By Elaine Pratt
It’s a hot commodity at the start of 2021. I know in my own heart it is my tender heart cry to God for the future. Romans 15:4 has something to say regarding this, and it has been powerful for me:
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
What is this saying?
1. Scripture was written to instruct us (i.e., educate, teach, train)
2. This instruction calls for both our endurance (an active choice) and encouragement from the Word (passive gift via Holy Spirit)
3. Our endurance + Scripture’s encouragement = HOPE
At this point, I’d like to point out the beauty, goodness and wisdom of God in providing such a lifeline for us, to highlight the wonder of a God who doesn’t just demand obedience/faithfulness but provides means for this to occur. I’d like to spotlight the tender care of our Creator to so specifically nurture us, and his understanding of our need for hope as we face such hard realities, both without (in our world) and within (in our hearts). We have such a kind, loving, “He-is-for-us-in-our-weakness” God.
I’d like to, but that’s for another post, so I won’t. ;-)
I do want to share how God has used the truth from Romans 15:4 in my own heart.
I recently finished the book of Genesis in my daily reading, and the latter chapters detail the story of Joseph, of his brothers’ betrayal, his resulting enslavement, rise to head servant in Potiphar’s household, false accusation, imprisonment, being seemingly forgotten, reinstatement to power, etc. The account gives a rare insider’s look at how the providential purposes of God are worked out, similar to viewing the front side of a beautifully embroidered tapestry when normally we can only see the back side with threads all askew without pattern or beauty.
This biblical account (this “whatever was written in former days”) instructs me. It reminds me of my own responsibility to endure hardship and go to God’s Word, as this is the means the Holy Spirit uses to breathe reassurance in my fearful heart (“that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures ”). And this Romans 15:4 process supernaturally answers my fear, tips my chin upward to focus my eyes away from what’s around me to Who is above me (Christ!), and infuses my needy heart with hope (“that we might have hope”).
Specifically, the chapters about Joseph offer me much wisdom and help for my own life though they are centuries removed from his. Can you see how life-changing and hope-giving this is?!! Consider for yourself as you read through my non-comprehensive list, derived from the Scriptural account of Joseph’s storyline:
1. God has little interest in doing things quickly.
2. Circumstances of gladness or grief do not reflect God’s greater work in one vs. the other.
3. Future developments are often set up in earlier mysterious acts.
4. Faith and trust in God in all circumstances mark one’s faithfulness.
5. Earthly categories of prominence and flourishing do not reflect God’s.
6. God easily uses secular systems and individuals (even evil ones) to further his agenda.
7. Character matters; human notoriety is of little consequence to God.
These specific truths ground me, re-orient my perspective, correct my understanding of God’s designs, and help me view the present and future with an eternal context.
2021 has much uncertainty and great likelihood of ongoing world, national, and local calamities. Our own lives and those whom we love are vulnerable to heartache and loss. But God answers this with hope, a robust, grounded-in-Him truth that He both calls us to and provides for us as we open His Word to be instructed. We. Can. Rest. Secure.