2021 Verse of the Year
Every year at Enfield Town Community Church we have a 'Verse of the Year' that we look to meditate upon, memoirse and fuel our prayers. This year, we have Romans 12:12:
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer
- Romans 12:12
Nathan preached to us from this passage on 3rd January. Listen here:
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When 2021 is looking like another hard year…
That is the place that most of us find ourselves at the start of 2021. We are still living under tight restrictions. We are still unable to freely see others we deeply miss. We are still unable to do church in the way we used to. Schools are about to be disrupted again. More working from home.
So as followers of Jesus, how should we approach 2021?
God says to us as a church: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12
These words encourage us as followers of Jesus to Keep hopeful, Keep going, and Keep praying as we enter 2021.
First: Let us Keep Hopeful
Paul urges the church to be “Be joyful in hope.”
Hope is a word that has been used a lot in recent days, not least in newspaper headlines. We tend to use the word hope to mean “uncertain expectation.” For example, “We hope this will happen, but we can’t be sure!” Many of us have been failed by these “hopes” and we cannot be blamed for beginning to feel a bit hopeless at the start of 2021. As the proverb says: “hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Prov. 13:12)
But as follower of Jesus we have been given a different kind of hope. Not an uncertain expectation, but a solid reality. What is this hope? It is not merely the return of life to the way it was before the pandemic. It is the hope of glory (Col 1:27). It is the hope of Jesus coming again and making all things new (Rev 21:5). It is the hope of an eternal inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade (1 Peter 1:3). It is the hope of a world with no more death or mourning or crying or pain because this old order of things will have passed away (Rev 21:3-4). It is the hope of being with our perfect, loving Lord Jesus forever (1 Thess. 4:17).
This hope is the perfect assurance of our life’s ultimate outcome, whatever happens to us now. This hope is so fundamental to the life of following Jesus that Paul speaks of it over 36 times in his letters to the churches.
This hope is something that should bring us joy. Look again at our verse for the year: “Be joyful in hope.” In other words, “Rejoice in this certain future that is coming.”
How do we do find joy in this certain future hope?
According to Calvin (commenting on “rejoicing in hope”), Paul warned us against remaining content with earthly joys and counselled us to “raise our minds to heaven, that we may enjoy full and solid joy.” As we enter 2021 – what will you do to raise your mind to heaven? You cannot be joyful about something you never think about! You cannot rejoice in something you are not looking forward to!
As we enter 2021 – Keep hopeful. Keep the gospel constantly before you. Remind yourself daily that in Jesus you are forgiven, you are kept, you have a certain and eternal future with Jesus.
Second: Let us Keep Going
Paul goes on to say, “Be patient in affliction”
Follower of Jesus have hope but that is not a promise life will be easy. Life is full of afflictions. In fact, the New Testament tells us to expect the Christian life to be full of afflictions. The word translated affliction is the idea of a pressure that causes distress. Many of us find ourselves in this place of pressure right now! In the New Testament this word “affliction” can be speaking about the very specific afflictions that come for being a follower of Jesus. Sharing in the suffering of Jesus. Or it can simply refer to the afflictions that come to us from living in a broken world, e.g. sins, sickness, death, pandemics. Some of our pressures right now are COVID-19 related, but many are not.
And it is into this affliction that the call comes to be patient. To KEEP GOING.
One writer helpfully says this: the word “patient may give a wrong impression; Paul’s word denotes not a passive putting up with things but an active, steadfast endurance.” That is the active attitude that says I will keep going! To be patient means to endure. To maintain one’s belief and to stand one’s ground in the face of difficultly. In other words, it means to Keep Going with Jesus.
That is what we are called to in 2021. How? It links to the first instruction. Hope! Hope of what is to come will enable us to patiently endure whatever fresh afflictions 2021 will bring.
Listen again to John Calvin on this subject:
“No man will indeed calmly and quietly submit to bear the cross, but he who has learnt to seek his happiness beyond this world, so as to mitigate and allay the bitterness of the cross with the consolation of hope.”
Jesus himself knew this endurance and therefore encourages us to seek our help from Him.
Hebrews 12:2-3 tells us to fix “our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
When faced with 2021 Keep hopeful about Jesus and Keep going with Jesus
Third: Let us Keep Praying
Paul finishes up by saying: “Be faithful in prayer”
Let’s be honest for a moment, when life is tough, rejoicing and being patient, both seem beyond us don’t they. That is why we need to pray. Prayer is our act of dependence on God in every circumstance of life. Prayer is our source of help to be joyful and be patient when afflictions come.
As we enter 2021, keep praying. Not just prayers in crisis. Not just prayers out of duty. But faithful in prayer. The word faithful is much stronger than we use it. It is sometimes translated persevere or be devoted to prayer. Is that you? One translation put it like this: “Steadfastly maintain the habit of prayer” (Phillips). The word captures the idea of both the constancy with which we must pray but also the effort it takes. We won’t just accidentally stumble into being this kind of praying. It takes effort. It takes the forming of habits. The Bible is real with us. It knows we struggle with prayer. But it also knows we need it.
How will you keep praying this year? How will you be devoted to prayer this year?
Maybe some of you do not have a regular habit of prayer. Use 2021 to start one. Start small, start regular. Fix a time, set an alarm on your phone to remind you to pray. And when you pray keep it simple and keep it real. As followers of Jesus facing another hard year, keep praying. Keep looking to God for the help we need in whatever we face.
Romans 12:12 say: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer”
As we enter 2021 as followers of Jesus lets…
Keep hopeful: Raise your minds to heaven, and seek solid joy in the certain hope we have.
Keep going: One foot in front of the other, maintain what we believe about Jesus.
Keep praying: Be committed and regular in seeking God’s help through prayer.
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