There are very, very few who know what it is like to be in the battle of war.
– Military becomes more than a mass of people, but a brotherhood, a family like no other because of what you have been equipped and what you must endure.
– War prepares you to be vigilant for any surprise circumstance or emergency challenge.
– War can be boring for hours on end and quickly turn to intense rapid fire that is life-changing.
– War experiences sickening sights and screams of humanity.
– War is noise that echoes in the ears and mind.
– War surrounds you with smoke blasts, raging fire, hemorrhaging blood, and pounding pain.
– War causes you to face casualties of strangers and corpses of friends.
– War causes you to be real, raw, and even hardened to life’s trivialities.
– The dominant tone of war veterans is somber and sobriety because they have seen both the toughness and tenderness of life.
And sometimes life is war. While many of us may not know the sight or sense of war, the smoke of affliction will eventually blow our way. There are seasons of hardship and suffering that come and we must be prepared and prayed up.
Today’s message seeks to accomplish two actions
1) #VitalSignsSP We are spiritual warriors fighting with weapons of love and prayer. Our brand isn’t hype trends or temporary feelings, but a love that lasts and prayer that causes us to persevere.
2) Romans 12:12 provides 3 faith actions for when life is war.
EXAMINE Romans 12:12 We are spiritual warriors
v Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
v τῇ ἐλπίδι χαίροντες; τῇ θλίψει ὑπομένοντες; τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτεροῦντες
– Verbs are plural: Christian life needs community togetherness; islands enduring a storm or solo warriors generally don’t fare well. We need each other.
o Romans 12:1 “brothers & sisters, present your bodies [plural] as a living sacrifice”
o Implied commitment and membership for Christians with the local church.
o Glorifying God in one’s life requires one to be known by others for the sake of accountability. And being known and accountable means showing up together… not half-hearted, FOMO.
– Verbs are present active: indicates ongoing action.
“All of you Christian brothers and sisters, don’t give up rejoicing in hope; everyone continue being patient in tribulation; pray constantly together.”
Rejoice in hope
Apart from Christ, the early church had little to be joyful or hopeful. There was persistent persecution, tireless trials, and frequent suffering. Paul knows Roman church could easily be distracted or deterred from being a living sacrifice for Christ. They need a reminder to stand firm and keep moving forward. Biblical hope is the only thing that can ground us and keep us going each day (cf. Romans 5:2; 7:24; 8:24-25, 31-39).
Illus: When we speak of Jesus Christ as the ground of our daily hope it’s exponentially greater than saying “If Flacco isn’t playing the Ravens don’t have a chance of winning.” OR “If _____ isn’t at the event, then I don’t want to go.” Jesus as our hope means everything.
Biblical hope is certain and is centered in the person and promise of God, that relates to the every day.
You see, today Christians are like the church at Rome with persistent persecution, tireless trials, and frequent suffering. We can easily get distracted and discouraged about living for Christ in a Christ-less world. The world is like a prison seeking to take your freedom, joy, and hope… like movie Shawshank Redemption
Andy to Red: “there are places in this world that aren’t made out of stone… there’s something inside… that they can’t get to, that they can’t touch. That’s yours.
Red: What’re you talking about?
Andy Dufresne: Hope.
Red: ‘Hope!’ Let me tell you something, my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. It’s got no use [in a world out of control].
End when Andy is free and when Red gets out of prison is invited to join Andy.
Andy: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.” Shawshank Redemption
Paul is telling us to hang on to hope. For what are we hopeful?
– A remarkable God. “the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.” (Rom 16:27)
– A restored creation. “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God…” (Rom 8:19-22; cf 2Peter 3:13; Rev 21).
o Feast without famine, allergies, or fatness (Rev 2:7 “eat from the tree of life”)
o Extinction of natural disasters, disease (cancer, alzheimer’s, mental illness, etc.), dying and death.
– A renewed body “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:23).
o Right now many of us have body of a god – Buddha… but in heaven, exercise will be joyful and our bodies will be imperishable (1Cor 15:53).
– A redeemed life circumstances
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us… And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:18, 28)
o Wrongs, regrets, sorrows will all be made right
– A reconciled heart. “Through Christ we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God… and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:2, 5)
o Freedom from sin, shame, fear, guilt…
o Freedom to salvation, second chances, fresh starts and new beginnings, maturity and wholeness.
◊ Hope is the soil for joy to grow; we lack joy because we lack the hope of heaven.
è Read on topic of Heaven.
è “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Col 3:2
Patient in tribulation
Paul’s reference to tribulation is unique in this passage as it reflects the normal experience in the Christian life. If you are not experiencing trials then just wait a few days/weeks/months; they are coming. Tribulation is typical for those who follow Jesus Christ as Lord. In the midst of living for Jesus and loving others we will experience sorrow and suffering.
John 16:33 “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Acts 14:22 “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
Illus: A young boy was obnoxiously chewing gum and wildly playing in front of a store escalator. All of a sudden the boy stopped his movements and stood in front of the escalator. The store sales clerk noticed the boy and wondered if something was wrong. She approached him and said, “Young man, are you alright?” The boy replied, “Yes mam, I’m just waiting for my chewing gum to cycle back to me so I can play again.”
Yes, patience isn’t always pleasant but it is vital to the Christian life. In our problems and pain God calls us to patience. The word ὑπομένοντες means to remain steadfast and stand one’s ground, instead of fleeing. It means to persevere and endure, so patience isn’t passive but active, especially during trials.
How are we to be actively patient in tribulation?
è Focus on and obey the old. Often when tribulation comes we become so frantic and fearful of the world around us that we lose our faith. We get distracted and grow distant from God. We stop obeying the simple and basic commands of God that we know we should obey. So, in tribulation we need to focus on the fundamentals of our faith.
o Bible Reading & Journaling.
o Music & Singing.
o Worship in community.
o Spiritual retreats and fasting.
è Prepare for the new. Sometimes God allows tribulation to occur to bring about change. The changes could be in your character or they could be in your circumstances. During tribulation, you will need personal discernment and wise friends/counselors to help you navigate what sort of changes God wants to bring into your life. Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.” Isaiah 43:19 “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
“Waiting for God is not laziness. Waiting for God is not going to sleep. Waiting for God is not the abandonment of effort. Waiting for God means, first, activity under command; second, readiness for any new command that may come; third, the ability to do nothing until the command is given.” – G. Campbell Morgan
è Persevere in prayer.
Constant in prayer
Paul’s third exhortation to the Romans during tribulation is to be constant in prayer. Paul’s word “προσκαρτεροῦντες” = constant/devoted/faithful, and suggests courageous and persistent prayer. Two examples of this type of praying would be 1. Jesus praying through the night (cf. Lk 11:1-13; 18:1-8; 22:40), and 2. Disciples praying and waiting for the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14, 2:42; 6:4; Col 4:2; 1Thess 5:17). This involved “a different attitude and manner of prayer from those customary in contemporary Judaism, which had fixed hours and patterns of prayer.” Prayer in the Christian community expresses a deep devotion, vitality, and power like no other religion because it connects one to the presence of Almighty God.
While Christians are commanded to be constant and without ceasing in prayer, that does not mean all you do is sit in a dark room with eyes closed and folded hands. Devoted to prayer is similar to being devoted to a spouse. Generally, spouses don’t spend every waking moment of every day together, but every decision and motivation is influenced from their devotion to one another. So, persistent praying implies 1) a habit of scheduled prayer as well as a pattern for spontaneous praying; and 2) praying alone and praying assembled with other believers.
è Praying adoration of God. Christianity is relational and if all your time praying is spent asking for stuff rather than adoring the Savior, then we have turned Jesus into a genie and not God. We must seek God’s face of grace more than His hand of help (cf. Matt 6:9).
è Praying alone for needs. Jesus does invite us to boldly approach the throne of grace for areas of need (Matt 6:11; John 14:13-14; Rom 8:26; Heb 4:16).
è Praying assembled for kingdom advance. Prayer in the early church was the means God used to accomplish His work: sending the Spirit (Acts 1:14), selecting leaders (Acts 1:24; 6:6), sending missionaries and strengthening churches (Acts 13:1-3). God has much work to do through His church but is waiting for His people to rely upon Him and not their own strength.
“Next to the wonder of seeing my Savior will be, I think, the wonder that I made so little use of the power of prayer.” — D. L. Moody
– – – > Groups in prayer 1x quarter.
– – – > Prayer requests each week / with Deacons
v Jesus who rejoiced in hope, was patient in tribulation, and constantly prays for you/us…
v When we understand life is war, we will pray.
v God can do more in 1 second than we can in 1 year. Pray! Pray devotedly and desperately.
v Salvation starts with a prayer to God…
v Today on Sunday NFL games there will be people kneeling in protest, certainly this same day there should be Christians kneeling in prayer. Come to the altar of God and pray for our nation to experience the redemption, reconciliation, and revival of God.
 Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, p. 619.
 Illustration from John Piper, http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/be-devoted-to-prayer.