Sometimes a verse really needs to be read in context to make sense of its message.
This is not one of those verses. It simply reminds us to pray, pray, pray.
This verse can stand alone and offer a command in ten simple words.
We are going through an extremely difficult time personally. My Dad is fighting the good fight with prostate cancer that has metastasized to his bones. For any of you that have had any experience with this, it is devastating to watch. My Dad has lost so much weight and strength. He is in tremendous pain. I have hesitated to talk about this on my blog because I know that my Mom reads these posts and I don’t want to make her upset, but I know that our family could really use your prayers.
It is difficult to understand why God allows things like cancer to happen to some people but not to others. If I am being honest I could name lots of people who are not particularly nice that I think deserve this more than my Dad. However, while I am being honest I can also see all of the work that God has done through this illness to heal our family and be a witness to the world.
Be joyful in hope
Paul often talks about joy in his writing. The book of Philippians is one of my favorite books because it deals so much with joy. Joy can ultimately be found in our attitude. If we have a proper attitude, then many of the things we struggle with can be cloaked in joy and endured. If we have the wrong attitude, then our struggles will possibly overwhelm us. This verse tells us to be joyful in hope.
I have many reasons for hope as we walk down this path of life with my Dad. Not the least of which is that I know my Dad has a relationship with Jesus. His life has been given to the Lord so I know that whenever it ends on this earth, it will continue in Heaven. I know that my family and I will see him again–restored and made whole.
I know that none of us are promised tomorrow. For this reason, it is so important to be joyful today. As Christians, the world is watching how we react to the trials of life. I want people to know that circumstances will not defeat me. I have the power of the Living God within me.
Be patient in affliction
This one can be tough. We don’t like to suffer. I think what is worse is to see someone we love suffering and not be able to do anything about it. The word tells us to be patient. Some translations call patience long-suffering.
The fact is we live in a fallen world. When sin crept into what God had made perfect, it shattered the peace, harmony, and tranquility that we were supposed to enjoy with him. Now we deal with words like affliction, divorce, disease, disaster, war, poverty, etc. These were not part of the original plan. So we push back and try to be patient as we struggle and wait for Jesus to come back. We do the best we can to face each day with patience and cry out to Jesus to give us strength to make it. We fall to our knees knowing that there we can find our strength.
Be faithful in prayer
Ultimately, all I can do is pray. I lack the strength to face the battle on my own. I am trying to be strong for my Mom and Dad, my brother and sister, my wife, and my kids. I can’t do it alone. The circumstances of this illness have driven me to the Word of God and to my knees in prayer.
Faithfulness in prayer is not an option; it is a necessity.
My work here in this life is to be obedient to the One who saved me. I am being conformed into the image of Christ. I have to be in constant communication with him if I hope to make it through the circumstances of my day-to-day life.
So I wake up and pray. I ask for strength for my Mom and Dad each morning and all throughout the day. I ask for wisdom to make the right decisions. I pray for our witness as the world sees how we handle this. I ask for peace when my heart is troubled. I pray for everyone this affects in my family.
And I wait. Ultimately, I do not know what God will choose to do in this situation. I do know, however, that he loves us. He loves my Dad. I know that he loves us so much that he provided our salvation from sin and is preparing a place for us even now. I love the message of the passage below in Ephesians 3:14-19:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
I know that this world is not our home and that we will all one day stand before the Lord, renewed and restored and free of death and sin and pain.
Because I know that this is true, I will:
Be joyful in hope,
patient in affliction,
faithful in prayer.