A Basis for Happiness
The 12th chapter of Romans has always had special importance to me and to those who are a part of the ministries of the Pillar of Fire. This is the passage we study before we are ordained or consecrated for some office in the church or other special service.
It delineates beautifully for us one of the remarkable things about God's design for His body. Very often there will be, even in a small group of believers, those people who have the gifts that meet the needs of that fellowship.
That doesn't mean there aren't times when, as in the instance of St. Paul when Demas left him, we find ourselves very much alone. But in general, the Lord has provided for fellowships as they are established.
Paul wrote about various gifts in the 12th chapter of Romans; then he went on to give some more general advice. In the 11th verse, he wrote: "Let us not allow slackness to spoil our work and let us keep the fires of the spirit burning, as we do our work for the Lord. Base your happiness on your hope in Christ."
it is very important to have a foundation on which to build. To base our happiness on the foundation that is Christ is to base it on the living Savior Who ever lives to be our High Priest and to make intercession for us.
Although He has ascended to be on the right hand of the Father, He is also, by His Spirit, within those who open their hearts to Him. He prayed to the Father that He could have that relationship with us, and it's a wonderful reality, the marvel of "Christ in you, the hope of glory."
Paul then wrote this: "When trials come, endure them patiently; steadfastly maintain the habit of prayer. Give freely to fellow-Christians in want, never grudging a meal or a bed to those who need them. And as for those who try to make your life a misery, bless them." What a transformation that would bring in the world! What a sentence this is!
It is certainly a benchmark for us, a rule of life that is quite easy to understand, isn't it? "And as for those who try to make your life a misery, bless them." It doesn't mean we have to agree with them or deviate from the code of Christian demeanor just to accommodate their aberrant behavior. It does mean we are to have divine love for them; by definition, "agape love." This is that love which desires the best for them. Sometimes, the best may be saying "no."
The rich young ruler asked Jesus what he had to do to have everlasting life. Jesus, knowing his heart, said, "There is one thing you still need. Go and sell everything you have, give the money away to the poor -- you will have riches in Heaven. And then come back and follow me."
What a demand for a fellow who had great riches! But Jesus knew the sincerity of his heart and his need. The young man went away sorrowful. We might think Jesus should have been just a little more gradual in that surgery from covetousness, but we don't know how this ended. The man may have done just what he was told to do. Jesus did this in love. He didn't do it to be hard on the fellow. Not at all.
This brought questions to the minds of His disciples. Peter was quick to look at himself and express his feelings, but Jesus told them that whoever has left father, mother, wife and children for the Kingdom of God shall in this life, and in the life to come, have great reward. Speak of sacrifice!
"Don't curse, bless," Paul wrote. "Share the happiness of those who are happy and the sorrow of those who are sad. Live in harmony with each other. Don't become snobbish but take a real interest in ordinary people. Don't become set in your own opinions. Don't pay back a bad turn by a bad turn, to anyone." See how clear he made it? "See that your public behavior is above criticism. As far as your responsibility goes, live at peace with everyone."
Here is the tone of the person who is going to be in Christian service: "Never take vengeance into your own hands, my dear friends: stand back and let God punish if he will. For it is written: Vengeance belongeth unto me. I will recompense, saith the Lord.
"And it is also written: if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. Don't allow yourself to be overpowered by evil. Take the offensive -- Overpower evil with good!"
The Pillar Monthly, March 1999