Thursday, May 14, 2009

Paul's Plans, Desires, and Unanswered Prayer

We are a little closer to the big 2 passages in Romans 1. Romans 1:16,17 is the general theme of the letter and Romans 1:18-32 is one of the most crucial passages in all of Paul's argument.

But a few more interesting bits of noteworthy applications exist in verses 8-15.

I am always impressed by Paul's optimism and joy. He is the ultimate energizer bunny in terms of positive energy. This positive attitude comes from His faith in Christ and the joy of salvation. It is the celebration of a criminal set free. It also springs from a heart of gratitude.

I've been thinking a lot about it- and I believe a spirit of thanksgiving destroys a negative attitude. We get negative when we look at our circumstances with thankless eyes. If we would just stop and count our blessings, we would sound like Paul- "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world."

I am also impressed by Paul's prayer life. He mentions in many places about his unceasing prayer. I take that to be a running dialogue with the Father- all day long, in the spirit, just times of spoken and unspoken requests. Formal prayers in the synagogue, private seasons of prayer, small group petitions, cries for help... all together showing a dependence on God. Why does He pray? He prays because God can act and prayer moves Him to do so. It is also great communion with Him, showing a humble reliance on Him.

I am intrigued by Paul's desires. He really wants to see the Roman believers. He so wants to visit with them. He wants to strengthen that flock. I think Paul really sees the church in Rome as strategic. As a Roman citizen, under the influence of that dominant culture, I think he feels a sense of opportunity for the gospel there. If all roads lead to Rome, what a great channel for the story of salvation through faith in Jesus- both for Jew and Gentile, Greek and non-Greek. There is no evidence to say that Paul had ever been there to the point of his letter. Notice the spiritual gift he wants to impart is to establish and encourage one another in this new faith.

Finally, I am encouraged by Paul's unanswered prayer. His plan is to go to Rome, but God has said "No". Verse 13- "I have planned and, so far, been prevented..". Has God ever told you "No", or "Not yet"? How do we handle this?

It never seems to deter Paul's optimism or his faith. He is a great 'yes, Lord" believer. He knows that God's timing and plan is MUCH better than his own. God has Paul's whole heart (1:9) and he is not swayed by delay.

Have we been set free by Christ? Then why live in depression or pessimism?

Do we trust Christ? Then why get frustrated by our circumstances?

Do we have a relationship with Christ? Then why are we not praying to Him unceasingly?

Great stuff in Romans 1 and we aren't even to the good part yet!

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