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Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

In my journaling Bible, I have these scrawled words – written in 2012 - next to Romans 12:11: “this would make a great motto verse”!

But as I read and re-read Romans chapter 12 during the Christmas break, I couldn’t resist the pull of the very next verse: Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12). Of all the verses I was reading, this little triad of imperatives - like mutually reinforcing points of a triangle - seemed to sum up what it has means for us members of The Bridge Church family to live the gospel-transformed lives that Paul urges in Romans 12:1.

Being joyful in hope is not the same as being happy in circumstances. Now, who wouldn’t want to be happy in their circumstances, right? But joy in hope is something deeper and better and stronger. It’s experiencing something now of the overwhelming wholeness and sweetness that we will one day perfectly know. Jesus-followers have a hope (a sure expectation) of seeing Jesus in all his glory and being like him in that glory (see Romans 5:2), which is what causes joy to spring up – by the Spirit - from deep within us. But we aren’t passive in this. We are urged by Paul to be joyful in our hope. Meditate on what lies in store and let it transform the now. The circumstantial happinesses of life are just pale reflections of what this joy is and what it will one day blossom into.

And joy in hope is what helps us to be patient (steadfast, trusting God, waiting on him) in affliction. Afflictions are as inevitable for Christians as they are for anyone else, but the believer is constantly pointed and projected past the current hardships by thinking much about his or her future prospects. And so suffering is not made easy but is transformed by grace into something which actually reinforces – not reduces - the joy we have because of our assurance of being with Jesus.

And if these truths don’t make us want to be faithful in prayer, what will!? As my joy grows because I am meditating on my hope, my trials are illuminated by heaven’s light and I feel the breeze of heaven, even in tribulations. And all this makes me want to communicate more constantly, talking to and praising my Saviour. In turn those prayers are heard and used by the Lord to strengthen me, sweeten the hard things and fuel the joy that is rooted in heaven’s hope.

What a trio of encouragements! These will be amongst my resolutions for 2020. I wonder if you’ll join me in them?   

Matt Bownds

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Matt Bownds, 09/01/2020