Last week we started tackling this passage and I looked at the very strong witness of the New Testament of how important ‘one another’ is, and then went on to think about the things we can do to enhance fellowship in the things we do and the way we relate to one another, I looked at devotion, honour, sharing, and hospitality. I noted that if the church could get to grips with these 4 things, it would be totally transformed.

Today , I am going to dig into what Paul says about our inner man. reading verses 11–13, again …

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Today, we will look at 4 aspects of the inner man which are identified with the following statements …

  1. Do not be lacking in zeal, but be fervent in spirit (v11).
  2. Be joyful in hope (v12).
  3. Be patient in tribulation (v12).
  4. Be faithful in prayer (v12).

Looking at these, we can see that we should try to develop the characteristics of zeal and fervour. We should be joyful in hope, we should be patient in tribulation (you can draw a straight line between patience and self-control), and we should be faithful in prayer.
Let’s look at these in turn:

Zeal/Fervour.

Romans 12:11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.

Look up “definition of Zealous” on Google and you will be told it is an ‘(adjective) marked by fervent partisanship for a person, a cause, or an ideal : filled with or characterised by zeal’. I wish that every Christian I meet would be a Zealot according to that definition! Zeal (or what we would call fanaticism) is viewed with mistrust, it is particularly strong in British culture, especially if it involves some form of emotionalism.

It never ceases to amaze me that no one bats an eye if thousands of men jump and shout and scream and cheer when a man kicks a bag of wind into a net strung between two posts (I’m talking about soccer of course), but if I show a degree of passion when worshipping the King of kings and Lord of lords, I am dismissed as being overly emotional and somehow not quite British!

But the Bible commends zeal, Jesus is recorded by the Gospels as saying, Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul and with ALL your strength and with ALL your mind (Luke 10:27; Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30). Paul writes Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord (Romans 12:11). He also says, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (Colossians 3:23), these verses (amongst others) show us not only the importance of wholehearted commitment, they also tell us why, Jesus says “Love the Lord”, Paul writes in Romans that our zeal should motivate our “serving the Lord”. In Colossians he commends “working for the Lord”. The focus and motivation for all we do is God Himself.

One of the disciples was Simon the Zealot, he was defined by zeal, but not in a good way, Zealots were a group of Jews who believed that Rome had no place in Israel and that the only way to remove them is through force and insurrection. They had no hesitation killing any Roman they could and those who collaborated with them. For the Zealots of Jesus’ day, this passion and zeal spilled over into physical action and violence towards those who opposed them. Calling Simon a ‘zealot’ would be like calling someone Dave the terrorist, or Susan the murderer or something similar.

But zeal is something Paul calls us to nurture. Everything we do, the effort we put into our lives is (or should be) for The Lord. Who we are, and how we act is fundamentally determined for us by our faith, the passion with which we believe influences directly the zeal we have. One of the biggest problems with the church is a lack of passion, people can believe in anything and still be an anglican (illustration: when I was going through the process of selection for ordination, I was told that there are some anglican ministers whose wives are witches and that is ok as long as they are allowed to discharge their parish duties). The problem with being allowed to believe in anything is that people end up believing in nothing.

At the very least, faith becomes anaemic and insipid. You can lose your zeal. This happened to the Ephesians, Paul wrote to them around AD60–62 and Ephesians is a great book, yet when John is on Patmos about 30 years later, and sees his Revelation, Jesus says what he thinks about the Ephesian church, Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first (Revelation 2:4). Lack of zeal is also something that happened to the Laodicean church: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth (Revelation 3:14–16).

The challenge for us is hold these things in tension. We MUST retain our passion and zeal without allowing it to spill over into violence. One of the things which zeal can do is tip us over the edge from passion into violence, and we cannot, we must NEVER do this. Yet we must also NEVER lose our passion for God, with the passing of time.

Joy

Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Rejoicing and Joy are connected very strongly, I want to suggest this. Joy is a condition (if you like) of our hearts, and rejoicing is the expression of that condition. Joy may or may not be an emotion, but rejoicing is CERTAINLY a choice. If that were not so, we wouldn’t be able to make a decision to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15).

The world we live in today, with all of its crime, disorder, and any number of the bad things that can happen to anyone of us at anytime. We don’t even have to suffer these things, the fear of them so easily robs people of their joy, and we see it all around us. Very seldom do we see people smiling anymore. Look at people when you walk down the street, and even if they do make eye contact, very rarely do you see anyone smile. No one seems to be happy anymore and everyone seems to be carrying around the weight of the world on their shoulders. This can be as true for Christians as it is anyone else, the imperfections of our own fallen nature, combined with how people react differently to adversity means that some Christians have literally had most, if not all of their joy in the Lord, knocked right out of them.

Learning to be joyful in hope is a desperately needed quality nowadays. No matter how bad a beating you may have taken in this life, if you can grasp hold of joy, you will survive in a way that impresses people around you. So, HOW do we appropriate Joy? Here are some Biblical hints:

  • the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
  • We write these things so that your joy might be complete (1 John 1:4). What things ? That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:1–3).
  • For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy (1 Thessalonians 2:19,20).
  • Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds (James 1:2).

One of the things that God can fully restore in you is your joy in Him. Joy is not found in your circumstances, it is found in the Lord, so the best, the most beneficial, the most effective way to rejoice is in the Lord. Not only can the Lord fully restore what joy you used to have in Him, but He can also increase it to a much greater degree and intensity! Once God starts to release His joy into your system, you won’t be able to help but feel it. And once you are able to start feeling it again, it will become much easier for you to learn how to walk back in it in your own daily walk with the Lord. This makes a real difference when we face the struggles and worries that are common to all people.

Here are some of the different Christian understanding of joy:

  1. Great delight; gladness of heart
  2. The happy state that results from knowing and serving God
  3. That deep, abiding, inner rejoicing in the Lord
  4. To rejoice, to be glad
  5. Happy, joyful, cheerful, rejoicing, festive

Without God’s joy operating in your life, things can begin to dry up. Nothing is ever fun anymore. Everything can start to become a chore. Before you know it, you will want to start to withdraw from others and for some, withdraw from life in general.

The joy of the Lord can really give you an incredible surge of strength in your own daily walk with God – especially when you have to take on some really tough situations.

This is why each Christian should work very closely with the Holy Spirit in not only getting Him to release His joy into their system, but to also keep it running through them on a very regular and consistent basis. The Holy Spirit will do this for you if you are open to His influence in your life, and are willing to work with Him to keep it properly flowing through you on a regular basis.

Patience

Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

If we’re honest, most of us would admit that one of our least favourite words is patience. In a ‘me first’ western culture we can often get what we want, when we want it. Whether it’s Burger King saying, “Have it your way” or the Staples slogan, “That was easy,” our natural desire to be selfish only seems to be magnified by the messages marketed to us on a daily basis. It shouldn’t be a surprise that patience is nearly impossible to find in our culture. Get behind the wheel of a car for any length of time and you will see around you people who seem to have lost all concept of being patient! We even have a condition nowadays known as “road rage” which is essentially borne out of people’s unwillingness to be patient with one another.

We have lives filled with instant everything – coffee, microwave meals, instant grab glues, even instant teas! Queue busters in supermarkets because people won’t even wait to be served in a busy supermarket. It is reckoned that if a web page doesn’t load within 2 seconds then people go elsewhere, so computers and phones have to be faster and faster at processing. And we all fall for it, 20 years ago we were pleased with internet speeds of 56kb/s, now our broadband at home delivers over 70mb/s (last night’s test gave 74.3)

Give me patience, but do it NOW! My Dad would say, anything with value in it was never gained in one short minute. How do we cope when we’re going through hard times? We pray ‘make it better God and make it better NOW!’. But one thing we must understand about God is that He is very patient and long-suffering. He works on a different timescale, and we can never rush Him! His ways are not our ways and one of the things you must get to grips with about His ways is that He works on a much slower time frame than we do. we will never get to grips with our faith and live in the fulness of life until we learn to understand that our lives are determined according to His timescale and not ours. Unless we learn to adjust to His way of working things out, we will find ourselves easily losing patience with Him and how He wants to work things out in our lives.

When we read the Bible, we read stories of God taking years and years to develop things in people – we read of God using people in old age, we read accounts of Joseph, Moses, David – all waited years and went though all sorts of stuff before they came into the fulness of what God had called them to.

It may be if you are not seeing a time of fruitfulness in your life, if it seems like nothing is happening, that God is taking his time about things be encouraged! If you’ve placed your faith in Jesus, hear God’s Word, and are holding it fast in your heart, then be on the lookout for seasons of patience and embrace them. As you do, be reminded that you’re walking the same spiritual road as Abraham and Sarah, Joseph, and Moses, David, Jeremiah and scores of other people. And God used these individuals to change whole cultures.

We read Jesus describing good soil in the parable of the sower and the fruitfulness of the good soil (which I hope we are) comes through patience … the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.. (Luke 8:15 NKJV). James 5:8 picks up on the agricultural theme in patience, saying, Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.

Another point on patience can bear found in Daniel 10:12, we read the angel telling Daniel … Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. Yet the answer was delayed.

True patience is found in God – 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Being patient in affliction, learning how to ride and flow with the patience of the Holy Spirit in our daily life and walk with the Lord – means we will then be able to enter into a much more restful, peaceful state within our minds, our spirits and our emotions.

Faithfulness

Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Read the Old Testament in any depth and you cannot miss the theme of faithfulness, and specifically, how regularly they didn’t achieve it. Again and again, the People of God could simply not stay faithful and loyal to Him on a consistent and regular basis. God quite literally calls them harlots and adulterers. He made it clear that unfaithfulness to Him was like unfaithfulness in a marriage. In fact he calls the prophet Hosea to illustrate this physically … the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord” (Hosea 1:2).

  1. Psalm 12:1,2 — Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore; those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.
  2. Micah 7:2 — The faithful have been swept from the land; not one upright person remains.
  3. Proverbs 20:6 — Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?

Faithfulness was rare in Biblical times, it is rare today. Faithfulness is still in short supply, we let each other down, we make promises we don’t follow through on, whether in our families, our friendship groups or the workplace. So for example (and I don’t know the exact statistics), significant numbers of marriages end up in divorce, people are betrayed by people they thought they could initially trust (e.g. in the workplace to “get ahead”), getting the place on the team is more important than the trust and camaraderie built up in training.

Far too many people find it easy to bail out of friendships, of jobs, out of churches, out of marriages, out of families. Faithfulness is something that is just as hard to find nowadays as it was in Biblical times, so what the Bible says about our faithfulness is, actually, just as relevant today as it was then. I am going to read some of the things it says. I may or may not elaborate, but what I really want to get across is the fact the faithfulness may be rare today, but Biblically, it is very important in God’s people.

  • 1 Samuel 2:9: He will guard the feet of his faithful servants.
  • Proverbs 2:8: for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.
  • Psalm 37:28: for the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones.
  • Psalm 97:10: let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
  • 2 Chronicles 6:41: may your faithful people rejoice in your goodness.

If you read the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 you will see it is interesting to note that the servant was commended for his faithfulness, not for his fruitfulness, the amount he made seems to be completely irrelevant when it is measured against that … Matthew 25:21 (&23) His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness. It is a real encouragement. In a time where nearly everything is judged according to performance and results, and instant results at that (which the point about patience speaks to), that the kingdom of God sees value in our faithfulness not our results should act as an antidote to people who believe that our place in heaven is gained and through what we do (many Christians may agree intellectually with the fact they are saved by grace, but they reveal their true beliefs by their actions).

1 Corinthians 4:2, This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
In Ephesians and Colossians believers are described as God’s faithful brothers and sisters.
1 Thessalonians 5:24 says, God is faithful and that is a cause for confidence that He will sanctify us so we know our whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 3:3: his faithfulness is evidence that He will strengthen and protect us from the evil one

Some things to ponder about faith …

  1. Faith is a gift of the Spirit: 1 Corinthians 12:9
  2. Faith is also a Fruit: Galatians 5:22 … and yet …
  3. Faith is an act of will: Matthew 17:19,20, 1 Corinthians 13:2

Venn Diagram Is there a “sweet spot” of faith? Where the gift, the fruit, and the will intersect?

Last week I said that if we really took hold of and lived out in our fellowships what it means to give devotion, honour, to share, and to practice hospitality to one another our churches would be transformed.
This week, I want to suggest that if we personally take on board and try to develop the qualities of zeal, joy, patience, and faithfulness in our lives, they would also be transformed.