Romans 12:14-16 Why not now? How to live when things get tough.



This morning we continue in the book of Romans.
We have been looking over the last few weeks of this 12th chapter of the book of Romans with the theme - why not now.
Why not now, live your life for Christ?
We make a choice every day, and in reality, multiple choices throughout the day in regards to how we live our lives.
Throughout the day we have the choice to live with Christ first, or putting ourselves first.
This can be especially hard when difficult situations arise.
We pick up in verse 14 this morning where Paul is giving instruction to the Christians in Rome about how to live in difficult situations.
Romans 12:14–16 ESV
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
As we pick up in verse 14 here, we begin with a topic that in all likelihood, none of us have truly experienced.
Paul says in verse 14
Romans 12:14 ESV
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Persecute -
to harass someone, esp. because of beliefs
We might get a funny look for praying over our meal in a restaurant.
Someone we work with may perhaps make a snide remark about us being a Christian.
Perhaps you have family members that ridicule you for being a Christian.
Who in school has had someone make fun of you for being a Christian.
Picking on you perhaps because of something they wanted you to do but you wouldn’t.
I remember in a psychology class I began at U of M a discussion that the professor began regarding Christianity that did not go well.
I was not walking with the Lord at that point so did not have anything to add to the discussion, but sitting in, having grown up in the church, it was difficult to hear some of the things that were being said.
I recently listened to a book by a guy name Chad Williams - he was a Navy Seal.
Chad was not a Christian when he entered the seals, but was saved shortly after completing his training.
Because of his salvation, he had a change of convictions.
When he was assigned to a team, he experienced significant persecution because of his convictions.
If you remember, we heard of Pastors in Canada being arrested for continuing to hold worship services amidst the Covid situation.
That hits a little closer to home, but most of us in America have not experienced anything comparable to the persecution that our brothers and sisters in other countries are facing.
To our countries southern border in areas of Mexico, cartels and gangs run rampant.
When Christian leaders directly speak out against the violence and crime that follows,
they immediately put a target on their backs and can be kidnapped, beaten and murdered.
Javier García Villafaña, a persecuted Christian in Mexico, was shot and killed in the mexican state Michoacan(Mee cho ah khan). In that area alone, he’s the ninth church leader murdered in the last four years.
In Pakistan a local Christian priest was allegedly accused of desecrating the Quran,
angry Muslims quickly gathered at nearby mosques.
They formed a mob to target the Christian community.
The crowd swept through the area, vandalizing and looting homes—and trying to destroy several churches.
I don’t want to completely belittle the difficulties we face currently but I think you’d readily agree that it does not compare to being physically beaten, seeing your loved ones slaughtered or having your house burned down and being forced to flee with only the clothes on your back.
From a biblical perspective though, our world is on a downward trajectory.
We may not be facing significant persecution in our lives right now, but difficult times are coming.
We need to understand how to respond to persecution in a way that pleases God.
This verse assumes that Christians WILL face persecution.
2 Timothy 3:12–13 ESV
12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
The reason that Christians face persecution, is because people hate God!
And as Christians, we represent God to the world.
Even in doing what is right, we will be hated.
We should expect mistreatment.
John 15:18–19 ESV
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
Paul is giving the instruction to bless.
Bless -
to ask for bestowal of special favor, esp. of calling down God’s gracious power, bless
Paul means genuinely praying for and seeking the well-being of the persecutor.
He means asking God to save the one who has mistreated us, which is the greatest blessing of all.
For an example from scripture we can read the story of Stephen.
Go and read in acts chapters 6-7.
Stephen, after preaching the good news about Jesus was cast out of the city to be stoned.
He did not call down curses from heaven on the men stoning him.
But said
Acts 7:59–60 ESV
59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
The greatest example comes from Jesus himself.
As he was on the cross as the people all around him were reviling him.
Luke 22:34 ESV
34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
When Paul is saying bless those who persecute you here in verse 14, he is hearkening us back to the teaching of Jesus in the sermon on the mount. Matthew 5.
Matthew 5:10–12 ESV
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:44 ESV
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
We spent about 5 weeks looking at some of these parallel passages in Luke 6, you can go online and review those messages if you would like.
Luke 6:27–28 ESV
27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
I must confess, this is not my natural reaction.
I would venture a guess that it is not likely yours either.
When someone persecutes me, my first thought, my first reaction is to persecute them back!
God’s word though tells that we don’t need to, and should not.
I don’t wish to trivialize matters, but I think this can go so far as to even apply to such practical areas as traffic problems.
Have you ever been persecuted in traffic.
It happens frequently.
This is rather convicting even for myself.
My wife helps to point this out to me more often than I care to admit.
Someone is driving erratically for some reason, someone cuts you off.
It happens all the time.
You mutter under your breath, or want to roll down the window and give them the what for.
When what we are supposed to do is to pray for them.
Bless them and do not curse them.
This is a matter of heart change.
Attitude change.
Often our attitude fluctuates with the levels of stress in our lives.
What is happening around us.
We must be aware of this.
The reason we should seek to respond to persecution by blessing our persecutors is that we are seeking to reflect the character of Christ to them.
We want God to be glorified as we reflect His grace and love to sinners.
As Jesus said in
Luke 6:35 ESV
35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
There is an article written in Christianity today by a woman named Josephine who wrote of an experience she had as a young girl.
There was a family named Parsons in her hometown that preached and practiced forgiveness.
On one occasion, Josephine and some of her third-grade friends put a handful of pencil shavings into the Parsons girl’s sandwich, just to be mean and to make her mad.
But she didn’t get mad. Instead, the next day, without any sign of repentance from her persecutors,
the Parsons girl brought everyone in the class a large, beautiful, hand-decorated cookie that said, “Jesus loves you.”
With her mother’s help, that little girl blessed her persecutors, and those third graders remembered it for the rest of their lives!
This is not a call to pacifism.
Taking into account all of scripture.
There is a place for defending yourself and your family when necessary.
But as we will see next week.
Romans 12:19 ESV
19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Paul continues to share that one way that we are able to love others in difficult situations is to feel their emotions.
Romans 12:15 ESV
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
This is a familial act.
There is no better way to show love to anyone--a friend, a casual acquaintance, or even an enemy, than to feel with them and to share in their emotions.
Being happy along with others can be both and easy and a difficult thing depending upon the circumstances.
If someone is happy because they are showing off something new and cool that they got, it can be hard to be happy for them because may become jealous, wishing we had that.
Kids, if you think of a friend at school maybe they got that game you’ve been wanting, a phone, a new Nerf gun, some other new toy.
It works the same for adults.
We naturally weep with those who weep, but envy, pride, and a spirit of competition can keep us from rejoicing with those who rejoice.
If you think that you deserved the success or blessings that they are enjoying, it takes selflessness and grace to truly rejoice with them.
Self is always the major problem that we must battle.
But it’s not easy, either, to weep with those who weep.
We feel the need to say something wise or appropriate, but we often end up saying something that we shouldn’t say.
Looking to an example from scripture.
Job’s three friends did well when they sat silently with him for a week.
They got into trouble when they tried to explain to him why he was suffering.
Fewer words are usually better and wiser.
Paul doesn’t say, “Counsel those who weep,” but “Weep with those who weep.”
Joseph Bayly, a pastor and his wife lost three of their children – one at eighteen days (after surgery); another at five years (leukemia); a third at eighteen years (sledding accident
He wrote (The Last Thing We Talk About [David C. Cook], pp. 55-56), “I was sitting, torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God’s dealings, of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly. He said things I knew were true.
“I was unmoved, except to wish he’d go away. He finally did.
“Another came and sat beside me. He didn’t talk. He didn’t ask me leading questions. He just sat beside me for an hour and more, listened when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply, left.
“I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go.”
The mercies of God call us to sympathize with others in both their joys and their sorrows.
In verse 16 Paul writes for us to
Romans 12:16 (ESV)
16 Live in harmony with one another.
This is really a central part to these verses and the verses that follow.
A very wooden literal translation from the Greek of this phrase says
The same toward one another think.
The Greek word here means
to have an opinion with regard to someth., think, form/hold an opinion, judge
This is a theme and an instruction that Paul gives multiple times in his letters.
Romans 15:5 ESV
5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,
Paul writes of this many times in book of Philippians.
At the beginning of the book of Philippians Paul writes
Philippians 1:7 ESV
7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
Philippians 2:1–2 ESV
1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
Philippians 2:5 ESV
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
Philippians 3:15 ESV
15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.
At the end of the book, he asks two women who were feuding in that church
Philippians 4:2 ESV
2 I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.
Paul is not insisting that we all think alike or agree on every issue,
That isn’t going to happen in this life.
Paul is calling us to unity based on our common salvation, our shared purpose in the gospel, and our shared hope in Christ.
His command does not suggest that we set aside essential doctrinal truth for the sake of unity, which would be to compromise the gospel.
Rather, as in Ephesians 4:2-3
Ephesians 4:2–3 ESV
2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Romans 12:16 (ESV)
16 Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.
The end of this verse brings us back to verse 3 and dealing with our pride once again.
The verb, “associate with,” is literally, “to be carried away by,” as a flood that sweeps someone away.
The idea is not to resist doing lowly tasks, but to be carried away with doing them.
If you see trash on the floor, pick it up and throw it away.
If you see some weeds growing, pick a few.
There are many little things that I don’t know that we think are below ourselves normally, but just don’t notice.
In relation to people which Paul is specifically addressing here the lowly.

to being of low social status or to relative inability to cope

People who may be beneath your economic or educational level,
The idea we must put into practice is to reach out in love and make them feel accepted.
Put yourself on the same level and relate graciously to them as you would want to be related to if you were in their shoes.
The final part of this verse
Romans 12:16 (ESV)
16 Never be wise in your own sight.
Paul is referencing proverbs.
Proverbs 3:7 ESV
7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
Leon Morris in his commentary on Romans wrote “The person who is wise in his own eyes is rarely so in the eyes of other people.”

The story is told of two brothers who grew up on a farm. One went away to college, earned a law degree, and became a partner in a prominent law firm in the state capital. The other brother stayed on the family farm. One day the lawyer came and visited his brother, the farmer. He asked, “Why don’t you go out and make a name for yourself and hold your head up high in the world like me?” The brother pointed and said, “See that field of wheat over there? Look closely. Only the empty heads stand up. Those that are well filled always bow low.”

Said differently, “The branch that bears the most fruit is bent the lowest to the ground.

Andrew Murray gave a near-perfect definition of humility:

Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.

The humble person is not one who thinks meanly of himself, he simply does not think of himself at all.697

How transformed are your attitudes?
Are you blessing those who have wronged you?
Are you sympathizing with others in their joys and sorrows?
Are you practicing humility through true Christian unity?
Some of you are in difficult situations:
Perhaps difficult marriages, crumbling friendships, hard feelings toward people who have hurt you,
conflict on the job or with the neighbors.
You know whatever the situation may be for yourself.
It is easy to think, that situation would improve if the other person would shape up.
If they would change.
The reality is, you can’t change them.
The situation will only improve when you become the loving person God wants you to be and really care about other people.
But it seems to be impossible.
And it is on your own.
It begins with a relationship with Jesus.
None of what we have talked about today is possible, without first knowing Christ as your savior and Lord.
Believing that he died on the cross to make the payment for your sin.
Once you have done that.
Open your heart to God's Word!
Will you yield your life to Jesus Christ?
Will you yield your will to Him?
Will you let His Spirit take control of you, and then will you begin to fill your mind daily with the concepts of God's word?
Get in the Word!
And then step out in faith and obey Him.
He will meet you there with His power and change your life.
He'll bring healing and reconciliation where there is hurt and alienation.
God can do that.
It begins with looking at ourselves.
God will make you the person He wants you to be.
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