In this context, consider - What was in Rome? It was the center of power for hundreds of years. The super power of the day. The mighty Roman Empire was expanding into most of the known world and it was demanded of the citizens of the world that they pay homage to whatever Caesar happened to be in power. History teaches us that thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of Believers suffered great hardship; but the church grew by leaps and bounds.
To the natural mind it seems strong persecution would cause something to wither and die; but in spiritual reality the kingdom of God grows as it is watered with the blood of martyr's. Is this God's way of doing things? Is this one of His ways to advance His Kingdom on earth? Are we entering a repeat of one of these times? If so, are there lessons and truths for us to learn from Paul's writing to Believers in Rome?
Most Christians in Western nations, the United States in particular, are fearful of persecution, turmoil, and trouble. They rant and rail against the government, its policies, the course it has chosen and such things. I am not saying this is not to be done, but can it become our obsession? How much energy, money and effort is spent doing this when the energy, money and effort could be used expanding the true truth of the gospel? In the writings of the Apostle Paul I do not read where he lambasted the Roman government, on any occasion. It is a given that governments of this world are in opposition to the Kingdom of God.
What does Paul say to Roman Believers living in the middle of total idolatry, Caesar worship, lust and violence?
" Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing;
that you may abound (not just survive, but abound!) in hope,
through the power of the Holy Ghost. " (Romans 15:13)
What a witness this must have been! In the middle of being fed to the lions and being not a spectator in cruel sport by being the meat fed to the beasts, to still be not only filled with joy and peace but to abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost!
Consider what Paul was saying; let it sink deep, it is with me ~
1. God is a God of hope
2. He will fill us with joy and peace, if we just believe and apply this to our situation
3. We cannot do this in ourselves, it is done through the power of the Holy Ghost; in total disregard of our circumstance.
Another example that I have been thinking of is the man Nehemiah and the situation he found himself in. He did not get himself into this predicament, he was put there by the sovereignty of the Almighty. Here he is, surrounded by walls that had been destroyed years ago, gates to a once great city, Jerusalem, that were burned and charred by fire, an enemy army full of scoffers and mockers laughing them to scorn, and he was with a bunch of former slaves and exiles of the Children of Israel.
One thing that Nehemiah said that hit me like a brick is in chapter 8, verse 10-...the joy of the LORD is your strength...! King David, through all of his tests, trials, victories and defeats of weakness still cries, " Delight yourself in the LORD...(Psalm 37:4). I have fallen very short in this aspect, no, not an aspect, but a commandment to be happy, joyful in the LORD, no matter my circumstance.
A personal example of what I am speaking of - I will use the liberty the Apostle Paul had in not hiding his situation. I, unlike, Paul have not been in prison chained to a soldier (yet!), I have not been ship wrecked, stoned and left for dead or suffered the loss of all things (yet!), but I, like Paul glory (boast) in what I feel God has spoken to my heart in some difficult circumstances. Here is my little example, do with it what you will, laugh, shake your head in sadness for me, or identify and understand what I am trying to say ~
Several weeks ago, the child we have with us presently had to make an emergency visit to the hospital; she was there for 4 days getting some issues straightened out. I have been fighting a cold in that process and my wife was baby sitting another small child to earn extra money. In the meantime, I got an electric bill for over 400 dollars! In the middle of these issues, I finally got to speak with an actual human being with the electric company asking about the large bill and they said the bill was now a little under 300 dollars. I protested that I had sent 75 dollars and the reply was that I currently owed 202 dollars or the electric would be turned off!!!
I was in between pay days and I explained of the child in the hospital, the insulin that had to stay refrigerated, and such. I was told that I had ten days to pay the total bill. Three days later the "meter lady" shows up at our door and said if the bill was not paid in 1 hour the electric would be disconnected, with a reconnection fee, plus another security deposit. She said the insulin was not her problem and left! Customer service at its best, now a days.
This is nothing like being ship wrecked, stoned and left for dead, or beaten; but this was bad, none the less. I was at work when this happened. I got one of those phone calls from my wife, if you know what I mean...My wife went to her parents and "borrowed" a credit card to pay the bill in less than an hour and everything was settled. (Yes, the credit card was paid on my next payday!!) for those who are wondering...
In the middle of all of this, after I tried to regain my exposure ( I mean my composure!) I felt immediately in my spirit the LORD speak to me and command me to say and pray, " This is a day that the LORD has made, I WILL rejoice and be glad in it..."
I thought am I crazy? No, I was not crazy. In all things I am to give thanks; even in my shortcomings, tests, oversights and trials. I fought this feeling with everything that was in me. But I whispered "this is a day that the LORD has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it..." I heard a whisper in my spirit saying " a little louder, please..." I spoke very loud and again said, " This IS a day that the LORD has made, and I WILL REJOICE and be glad in it..."
How did Paul proclaim with great joy and no shame that he suffered the loss of all things, joyfully? Did he serve a different God than I believe in?
Consider, in the book of Psalms, God is the all satisfying Object of our praise. We, as His people are nor requested to, but commanded to adore Him unashamedly for the exceeding joy we find in Him. (Psalm 43:4)
Our pleasure must be in God Himself. Not centered in what He can give us. Sure, having electricity is fantastic! But it is just a perk, an extra, when taken in an eternal perspective. God is the end of our search; He is not a means to get what we want; a sugar daddy, as it were. He is not some key that unlocks the streets of gold, the mansion on the hilltop or treasures of silver and gold.
Job hit the nail right on the head for us when He said that THE ALMIGHTY IS OUR GOLD AND CHOICE SILVER TO US! (Job 22:23-26)
Our delight is in the Almighty. Our chief end is to glorify Him by enjoying Him forever. He demands that we glorify Him, for He is worthy of all praise. He gets great joy when we are joyful in Him! He inhabits the praise of His people, the Bible says. Do you want to get close to God? PRAISE HIM MORE!
No matter the circumstance; no matter how tight it gets from here on out for our nation and its citizens. We need to draw very, very close to God and become very, very intimate with Him. He is a very present help in times of trouble. He will truly stick closer than any brother in our hour of need and trial.
Draw close to Him. He has given His word that He will then draw close to us. In His presence is fullness of joy!