow that to happen??

This temptation could have easily overtaken the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a prophet to God’s people who urged them to repent and turn back to the LORD. He warned them of the coming judgment for their sin. He warned them that that judgment would come at the hand of the Babylonians. But the people didn’t listen.

Instead, because of God’s Word, Jeremiah is a laughingstock (Jer 15:15). His loneliness (15:17) and frustration leads to complaint and accusation against God (15:18); Jeremiah even questions God’s earlier promises. Yet in the midst of tribulation, Jeremiah does not walk away. He comes before God in prayer, and in mercy God answers. God responds to Jeremiah’s suffering prayer with a promise of steadfast mercy (15:20).

God, in Christ, has come and endured our trials, suffering for our sin and opening the way of salvation to us. God’s great Good News to us is that because of Christ, He is in relationship to us, invites our prayers, listens to our cries and our anger when we are in the midst of suffering, and even gives us His Spirit to intercede/ pray for us (Rom 8:26-27).

In the midst of tribulation, therefore, we do not walk away but trust in God’s mercy and call out to God in prayer. So, again, the first main idea this morning: We are patient in tribulation by being constant in prayer.

Here is the second main idea in this message from Paul: Patience in tribulation does not take control but rejoices in hope. Another challenge to patience in the face of tribulation is the temptation to take control of the situation. We want to impose our will on a situation. We rely on our effort to bring an end to the suffering.

This temptation overtakes Peter in his reaction to Jesus’ prediction of His suffering and death. Peter and the disciples don’t like the idea of their Messiah/ Savior/ Lord going to Jerusalem to die. That can’t be right. But they do not have in mind the things of God (Mt 16:23); therefore, they seek to take control of the situation and “save” Jesus’ life.

Our temptation is the same – to deny the cross and take control of our lives. Jesus, however, as with the disciples, opens our minds to the things of God – the Gospel – that He must suffer and die – and reveals how that vision changes life in this world. Rather than be in control of one’s life, one lives in hope, losing one’s life and trusting in the ways of God – ways that don’t always make sense to us.

In fact, earlier in his Letter to the Romans, Paul reveals that tribulation in God’s hands is part of our growth (5:3-5). Through the endurance of suffering, we are formed in hope – our eyes are turned from this world to the future glory made certain for us in Christ. God’s certain love gives us hope.

The mom who raised her children to fear and trust the Lord above all things is distraught that they have turned away from the Lord. But the mother continues to cling to Jesus. She come to church, witnesses, and prays. She continues to live in hope that they will turn back.

The man lost his job and struggles greatly to provide for his family. Yet he continues to come to church and even puts money in the offering plate, because he lives in hope that the God who has been faithful in the past and continues to be faithful in the present will also be faithful in the future.

The high school student is ridiculed and made fun of because of his belief in creation and his moral stand against under-aged drinking and pre-marital sex. Yet in the midst of tribulation, he continues to come to the Lord’s house and rejoices in the hope he has in his Savior.

We all come to the Lord’s Supper frustrated and burdened, struggling with the trials and temptations of this sinful world, our sinful flesh and satan himself and here we find a God who loves us and unburdens us, a God who forgives us and restores us – and then we go forth rejoicing in hope knowing that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:39). Even in tribulation, we know that we are kept by grace in the ways of God; therefore, we do not take control rather We are patient in tribulation by rejoicing in hope.

Patience in tribulation is like walking a tightrope and not falling on either side, In the midst of suffering, we don’t walk away and we don’t take control of the situation, relying on ourselves. Instead, we trust in God’s mercy shown to us in Jesus. He is our lifeline in the midst of tribulation. We stand firm in Him, speaking to God in prayer and rejoicing in the hope that He works all things together for our good.

When Paul encourages us to be patient in tribulation, he puts that encouragement between two other exhortations: rejoice in hope and be constant in prayer. For Paul, these three things belong together: patience, hope, and prayer. In the midst of tribulation, we remember God’s mercies and remain joyful in hope, patient in tribulation, and constant in prayer.

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