Romans 12:12: Suffering Survival Kit

Outline

  • Rejoice in hope
  • Patient in tribulation
  • Constant in prayer

Introduction

‘But man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward,’ these are the famous words of Job 5:7. Suffering is the inevitable portion of every child of Adam. This suffering is a result of the fall, all of God’s creation was put under the curse but a promise was given of a Saviour who would make all things new. In the OT when God wanted to point forward to that New Creation He would suspend some of the effects of the fall. He did this for the nation of Israel, promising them blessings for their obedience. They would be fertile, fruitful, prosperous, at peace, and healthy. However, as NT believers we are living in a different era where God is no longer manifesting His kingdom through types. The Kingdom has come in the Incarnation, the death and resurrection of Christ. He has ascended to the right hand of God and is ruling over all creation. However, the full arrival of that new day is being delayed while God gathers a people from all nations. And so our portion is one like Christ’s. As goes the King so goes the Kingdom, and so as Christ has the time of His humiliation and then His glorification, we follow the Master through humiliation being hated and treated as He was. We suffer along with the rest of the world, we get cancer, lose our jobs when the economy fails, and share in the common lot of man; but with the added suffering of being Christians. Knowing how to cope with suffering then is necessary.

Our text this morning assumes this reality of suffering and gives us a little suffering survival kit, Romans 12:12, ‘Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.’ Paul gives us three exhortations/commands, rejoice, be patient, and be constant in prayer. The verse literally reads, ‘to the hope—rejoicing; to the tribulation—enduring; to the prayer—persevering. Paul points us to three things that only Christians can have. Because of the certainty of our hope we are able to experience true joy while suffering in light of what will one day be ours. We are able by the Holy Spirit to be patient and endure difficulties, even rejoicing and growing through them. And it is only Christians who are in Christ, who in the name of Christ can come in the throne room of the Holy God to be heard in prayer. These three things of hope, patience and prayer are gathered together in Romans 8:24-26 as well as our response to a creation that is groaning and a life full of pain.

When it comes to suffering these three things mutually inform each other. So that when we endure we do not merely endure stoically but with joy. When we rejoice, it is not for a mere moment but a persevering joy. When we pray we do not merely do it dutifully as a slog but with joy, and so on. Where you have the one the other two will be in close proximity.

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