Joy, Patience, and Faithfulness

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:9-13

Joy. Patience. Faithfulness. Three very distinct marks of a Believer. They are also three very wonderful character traits to possess, they’re all related.

Think of it, you’re caring for your ailing but independent parents. Their health is deteriorating but they don’t want your help despite your numerous offers. You want to run (by not being available to help anymore) but you know you need to be patient. It causes you to be in constant prayer because, quite frankly, you don’t how you can help them any more than you already have. The joy comes when you realize that God is in control. Your hope in Him to see you through is greater than the situation. Period. Paragraph.

There are a million other situations that are similar to this: different players, different circumstances, same all-powerful God.

  • The runaway daughter cannot be found.
  • The alcoholic brother continues to destroy his life.
  • The man who walks away from his wife and children after 15 years of marriage.
  • The long time friend who wants nothing more to do with you.

Very real and very painful. All too common. Your instinct is to give up, but you know you need to persevere. And you will. You have the Holy Spirit inside helping you to make it through each. A year or two from now you’ll look back and wonder how you made it, but for now, you’re continuing to rest in God’s goodness. One little victory at a time.

Keep Your Spiritual Fervor

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:9-13

Anyone who has traveled on a missions trip knows that, odd as it seems, most of the time we don't go for the people we will eventually serve. Certainly many may benefit from the work we do or the sermons we preach or the encouragement we're able to give. And it's likely that our hosts will be extremely gracious and appreciative of us being there.

No, we go there to "change the world," and discover that actually we're changed inside and are more affected by what we see and hear and taste and smell than what we’re able to accomplish. Listen to people talk when they first return from a missions trip. Rarely will people talk about bad experiences. Sure they'll mention the flat tires and engine problems and construction gone wrong, but you’ll also hear a fire and a fervency in their voices, a renewed zeal that they would never get by sitting in a pew or attending a Youth Group meeting.

There are thousands of ways of serving the Lord, but if you've never ever been on an overseas missions trip, I'd encourage you to make the decision to go one one. I've seen 6-year-olds and I've seen 80-year-olds, so age should never be an excuse. You'll re-ignite your passion for Christ and His kingdom by serving Him this way. Plus you'll inspire others to follow in those steps.

Honor One Another

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:9-13

A youth group had finished a full day of yard work at a widow's house. The youth leader reported to the pastor their accomplishments and that the lady thanked the group from the Baptists for coming out. “Did you point out that you weren't Baptists and that you were from the Brethren church?” the pastor asked. The youth leader thought about it and said, “No, I didn't think it mattered.”

And it doesn't.

Could we accomplish more (in any aspect of our lives) if it didn't matter who got the credit? Perhaps, then, we should pray to this end.

How’s the Teamwork?

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:9-13

Have you ever been on a team that didn't act like a team? Back in the day I was known around my neighborhood by one of the parents as Mr. Ball Hog (granted, he didn't get points for originality but 35 years later I remember it). If I got the ball in football or baseball I wasn't about to pass it or share it with anyone (running across the field to tag someone out. I wanted the score. I wanted to do it myself. I wanted the glory of “doing it my way.” Every time. Obviously I didn't endear my friends because they wanted to play too. They were on my team but I didn't appreciate it.

I find the same kind of reality in the Christian world too, though, usually more subtle than my ball hogging antics! We have a team, a winning team. On our team are a lot of very different personalities and giftings. Friction is bound to occur between teammates because, well, none of us have quite “arrived” yet. And yet, our Manager has told us we need to play well together. If we don't our game will suffer. We'll still win in the end, but boy will it be an “ugly win.”

Instead of complaining against your fellow Believer, pray for him or her. You may even discover that the real “issue” wasn't with him/her after all.

A Good Thing

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:9-13

We see “goodness” all around us, usually without trying too hard. Obviously, though, there's a lot of evil, sick, twisted, and just plain bad stuff in the world too. Perhaps it’s time to change the lens we've been looking through. Some say the glass is half empty; some say half full; some say the glass was too big to begin with. And I realize that as I write this many people around the world (many of them Christians) are undergoing intense persecution that no man, woman or child should ever have to go through, so I don't want to be a Pollyanna and see only positive things.

Because there's a lot of bad stuff, we have to train ourselves to view the good. Watching an elderly couple walk down the street hand in hand is a good thing. Observing a child obey his parents is a good thing (some might even say a great thing!). Watching the sun set or rise is a good thing; watching someone paint that sunrise is also good. Spending time praying for a woman in the hospital is a good thing; spending time with that person in the hospital is also good. There are literally thousands of good things out there.

The Bible tells us we need to cling to those good things. Hang on to them and jot them down because, yes, you will see and hear about evil in the world. But we also can witness and actually do some of those good things. It doesn't have to be grandiose or the absolute best thing you’ve ever seen or done. The world needs more plain, ordinary, run-of-the-mill goodness, the goodness that comes from a changed life in Christ. You don't have to do it; you get to do it.

Hate What is Evil

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:9-13

The first sentence in this passage lays the framework for the entire passage. Love must be sincere. The rest of the passage, while not a complete description of sincere love, is certainly a good place to start.

Many people bristle at the word 'hate.' After all, the hallmark of a Christian should be love, right? But it's not hating just to hate; it's hating evil. And hating evil should be a hallmark of Christian belief. Then the question becomes, what is evil? Dennis Prager is a man who has devoted his life to bringing clarity to the subject of good and evil. He has defined evil as such: “the deliberate infliction of cruelty — mass murder, rape, torture, genocide, and totalitarianism” to name a few. Essentially, we know evil when we see it.

Ask God to help you hate evil. I know it's not exactly the most flowery or "churchy" prayer in the world, but evil exists and the more we hate it, the more we'll begin to take action to expose and eliminate it. Then ask God what your role should be in exposing it and eliminating it. His answer might surprise you.

Not Even Close

When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked.

"Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them."

And Elisha prayed, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:15-18

Every so often in the Bible we get a glimpse at what is happening in the unseen world. This is one such passage. In it we get insight into the spiritual realm. We don’t know how or when or who, but we do know the unseen world exists.

We are in a spiritual war. The enemy of our souls wants to destroy us. He and his minions want to pervert and taint everything that is good and right. He wants to discourage and humiliate and condemn. His goal is to tear us down. And he has nearly unlimited resources to do it.

But, fortunately, the God who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world. We often think that Satan is equal to God in strength and power. Not even close. That’s the deception that Satan wants us to believe! The next time you are under attack by the Enemy, call out loudly to God. Call out until you are rescued.

Small Miracles

The company of the prophets said to Elisha, "Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to live."
   And he said, "Go."
Then one of them said, "Won't you please come with your servants?"
  "I will," Elisha replied. And he went with them.
They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees.
As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water.
"Oh, my lord," he cried out, "it was borrowed!"

The man of God asked, "Where did it fall?" When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. "Lift it out," he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it. 2 Kings 6:1-7

In 2 Kings 2:9 Elisha requested a double portion of Elijah's spirit before Elijah was caught up in the whirlwind. Elijah performed 14 miracles; Elisha performed 28 – exactly double the number. The miracle of the floating axhead is one of those 28 miracles.

I find the miracle amusing. Presumably, because the company of prophets were cutting down trees, the iron axhead flew into the Jordan. It presented a big problem because the servant had said that he had borrowed it. That’s something we would do and say! Elisha caused the axhead to float again, and the servants went back to cutting down poles for their larger quarters.

As far as miracles go, it's not really all that exciting. Somehow it doesn't rank up there with the feeding of the 5000 or raising Lazarus from the dead or even the very next miracle listed: opening the eyes of his servant to see the horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha. And yet, God was working through Elisha to prove his power over the mundane and practical things of life, namely, an iron axhead
floating in the Jordan River.

Often God will let you in on those smaller miracles (your daughter comes home safely in
the midst of an ice storm or God gives you insight into a troubling matter at
work or God sends a new friend your way just when you need one). The papers
or TV will never carry those types of “miracles,” but like Mary in the New Testament,
you treasure all these things and ponder them in your heart (Luke 2:19). For when
you need them again, God will remind you about them – evidence of yet another
small miracle.

Greed is Good?

After Naaman had traveled some distance, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, "My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the LORD lives, I will run after him and get something from him."

So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. When Naaman saw him running toward him, he got down from the chariot to meet him. "Is everything all right?" he asked.

"Everything is all right," Gehazi answered. "My master sent me to say, 'Two young men from the company of the prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two sets of clothing.' "

"By all means, take two talents," said Naaman. He urged Gehazi to accept them, and then tied up the two talents of silver in two bags, with two sets of clothing. He gave them to two of his servants, and they carried them ahead of Gehazi. When Gehazi came to the hill, he took the things from the servants and put them away in the house. He sent the men away and they left. Then he went in and stood before his master Elisha.
   "Where have you been, Gehazi?" Elisha asked.
   "Your servant didn't go anywhere," Gehazi answered.

But Elisha said to him, "Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money, or to accept clothes, olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds, or menservants and maidservants? Naaman's leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever." Then Gehazi went from Elisha's presence and he was leprous, as white as snow. 2 Kings 5:19-27

“Greed is good.” Nowadays you hear the phrase a lot. But more often than not, greed will get you into a lot of trouble and excessive greed will put you into jail.

In the story above, the Prophet Elisha had just told Naaman to dip himself into the Jordan seven times to be healed. He did and was healed. Naaman offered to pay for that service. Elisha refused. Now we see Gehazi looking to make a little cash on the side. Obviously it doesn't do us any good to question the wisdom of trying to put something over on a man who is very very close to God and prophesies with accuracy on God's behalf. Gehazi's greed gets the best of him, because not only was he greedy, but he tried to cover up his sin. The coverup in most instances is much worse than the sin.

Gehazi’s greed was obvious. Wikipedia defines greed as the “self-serving desire for the pursuit of money, wealth, power, food, or other possessions, especially when this denies the same goods to others.” It’s painful to see that definition because we can relate more than we care to admit.