The Life of the Christian: Rejoicing, Patience, and Prayer

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

The book of Romans is Paul’s grand theological treatise, a rich exposition of the doctrines of God and Man, Sin and Salvation, Christ and His Atonement. But that theology, as is always the case with Paul and as is always the case with Scripture, is meant to not just lead to increased head knowledge, it’s meant to transform our lives. Romans ends with five chapters of very practical application, showing how the principles of these same doctrines should be put into practice. Romans 12 is the launching point of that discussion, and the second half of that chapter is a string of imperatives for Christian living, none perhaps more pointed than the three we find grouped together in verse 12.

Romans 12:12 could be seen as an outline for the Christian life. These three commands, intimately connected to one another and set in the context of life in the Christian community, sum up virtually every aspect of our lives following Jesus. Let’s look at each of them briefly.


The Christian life should be marked by joy! Paul himself in the book of Philippians both models this and exhorts us to follow him in a life of rejoicing: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice,” he exhorts in Philippians 4:4, after saying virtually the same thing was true about his own life, even under dire circumstances, in Philippians 1:18.

Rejoicing is joy made visible. Our lives of joy on the inside should be spilling over with visible joy–what we call rejoicing–on the outside. So we’re not being told to muster up a fake smile and a false sense of happiness or a counterfeit cheery attitude, but to be marked by a real, deep, true inner joy. Where does that inner joy come from? It comes from the gospel. It comes from the hope that we have in Christ.

“Rejoice in hope,” God tells us in Romans 12:12. We’re to find joy in the content of the hope that we have through Jesus and express that hope with rejoicing. Our joy is anchored in the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, and the fact that one day (soon!) he’s coming again for all who love his appearing. Our hope is in Christ (Romans 15:12), in the life to come (1 Corinthians 15:19), a face-to-face life with God that begins with Christ appears (Titus 2:13). The question is: are we hoping in these things, or are we looking for a cheap alternative from the world?


The Christian life should be marked by joy, but it often experiences trials and tribulations. That is not to say that these two (joy and tribulation) are mutually exclusive; they are meant to go together (Romans 5:3; James 1:2). The presence of trials is not to mean the absence of joy, since our joy is in Christ and not our circumstances.

Tribulations will come: “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” Paul warned Timothy (2 Timothy 3:12). Elsewhere he and Barnabas told the church at Lystra, immediately after Paul was stoned and left for dead, “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of heaven” (Acts 14:22). Tribulations will come; suffering will come; trials will come.

The Christian response is not only rejoicing in Christ, but also patience. Long-suffering. Endurance. We’ve seen this time and again in the book of Hebrews: we’re to “hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope” (3:7); “hold our original confidence firm to the end” (3:14); “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering” (10:23). We’re to be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherited the promise” (6:12).

Tribulation will not destroy your life; walking away from Jesus during tribulation will. When tribulation comes, be patient, trust God, and keep your eyes fixed on things above.


Finally, the way we’re able to have hope and the way we’re able to endure tribulation is by the means of prayer. John Murray writes, “Prayer is the means ordained of God for the supply of grace sufficient for every exigency and particularly against the faintheartedness to which affliction tempts us.” It’s a wordy statement, but it’s a good one. Prayer is that tool that God has given us through which he provides grace. Through prayer, God gives us the grace that we need for every difficult situation in our life, and to protect us against faintheartedness. Prayer is how God keeps us from giving up.

That’s why prayer is the key to the armor of God passage that we’re praying through right now in our 40 Days of Prayer guide. The way we “take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit” is by “praying at all times in the Spirit” (see Ephesians 6:17–18). We take them praying. Indeed, the way we put on the whole armor of God is through prayer. It’s the tool by which God gives us all that we need.

Do you want more joy? Pray. Do you need endurance and patience? Pray. (And don’t buy the lie that we shouldn’t ask God for patience!) Do you want to live a godly life, a life of faithfulness? Pray. The way to rejoice in hope and be patient in tribulation is to be constant in prayer. Prayer is the key to the Christian life.

Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.