Yesterday morning, as I began my day reading a devotion from “Portals of Prayer,” the Bible verse topping the page got my attention.  “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12.12)  I think these words will continue to ring in my ears for quite some time.  “Christian hope” can be defined as “knowing the what, just not the when.”  We rejoice because we know that eternal life is ours.  We just don’t know when we will see Jesus face to face.  Or another way to put it, we don’t know when the tribulation in which we live will end.  However, since we know that it will end (because of our Christian hope) we can patiently endure it.  And the best and healthiest way to endure is by being – you guessed it – “constant in prayer”.
This past week as I worked on a collaborative project with a fellow pastor, I sent him a text saying, “I feel bad how it’s stretching out so long, but 40 years ago someone told me, ‘Church work is slow.’  I still don’t like it.”  His response was, “Yes.  I was told the same thing, and I am a doer, so this tries my patience.  Change is hard.”  My response was a simple, “Amen.”  Today, however, I am telling myself, Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  God is in control.  He has a plan.  And this is all for the best.
Later that morning – if one can refer to 6:30 a.m. as later in the morning – another passage was read in the men’s Bible group that I enjoy visiting.  From Paul’s pen we read, “We did not give up and submit to these people for even a moment, so that the truth of the gospel would be preserved for you.” (Galatians 2.5)  I find this to be an indicator that Paul practiced what he preached.  While in constant prayer regarding Christ’s people and mission on earth, he patiently endured all sorts of tribulations.  Why?  Because through it all he was rejoicing over Christ’s redeeming work in the gospel.
In the last verse of a famous hymn, Luther directs us toward singing this truth.  “God’s Word forever shall abide, no thanks to foes, who fear it.  For God Himself fights by our side with weapons of the Spirit.  Were they to take our house, goods, honor, child, or spouse, though life be wrenched away, they cannot win the day.  The Kingdom’s ours forever!” (LSB 657, v. 4)  Or, in Wednesday’s first words, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
Later Wednesday morning – and I think 10:00 a.m. fits the term later – at another gathering around God’s word, two short passages got our particular attention.  First, “We instructed you how to live in order to please God as in fact you are living.  Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.” (1 Thessalonians 4.1)  Then, “About brotherly love we do not need to write you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.  And in fact, you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia.  Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more.” (1Thessalonians 4.9-10)  Did you notice the last three words in each?

Our God is an envelope pushing – comfort zone challenging – God.  As he commends his people for the good things they are already doing, he goes on to say now do it “more and more.”  Thus, these ended up being Wednesday’s words for me – “more and more” … more rejoicing … more hope … more patience … (more tribulations?) … more constant in prayer.  Change is hard, yet constant.  There is no such thing as standing stationary in God’s Kingdom.  We are either progressing or declining.
While I am not going to pray for more tribulations, I am not going to back away from the challenging opportunities God places before his people.  While the gospel will never change, the way we are able to connect it to people and their lives is constantly changing.  And if “the truth of the gospel would be preserved”  and our “brotherly love” is to make a difference in our world, we who “rejoice in hope” will be called upon to step outside of our comfort zones “more and more.”
This may mean praying with people as we have never prayed before.  It may mean putting our arms around people we never thought of hugging before.  It may mean worshipping in ways we never have before.  And doing it – you guessed it – “more and more.”  Which, I guess, in another way of saying that these words are not just for Wednesday, but for every day!

Hope … Tribulation … Prayer … More and More!

Wednesday’s Words