Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Hold On To Hope

This post is inspired by a John Piper sermon series I recently listened to called "The Fruit of Hope."

Romans 15:4, 5 says:
For whatever was written in the former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Brief Background on the Book of Romans:

Paul wrote the letter to this letter to the Romans to edify and encourage the Christian church in Rome, the capital of the ruling empire of the time. One of the major themes of Paul's writing is unity under the Gospel message. Weak and strong, Jew and Gentile, Paul reminds his readers to strive to be of one accord that God may be glorified.

Romans Chapter 15 is concerned with the Roman church living as Christ in relation to one another. The chapter reinforces a similar theme in chapter 14. We are first told how Christ would act and therefore what we should then do.
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbors for his good, to build him up.(verses 1,2)

Those are pretty tough commands- at least for me they are. How can I not lose hope in trying to follow this impossible command to put others before myself and not only bear with the failings of the weak but to actually build them up?

All my flesh wants to do is berate the weak and in my pride to brag and boast about my strengths as compared to others. I please myself by being able to boast in my own strengths and by having everything the way I want it. I see this message as being written directly to me especially in relation to my dealings with my husband and children.

Why not focus on pleasing myself? Verse 3 tells us:
For Christ did not please himself...

I am to model myself after Christ.

If I model myself after Christ, what will I get as my earthly reward? What was Christ's reward for not pleasing himself? Reproach. The verse continues:
...but as it is written, 'the reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.'

What is reproach? It is a term that means disgrace or dishonor. This verse quotes Psalm 69:9:
For zeal for your house has consumed me and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.

David in Psalm 69 cries out to God about the suffering he has experienced because of following the one true and living God, the God of Israel. He says in verse 7 of Psalm 69:

For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face.

David goes on to say that fasting and repentance, following God's commands, bring on further ridicule from all, from the noblest to the lowest of men.

This puts me in mind of Hannah who was even ridiculed by a priest, Eli, for her fervent prayers to the Lord. Praying with all her heart to the Lord, Hannah was thought to be drunk. Can you imagine even bearing the reproach of your priest for following your heart to cry out to the Lord?

How can you hold on to hope in the face of reproach?

Stay tuned for Part 2 of "Hold on to Hope".

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