I hope this letter finds you well. I’m not sure if you really remember me from way back when Brian, you, and I had dinner together, but I know that you are so blessed to have a devoted friend like Brian. I hope that even though you might not remember my face, the sound of my voice, or what my major is, I hope that this letter shows a part of who I really am, where my heart is at, and ultimately I hope that, by God’s grace, your heart would be open to Christ through it.
So Frank, today I wanted to share with you Romans 1:8-15. These are the words that Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, penned to the saints in Rome. They’re words full of encouragement, joyfulness, longing, and thankfulness. My hope and my prayer is that I can say these same kind of words to you some day:
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.”
The first thing you notice is that Paul is full of thankfulness. That’s what it means when he says, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all.” He is thankful not because he’s gained any type of material possession or profit, but because of the faith of his brothers and sisters in Rome. Not only do they have faith in the gospel, but this very faith is being proclaimed around the whole world; their faith is being lived out loud during a time when Christianity wasn’t accepted in the culture and when cross-shaped necklaces weren’t popular. This is what Paul is thankful for. He’s thankful that he has brethren in Christ, people who offer up their lives to God as a living sacrifice. Paul sees the love they have for God, and he is rejoicing and giving thanks to God for that. Their Christian lives don’t cause Paul to shake is head or suffer anguish, but instead they serve as an encouragement to him.
Not only is Paul joyful and rejoicing, but he is prayerful: “how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request.” As we read on, you’ll see that Paul is relentless in his love for the Roman church, and that is why he prays. Paul is first and foremost a servant of God, but that servant’s attitude overflowed into his relationships with his brothers and sisters. He cared for them so much that he continually prayed for them. He has never seen these people before, but he still prays for them and he does so continuously. That attitude of prayer and longing is what I hope that I continue to grow in. I hope that I can care enough for people to pray for them, to long to see them and encourage them. I know that my attitude can often be selfish and self-seeking; it isn’t hard to do. But what is hard to do is consider others, to truly keep them in my heart and my prayers. It’s easy to just throw up quick minute-long prayers right before I go to sleep, but to bow down and truly pray for others is hard. And that’s what Paul did.
Paul also realizes that Christians cannot be voluntary loners. “For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.” He prays that he can see the Roman saints soon so that they can encourage each other. There is a spiritual gift of grace that he wants to also give to the Roman church so that they may be strengthened and established. He also knows that they can also be an encouragement to him, too. Paul loves them so much he’s literally praying to God all the time that He would let them see each other soon. It hasn’t changed since then. Christians still need each other, to offer hope and help to one another. A Christian who chooses to ignore his or her brother is in sin. In today’s world of technological advancement, it can be easy to just do everything from the computer, and we trick ourselves into believing we can replace real interaction and contact with a few comments on Facebook or a tweet here or there on Twitter. But God has created us to be relational beings, and that means Christians should most definitely continue in building and strengthening their bonds of love.
Paul establishes and emphasizes that he is not just preaching the gospel to a select few or an elite group of Jews or Christians, but he is, “under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.” That means you and I can come to Christ any time. You don’t have to be smart enough, go to seminary, or be in church for X amount of years till you can come to Christ. I pray that you would consider this most of all. I hope you would consider the salvation Christ paid for with His own blood. We might have nothing in common, but we can share a common faith in the gospel. Please allow me the privilege to one day speak the words of Paul to you. I want to thank and shout to God in joy because you have been saved. I want to call you a beloved brother in Christ. I want to be able to fellowship and talk with you not as a stranger, but as a Christian friend. God willing, I would love to be able to meet together, encourage one another, and spur on each other in our walks with God. How awesome it would be to see you come to Christ and then be used by Him in service. I want my prayers to shift from praying for your salvation to praying for your sanctification. And if you devote your life to Christ and walk with Him, I will be okay to not see you again in this life, because I know that I will have all eternity to fellowship and praise God with you.
I could thank God for that. I hope you don’t dismiss this as “pie in the sky” talk, because it just isn’t so. God makes promises. He has set sovereign decrees that will never pass away. Christ the King promises eternal life and joy for all who would turn from their sin and rely on Him alone for salvation. It can happen for you today, right now, even as you read this. The book of Romans tells us that deep down in each of our hearts, we know there is a God. Please don’t ignore or hide from Him anymore because you will sooner or later have to face Him, and when that day comes, I pray that it will be Him as your Savior and not as your Judge.
With thankfulness in my heart to God,