Let me ask you something. Have you ever been far from home for an extended period of time? Maybe you went to college in a state miles and hours away from where you grew up. Or maybe, like me, you moved overseas and found yourself homesick and needing encouragement and even simple idle news to keep your spirits up?
When I lived in England (and had a husband who traveled 21 days out of each month – many of those days without me) my favorite thing in the world was to get letters from my Grandma Betty. Actually, she was Tim’s grandmother, but she had always taken a liking to me and me to her, and from the moment I met her, she became my “Gram”, too!
Being so far from home, and with the prospect of visitors from home looking like it was months and months away, Gram’s letters honestly kept me going on days when I was lonely. Each letter was like a treasure that NEEDED to be savored. Before I’d open it, I’d pour a glass of wine, get in my jammies, and curl up on the couch with the fire on. Then, I’d carefully open it, giddy to see her distinctive “grandma style” penmanship sprawled over pages and pages of family news and gossip, newspaper clippings, and even the odd recipe was thrown in here and there (she couldn’t cook to save her life, God bless her soul, but boy did she try!)!
Gram had this amazing way of picking up my spirits by telling me she was so proud of me, being young and newly married and just picking up and following my husband all the way to England. She’d tell me she was praying for me, for our safety, and for fun and memory making experiences. She’d thank me for my postcards and pictures that I sent with my own hand-written letters back to her (remember this was pre-email, social media, and smart phones…!) and she would always tell me she wished she could visit. Then she’d go on to tell me ALL the latest news, give me some sage advice, and fill in all the gaps with silly stories and gossip (in a good way…)!
And, every now and again, she’d slip a 5 or 10 pound note in the card and tell me to go buy myself “something sweet”! (And that was kind of a big deal because, when Gram would drive at the age of 86, she only made right-hand turns…! So what would take you or me a few quick 5 minutes to get to the Currency Exchange closest to her to exchange a few dollars for a couple precious English pounds, it took her over 20 minutes each way because of the route she had to take to only make right turns!).
To this day, I still say she was the BEST PEN PAL EVER. Those letters were my lifeline to “happenings” back home. They gave me giggles, encouragement, love, and support. And somehow, she always knew how much I needed them, even though I never once had to ask for them.
You know what’s amazing? Paul did those same things for the intended readers of that newbie Christian Church in Rome.
With the beginning of the book of Romans in chapter 1, verse 8, he bolsters their spirits by letting them know he is proud of them and thanks God for them.
Let me say first that I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in him is being talked about all over the world. Romans 1:8, NLT
Next, in verse 9, he assures them of his faithful prayers for them! Who doesn’t feel better when someone assures her that she is being prayed over?!
God knows how often I pray for you. Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God, whom I serve with all my heart by spreading the Good News about his Son. Romans 1:9, NLT
Then, in verse 10, he tells them he wishes he was there! By doing so, he is saying that he values them to the point of wanting to spend time with them – almost “longing” to be with them.
One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you. Romans 1:10, NLT
And in verses 11-13, he promises to help them out, by imparting gifts (in this case, spiritual gifts) on them! He wants to share his own spiritual gifts of leading and encouraging with them, regardless of the cost.
For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters,that I planned many times to visit you, but I was prevented until now. I want to work among you and see spiritual fruit, just as I have seen among other Gentiles. Romans 1:11-13, NLT
Talk about encouraging! What a great gift to bolster the spirits of his cohorts, who were trying their best in an environment that felt so foreign, helping them to stay true to their mission there.
How can you use Paul’s (and Gram’s!) model of encouragement today? Who in your world could use a little “Romans Rah-Rah-Rah” to get them excited and encouraged to stay their course? I urge you to spend some time today thinking about that, asking God how you could be a beacon of light and hope for someone in your life. I betcha it won’t take long for you to come up with something 😉 !
Are you Seeing the Big Picture of Romans with us this fall?! I hope so! And if you are, you should click this link for the homework for the week and the link to our song for the week, too! We are digging right into Romans 1:1-17 this week, and you are the boss of your own homework, deciding for yourself at what level of our Do What You Can Plan you will work!
Have a great weekend and see you back here next Thursday!
Up Next Week: The Wrath of God – Sometimes It’s Just Easier to Rip the Band-Aid Off Quickly 😉