Living the Supernatural Life, Part 2 (Romans Sermon 96 of 120)
March 26, 2006 | Andrew Davis
There are three thoughts that bring me joy every day of my life, and all three are focused on the person of Christ. One of them has to do with the past, one of them has to do with the present and one of them has to do with the future.
Concerning the past, it brings me constant delight to know that all of my sins are forgiven through the blood of Christ, much as a candle has been extinguished in an ocean of grace. Just to know that my sin can't even compare with the provision for it, that brings me great joy today. And in that I stand right now up to this very moment, all of my sins in the past are forgiven through the blood of Christ. Isn't that wonderful? Concerning the present, it's a magnificent thing for me to know that Jesus has given me work of eternal consequence to do today, and He will give me everything I need to do that work today. And concerning the future, that someday I will see Jesus face-to-face, therefore all of my best things are yet to come, and nothing, no power in heaven or earth or under the earth can take that from me. Those three things bring me great joy to today. Amen. And so you've had your three-part sermon. I'm done, and so we'll just close in prayer.
No, there are some practicalities as we look back at that second one. Today God is calling on me and you to live supernaturally for His glory, He's calling on us to do things we ordinarily couldn't do, and He's calling on us to live by the power of the Spirit of God. Now, unlike I mentioned last week, like Peter walking on the water, that's not likely to be something He's going to call you to do today, although if He did call you, He would give you enough power to do it, as He did for Peter. But rather the truth of the incarnation, the truth of Emmanuel, God with us, the truth of Jesus coming down from heaven to earth is that Jesus cares about everyday, ordinary life.
He cares how you and I eat our food, He cares how you and I interact with each other in the hall, He cares how you and I deal with brothers and sisters in Christ, how we deal with strangers. He cares about these things, and He knows that only by the power of the Holy Spirit of God can we lift those ordinary encounters into something sublime, something supernatural of eternal consequence, and that's what He's calling on us to do in Romans 12. Now, last week, I'd set the context for you. We've had 11 chapters of doctrine. These ethical commands in Romans 12 are not coming out of nowhere, but rather they are the fruit of all of the doctrine that we have learned in Romans 1-3, that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God that we apart from him, can do nothing good, that our mouths are full of cursing and bitterness, and our feet are swift to shed blood, all those things in Romans 3, that's what we were apart from Christ.
We also learned in Romans 3 that through the blood of Jesus Christ, our atoning sacrifice, all of our sins have been forgiven. Through faith in his blood we stand cleansed, as I just mentioned a moment ago. And how we are in Romans chapter 6, no longer slave to sin, we're called to a whole new realm of existence. We're in a whole new country, as it were, with new rules and new ways of living. And yes, we still struggle with the body of death, Romans 7, but through the indwelling spirit, Romans 8, we can live as more than conquerors, and that this sovereign grace that God is giving us, Romans 9-11, it's so irresistible, so powerful that it will have its way with us, and that we can hold firm to it and nothing can steal our hope, and so therefore we can get busy in the Christian life on that solid foundation.
If I can speak a little more directly, this supernatural life that we're talking about this morning can only be lived by Christians. It can only be lived by people who have trusted in Jesus, who have the indwelling spirit, but if that's you, if that's you, today, he's calling on you to live like this. Now, last week, we talked about the supernatural life. It begins in the heart with un-hypocritical love, a genuine love. It also begins with a burning zeal for the glory of God, there's a fire inside us and that we must stir that fire up, we must never be lacking in zeal, but keep our spirit’s of fervor serving the Lord. And a dear brother this week said, "Did you miss verse 10? I just wanted to know if you were skipping it or whatever," and I, "No, I didn't, I just wanted to combine these two heart elements of an un-hypocritical love and a burning zeal together."
It starts in there, but it's hard to make a strong delineation between what's inside and what's outside here. It begins with the heart, we saw last week. Now, this morning, we're going to look at three other aspects of the supernatural life that God through the Apostle Paul is calling on us to live. First of all, the supernatural and very practical love for the family of God. And secondly, we're going to talk about a supernatural hospitality and generosity, and third, supernatural joy in trials.
I. Supernatural Love for the Family of God
Let's look at the first, a supernatural love for the family of God. Look at verse 10, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, honor one another above yourselves." Upon being saved, you and I, as we are trusted in Christ, we entered into the worldwide family of God through faith in Christ. It's an international family, there are people from almost every tribe and language and people and nation, and some day it'll be every tribe and people and nation. Amen. I'm looking forward to that. But it's a worldwide body of Christ, it's made up of people in every station of life economically, made up of both genders, of all ages, it's made up in a beautiful way of people from all walks of life. That's what you entered into.
Now, this family, this supernatural family, is supernatural in origin. You enter it not in the natural way, but supernaturally. We're not all children of God in that sense. You have to be born again into the family of God, and so it says in John 1, "Yet to all who received Him [Christ], to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, children born not of natural descent nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." That's the supernatural origin of my connection with the family of God, and it's happened to people all over the world, that's how we enter. God, therefore, is our eternal Father. Every other Christian is my brother or sister in Christ. Jesus is our head, he's also our elder brother. You could put it that way, for it says in Hebrews 2:11, "Jesus is not ashamed to call them [and us] brothers."
Isn't it amazing, then, sometimes how we are ashamed of Jesus. How could we ever be ashamed of Jesus? He's not ashamed of us, and he's not ashamed, it says to call us brothers. This family is united by the Spirit and by truth, we all believe the same things about God and about Christ, about sin and hell and death, about heaven, about justification, about the blood of Christ. We believe these same things and so doctrine unites us, and also the indwelling Spirit unites us. By the Spirit we are one family.
Love for the Family of God Inevitable Fruit of Faith
Now, love for the family of God is the inevitable fruit of true saving faith. Let me say that again. Love for the family of God is the inevitable fruit of true saving faith. Let me turn it around. Basically, if you don't love other Christians, you're not a Christian yourself. And first John tells us that very plainly in a number of places, first John 5:1 says, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves the child as well."
You can't love the father and not love the father's children, and so therefore you've got to love the family of God if you're a Christian. Turning it around more negatively. First John 4:20 says, "If anyone says I love God and yet hates his brother, he is a liar, for anyone who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." Now, this love is the very thing that Paul is commanding here in verse 10. "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, honor one another above yourselves." Now, sadly, it doesn't always happen this way, does it? I actually was reading a book this week about a conflict in a church that ended up in an open fist fight right in front of the communion table. Can you imagine that? I can't, but I know that that kind of extreme fruit, actually trace it back, the roots of it are in our hearts, aren't they?
We can have conflicts, we can have divisions with each other, even though we're better mannered than that so we don't end up in someone's Christian book as an illustration. But the divisions are there, we can disagree and it's an old problem too. The Corinthian church was rife with strife and conflict and factions. In Philippians, Euodia and Syntyche couldn't get along, couldn't agree with each other in the Lord. Even our author here, Paul, had a problem with Barnabas over John Mark, right, so I'm not saying he didn't practice what he preached, it's just what he preached is difficult to do, and there are going to be times that there's going to be disagreements, conflicts like between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark.
But yet in the Book of Acts we see a contrast, we see local churches actually living this kind of thing out. We see them devoting themselves every day to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and a prayer. We see the way they used to sell their possessions and their goods and give to anyone as he had need. They didn't consider that their possessions were their own, but they shared everything that they had, even to the point of selling houses and real estate and putting at the apostles' feet. An amazingly generous collection was taken up among Greek believers for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem, and so we see a Jew-Gentile unity there through the sacrificial giving that went on. That's what the church was like in the Book of Acts.
And we see a church that's characterized by supernatural boldness in dealing with the outside world, boldness in preaching the Gospel, boldness in facing persecution. That's what the church was like. And so here in verse 10, it was lived out, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, honor one another above yourself." Now, as we look at that first half, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love." Paul combines two Greek words for love, and one of them just has to do with an open display of affection, of genuine affection, and the other just has to do with a family connection, like the love of a brother, a sister, for one another, because they're in the same family, and he combines the two of them together. This is pictured so many times in the Book of Acts toward Paul.
You remember how Paul, at the end of Acts 20 when he's with the elders from the Ephesian church, they're all weeping that they would never see Paul again, then the very next chapter, there's the church at Tyre and they all go to the beach and they're begging him not to go to Jerusalem, and when they see that they can't persuade him not to go, they kneel down on the beach, all the wives and the little ones in the church, and they're just all huddled together praying. And then he gets up from there and goes to the next community and he stays at the home of Philip the Evangelist, who had seven daughters, who prophesied and he opened up his home in hospitality to them, and he goes from them and stays at the home of Mnason, and he opens up his home, Acts 21. One household after another, one local church after another displaying this brotherly love and this devotion. It's a beautiful thing.
Now, I think a beautiful picture of this in the Old Testament is Joseph, whose brothers sold him as a slave into Egypt, and then after their father died, they were afraid that he was going to take his revenge finally, he was waiting for Jacob to die, so they thought, and so they come basically crawling in on their knees begging him not to punish them. And he is deeply moved, he weeps over this, Joseph, and he says, "Am I in the place of God? You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good." And then it says so beautifully in Genesis 50, that he spoke kindly to them and reassured them and he said that he would provide for all of their needs. That's a good picture of the brotherly love here. We don't always do well by each other, do we? But we've got to have that theological perspective that Joseph had, you meant it for evil but God meant it for good. And I love you and I'll provide for you, I'll do what I can for you to help you. That's a picture of his brotherly love and his devotion.
The Scriptural Emphasis on Humility
Now, I think the scripture here emphasizes humility, it's a foundation to this. Honor one another above yourselves. Prefer others ahead of yourself, think of them as better than you are, seek to meet their needs ahead of meeting your own. Think of issues from their point of view rather than from your own point of view. I think foundational to this is seeing other brothers and sisters as they will be someday, while you see yourself as you are right now.
And Bunyan pictures this so beautifully in Pilgrim's Progress part 2, when Christiana is there with her children and Mercy, and they're in the interpreter's house and he gives all of them clothing, representing their right standing with God, their purity in God's sight. But what's so interesting is they cannot see their own clothes as glorious, but only those of the others. And so they're kind of... Bunyan said that the clothes were a terror to each one of them, because they only saw the other as glorious and not themselves, and so it is in the Christian life. We know our own sin, don't we? We can see it. And it's hard for us to imagine that some day we'll be perfect and glorious and we will be. But in terms of our humility and dealing with one another, we say, "Some day this brother, this sister is going to be glorious in Christ." And you see them that way. Lewis points us out in his great sermon, Weight of Glory, "We treat each other as though some day they will be glorious in Christ."
And you look at how the apostle Paul dealt with this in 1 Timothy 1, he said, "I am the greatest of all sinners," and he's talking about how he persecuted the church, but notice the tense of the verb. He didn't say, "I was the great, the chief of all sinners," he doesn't say that. "I am the chief of all sinners," that's the way he carries himself, the way he thinks of himself.
We honor each other above ourselves. Interestingly, the ESV emphasizes almost a holy competition here. "Outdo one another, in showing honor." That's one translation, like, let's have a contest and let's see who can honor the other more, let's see who can serve more. Churches divide over some of the strangest things, decorating schemes, colors of things; even more significant things like worship styles or evangelistic strategies or things like that can be sources of division. But here we are to prefer one another above the others.
That doesn't mean we sacrifice truth for unity. That's not what we're talking about, but there's a sense of, "I want to see things from your point of view, I want to try to understand your convictions because they matter to me." And so we should try to see who can be the most humble, let's outdo one another, as the ESV gives us, "outdo one another in showing honor."
I love the illustration. I've talked to others about this before, of George Whitfield, who was in a controversy with John Wesley over the doctrine of predestination. And someone came and asked Whitfield, "Do you think you'll see Wesley in Heaven?" And he said, "No, I don't, he said, "I think he'll be so close to the throne of Christ and I'll be so far away that I don't think I'll catch a glimpse of him there." You have to know Whitfield to know that that wasn't just an act. That's the way he really thought. There was a genuine humility there. Outdo one another in honoring others ahead of yourself.
II. Supernatural Hospitality and Generosity
The second aspect of the supernatural life is supernatural hospitality and generosity. Look at verse 13, there it says, "Share with God's people who are in need and practice hospitality." This is going to be a big part of how we are devoted to one another in brotherly love, this issue of hospitality. The word that Paul gives us here is one of pursue, pursue generous hospitality. Make it your business to find ways to be hospitable. Think about it, think about how you can open up your life, open up your home, open up your heart to others, pursue it. Now, the word for hospitality literally means love for strangers or outsiders. And the foundation's in the Old Testament, when God says, for example, in Leviticus 19 verse 33 and 34, it says, "When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God." Isn't that marvelous?
Don't you remember how it used to be for you in Egypt, how you were aliens? Do to others in effect what you'd have them do to you. Treat them the way you would have wanted to have been treated in Egypt, not necessarily the way you were treated, but the way you wish you'd been treated when you were an alien, an outsider. It gets even stronger in the New Testament, when Jesus in the sheep and the goats teaching says he's going to gather all the nations before him, and separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he's going to put the sheep on the right and the goats on the left. And he'll say to those on his right, "Come you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in."
In other words, people's eternal destiny will be put on display by how they treat other Christians. because at the end, he says, "Anyone who does one of the least of these things, to the least of these brothers of mine, you do it to me." There's a connection to the church of which he is head, and if you treat somebody like this, it's like you're treating Christ that way. Very strong teaching.
An even deeper concept is the idea that when it comes to heaven, we are all aliens and strangers, aren't we? I mean, naturally apart from Christ. Ephesians 2 tells us we were at that time, aliens and strangers and outsiders. That's what it says in Ephesians 2:12-13, it says, "Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." We were aliens, were outsiders and now God has opened himself up and brought you in. And so it says in Ephesians 2-19. So you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you're fellow citizens with the saints and members of God's household.
We're going to Heaven on the basis of God's hospitality. He's opening himself up to aliens and strangers through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and he's opening up his home, he's opening up his table, he's saying, "Come sit with me." And one of the sweetest things ever is the idea of God and man at table are sat down, someday we're going to sit down at the table with God. Now, that's hospitality, it's the foundation of what he's calling on us to do, to welcome the stranger.
Hospitality in the New Testament
Now, in the New Testament, it's very practical and foundational. The basic concept is when you're traveling, you're on the road, there's not many other places to stay. Now, I'm not going to say not any places, because you know that there was no room in the inn for Joseph and Mary, so there were inns. And you know the parable of the good Samaritan, he puts him up in an inn, and they were there but there were not as many as we have today.
Certainly no Holiday Inn. There's no Tom Bodett leaving the lights on for you at Motel 6, that wasn't happening. Certainly no Hyatt or Ritz-Carlton. For the most part also, as Christians, they didn't want to stay at the homes of unbelievers. And so you really wanted to stay, in a very practical way, you wanted to stay with believers as you're on the road. Well, Christ's first missionary instructions in Matthew 10, he sends them out without any extra bag or tunic and sandals or staff, without any extra money, nothing, just sends them out. And if there's an immediate practical problem on this mission trip, where are we going to stay?
And he says, "Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. If the home is deserving let your peace rest on it. If it is not, let your peace return to you." So the idea is you find a base of operations in a town, and based on hospitality, you stand and you do your ministry there. And at the end of Matthew 10, Jesus pronounces eternal rewards for the people who put them up. "Anyone who receives a prophet because he's a prophet, will receive a prophet's reward. Anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man, will receive a righteous man's reward, and if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones that I'm sending out, [he says] I tell you the truth, he will never lose his reward."
That's an eternal reward for hospitality as we're helping God's servants that are going out to do his work, Matthew 10. Now, later on, the apostles are totally dependent on it. Peter was staying at the home of Simon the Tanner who lived by the sea in Acts 10 when the messengers came from Cornelius' house, he was a Gentile, that's how the whole Gentile church began, and so it's at Simon the Tanner's house that he's staying. It was his base of operations there. And then he's willing to go with a bunch of other Jewish brothers and he is actually willing to enter across the threshold of a Gentile home and share the gospel with them. And afterwards, Acts 11 applies, they sat down and ate a meal together. So he was willing to receive hospitality. Sometimes that's hard, it's easier to give it than receive it. Have you ever felt that way?
But so it is. Here's the apostle Peter and he's willing to receive hospitality from Simon the Tanner, who gives it to him, and he's willing to receive hospitality from the first Gentile convert, there in Caesarea, Cornelius. Even here in the Book of Romans, the Book of Romans is written by a man, the apostle Paul, who is at that moment, receiving hospitality. As it says in Romans 16:23, "Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings." The whole church is based there. House churches were foundational. Lydia opens up her home in Philippi and after she's converted and baptized, she said, "If you consider me a believer in the Lord Jesus, please come and stay at my home." And that became the start of the Philippian church. House churches were big in hospitality. Foundational, then.
2 and 3 John, the foundational issue of those two books is hospitality. Don't take in a false teacher and show him hospitality or you'll share in his evil works. 3 John, he's thanking them for taking in good teachers and sharing in their good works. And so he says in 3 John 5:8, "Dear friend, you are faithful in what you're doing for the brothers even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love, you will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. It was for the sake of the name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought…" listen, this is 3 John 8, "We ought therefore, to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth." They needed a base of operations and they gave it to them.
And so hospitality is huge. The most intriguing one is, of course, Hebrews 13: 2, which says, "Do not forget to entertain strangers for by so doing some have entertained angels without knowing it." Wouldn't that be exciting? Find out on Judgment Day. Oh, he was an angel? You know, I had no idea. Now, I think this is talking about Abraham's hospitality in Genesis 18, but there it is. Now, what is the situation today in the American church?
How are we on hospitality?
How are we on hospitality? Well, first of all, just societally, we have certain problems. First of all, there's the problem of affluence. One of the problems with affluence is that it breeds isolation. You know what you get for your affluence? You get to be away from people. And you might say, "Why would I want to be away from people?" Well, people are complex. People can be a little messy, people can mess things up, like your living room. And so as a result, you get to have isolation, a kind of a perfect and neat world, and that's a problem. Another problem is the fluidity of our society, we're a very fluid society, and therefore very few people feel the need to welcome the newcomer, because they themselves are newcomers, and nobody in takes ownership for the neighborhood. That happens especially in churches where people transfer their membership so frequently that they don't necessarily feel a sense of ownership for the community to then be hospitable to visitors. They're asking instead, "Who's being hospitable to me?"
And I always find a way of saying, "Oh, it's not a very friendly church." I'm trying to think, "How do I turn it around," so I ask, "Were you friendly? How do I do that?" I want to think about that. Oh, the church just wasn't very friendly. And I have found that people who are friendly receive friendliness back, and so it's a matter of you don't look inward anymore, and say, "What am I getting from this church?" But rather, you're saying, "I want to be open to the visitors, I want to be open myself." Little by little you find you don't have a problem with friends at all. So it's an issue.
Alexander Strauch wrote a book called The Hospitality Commands, and he was talking about an elderly single woman who had to travel more than an hour by bus to a suburban church that she wanted to go to, and she was there for four years, and no one ever invited that lady out or to their home after worship, four years, until the very end when she had announced that she was leaving the church, another elderly lady took her in and they had a meal together on her final Sunday.
Alexander Strauch himself said, "I would go around and I would preach in other places, some two, three, four hours away from where I live. I would get done with the service," Strauch said. "People would come up, shake my hand, say it was a good message, maybe give me an offering, something like that, invite me back if I'd ever like to come, and then they'd all disappear and there I was, nobody would invite me to their home or give me a place of rest before I had to go back, or maybe there was even an evening service and in between the two services, I had no one to invite me over."
It can happen, it's a problem. Now, here at First Baptist Church, I have personally seen and experienced incredible hospitality from members of this church. When we first came here, we stayed at a wonderful Christian family's home, and I enjoyed that time, that week together, with them. I'll never forget it. It was an incredible time. Or then there's the ice storm, 2002, when many people had to get out of their homes because the power went down, for sometimes as much as a week. And it was wonderful to see the way homes were being opened up to widows and the elderly and just people that had to get out of their homes. And we ourselves stayed at two different homes at that time. I'll never forget, it was beautiful. So we've seen that kind of hospitality. One family I know had a ministry in Pennsylvania of hospitality opening up their homes to really undesirable, poverty-stricken people and seeing many of them come to Christ, because they cared more about the people than they did about the quality or the status of their possessions. They were willing to open their home and they've done the same thing here, with International Ministry.
I've seen many of you open your homes for meals, extended grace to our family and to others. It's a beautiful thing. I've seen it again and again, so there is a wonderful spirit of hospitality here at FBC. But I think we could do even better, I really believe it. And the more I thought about hospitality, the more I think this is strategic for our future ministries. It's very important, it's important for developing a sense of community and fellowship. We are very much a commuter church. People drive long distances to get to this church. As a matter of fact, if you went east-most or west-most to the extremities you're at least a 90-minute travel from one side to the other.
And so it's very, very difficult for us to have community here if people don't show hospitality. One of the things we've seen develop in the last year are the home fellowships, and people have opened up their homes and they're willing to have fellowship in their homes, and that's made all the difference of developing community and fellowship. I think if we don't keep working at it, though, it's easy to slip through our fingers. We want to have a community here. We'll just have a little time on Sunday morning then you go, you go away. There's got to be hospitality to make it happen, fellowship. It's also essential to generosity. Here, we're commanded to share with God's people who are in need. I think one of the best ways you can do that is open up your home and share your home and your life and your food and other things with people, share with them. Now, obviously, for you to a write generous check and send it to needy Christians in other countries is in obedience to this verse. But I like to combine them. It's almost like share with God's people who are in need by pursuing hospitality. You combine them.
Hospitality Fosters Evangelism
Thirdly, also hospitality is strategically vital for evangelism. The gospel itself is weighty, heavy cargo that travels best over a well-built bridge of trust from one person to another. Now, I'm not saying that you can't do contact evangelism or that it's not valuable. What I'm saying is, it works best when you really know the people. And so, how about inviting people over your home and having them, I'm talking unbelievers, share a meal with them, reach out to them, in that way. We've seen fruit from that even quite recently. It's a beautiful thing. I think this is especially true for internationals.
My goodness, nowhere do you see the need for hospitality as much as in international ministry. A lot of these folks come from countries where hospitality is ingrained in their nature and they come over here, and they're amazed at how difficult it is to get into an American home. Some of them study at Duke for two or three years and go home, never having been invited to the home of an American. Never. Now, this is amazing, I found out about a month ago that we have the possibility through Duke University of being a host family for an international student for the first week they spend in the Triangle region before they get situated at Duke. Do you see any possible strategic ministry there for the gospel? Do you think there might be the possibility that during that week, you could build a friendship that would last for a lifetime? That they would get to know you, and that you might actually be able to share the Gospel?
Hospitality, essential to evangelism. If you're interested in doing something like this with internationals, talk to me or to any of the others are involved in international ministry, if you say I want to be a host family for one of those internationals for the first week that they're here in the Triangle region. What a strategic ministry that could be. Imagine seeing some of them come to Christ. Or the host ministry, talk about evangelism, people bring visitors to the church, and Tony is going to be saying at the end more about ways we can get involved, even beginning on Easter Sunday, but then from there on a developing ministry of making our church more hospitable to visitors, so that we can reach out to the people that God brings us.
Hospitality is Strategic for Discipleship
And then finally, hospitality is strategically vital in the area of discipleship. So much of the Christian life is what we say caught rather than taught. How valuable is it for, let's say, a more established family that's got older kids to take in a younger married couple that's just getting going in life, or has a newborn so that they can put their life on display and say, "This is how we discipline our children or this is how we train them or these are the things we do for a family, devotion time, this how we eat a meal together," and it helps you to be better too, as well. You want to put your best face on and to have guests from the outside, things just go so well at that point, and there's just a sweet spirit. So it's a beautiful inducement both ways.
But discipleship works that way. And then the home fellowships are discipleship times. We have developing home fellowship ministry but we had a practical problem, we didn't have enough host families. And so some of the home fellowships have 25 or 30 people in them, that's large. And as a result, it's hard to get everybody in one room. The fellowship's not as intimate. We need more host families for the fall. So that's about as practical as it gets. Be willing to open your home on a Sunday evening and have a home fellowship.
III. Supernatural Joy in Trials
The final area of Christian life that I want to talk about here is supernatural joy and trials. Verse 12, it says, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." It seems to me as I look at the Christian life that God has given us the challenge of waiting on him. And I told you the third sweet thing for me is that the best is yet to come. But sometimes it seems like I'll never get there. Do you ever feel that way? When do we get to see the Lord, when do we get to be in his presence? And it's even harder when you're going through a trial, isn't it?
Maybe it's a chronic illness, maybe it's a chronic financial problem, joblessness, for example, maybe there's other issues that make life here on earth very shrill and difficult, but here God is calling on you to be joyful in hope and patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. What does Paul mean by be joyful in hope? Well, first of all, he's not talking about a natural hope, you know what I'm talking about? Like, "I hope my team wins the NCAA tournament," something like that. I don't want to drag us down into the mundane from the sublime, but that's a kind of a temporal hope that rarely gets fulfilled. Or an unemployed person could say, "I hope I get the job I'm interviewing for." Or even a lonely person in a nursing home can say, "I hope somebody visits me this week."
Well, those hopes are fleeting. That's not what we're talking about here when we talk about be joyful in hope. Christian hope is a certainty that's coming to us some day based on the promise of God, you just don't have it yet. That's not a technical definition, but that's what it is, it's something you will most certainly get because God said you would get it, you just don't have it yet. And based on that, we get 11 chapters of what that hope is and from that draw on it, like from a bank account. Be joyful in the hope that someday you're going to be with Christ, even as you're facing great afflictions.
I have seen in this church people go through afflictions in marvelous ways. I've seen people get diagnoses of cancer, and keep drawing on their faith in Christ to get through it. I've seen it again and again, it's one of the most beautiful aspects of the Christian life. I've also seen, not so much in this church, but I've seen people go through difficult trials, and they begin to question God. They begin to murmur against him and they begin to abandon their prayer life. That's why Paul combines be faithful in prayer, keep praying even when things don't seem to be going your way. George Mueller, the great prayer warrior, said it well, when he said, "The great fault of the children of God is they do not continue in prayer, they don't go on praying, they do not persevere." This is a man who recorded over 50,000 answers to prayer, but also prayed for over 50 years for something he never received while he was alive. God waited until after he was dead to give it to him.
Be faithful in prayer. Jesus told many parables on this, like the parable of the unrighteous judge and the widow who kept coming again and again and again. Why did he tell that prayer, except that he's not necessarily going to grant you everything you want right away, but he wants you to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Now, today we have looked at three aspects of the supernatural life that God is calling on Christians to live. My question to you is, do you see this power at work in your life? Perhaps you've already made a commitment to Christ, you've already come to faith in Christ, you've already given your life to him, but you're not seeing this kind of love flowing through you for the brothers and sisters in Christ. You're not seeing the humility that you'd like to see where you honor somebody above yourself. Maybe you haven't been hospitable, you haven't opened your home to anybody sacrificially. Maybe you don't see this is what you want, or maybe you've allowed the trials of your life to get you inward-focused, get you bitter, get you down.
You know, God, when he comes to us through the Scripture, calls on us to repent, and to turn back and say, "I want to live this kind of life. This is my inheritance while I live here on this Earth. God work it in me." But I said at the beginning, if you're not a Christian, you can't live this kind of life. My hope then is that the description of it will be inducement to get you to look at the cross and say, "I want Jesus, not only because I could live this kind of a life here on Earth, but because when I die I can be with him forever in glory. That's what I yearn for."
Don't leave this place without having trusted in Christ as your Savior. Close with me in prayer.