June 5, 2023
“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.”
When I think about what it means for Christians to live with one another, I am reminded of fire horses. Before the use of fire trucks, between the time of the Civil War until around 1920s, firefighters would use horses to pull their fire wagons and necessary equipment. Firefighters would carefully select horses and train them for firefighting. These horses were trained to pull the wagons up to a burning building and stand still. The firefighters were running around the horses while the flames and the smoke danced all around them also. There were even moments when these horses would stand so close to the fire that the flames would singe their manes. Yet they stayed. They endured. It was hot. It was chaotic. It was distracting. But they stayed.
Romans 15:4 is a powerful reminder about staying with one another. Hope is critical for believers if we want to figure out how to stay together. Romans Chapter 15 is a picture of what it looks like for God’s people to stay together, even when temperatures seem to rise. Gospel community often comes with a great deal of challenges. If we intend to continue with the church of Jesus Christ, we will need hope that will sustain us through difficulty.
Hope emerges at the intersection of endurance and encouragement. When endurance and encouragement come together, there is where you will find hope. As I have sat with people struggling to stay connected to the church, I usually hear a loss of either encouragement, or endurance. “Encouragement” in the Greek comes from a word parakeleo, which is the same word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit when he called him the comforter. Encouragement is described as exhortation, consolation, and comfort. Endurance is defined as the capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances. In the Greek, “Endurance” could also be translated as steadfastness or patience. Gospel community requires encouragement and endurance. So, when you think about being part of the church, are either of those two lacking for you?
If you are discouraged, discomforted by the church, it will be challenging maintain hope. If you are losing your patience or your capacity to endure, it will be challenging to withstand when times get tough. So, how can we keep our hope? The Apostle Paul points to the Old Testament to help us in Romans 15:3. Paul quotes Psalm 69—an imprecatory Psalm—a Psalm where the anointed King of Israel cries out for God’s judgment upon the wickedness of this world. Imprecatory Psalms are psalms of justice, and Paul quotes, “the reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” He is quoting Psalm 69:9 to help us understand that there is another anointed King—King Jesus—that still cried out for justice, but in the ultimate sacrifice, took that justice and judgment upon himself for the sake of the wicked. As Romans 5:8 teaches us, “Christ demonstrated his love in that while we were still sinners, he died for us.” And Paul is pointing to the cruciform life as the way forward toward encouragement and endurance in Gospel community.
As the songwriter says, “our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Our hope is maintained through Jesus Christ, whom we know through the Scriptures, by faith. We must return again and again to the truth of God’s word so that our hope can be deepened even more. Let us rejoice as the Lord sustains us to hold fast to obeying the Scriptures and finding hope in this Gospel community for generations to come.
Rev. Dr. Evan Marbury serves as Assistant Pastor of Christ Central Church in Durham, NC. He graduated from Covenant Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Counseling. He also earned a Doctor of Ministry in Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Katrina, and they have two children.