About five years ago my “Uncle Mark” (a close family friend) asked me to do a sketch of praying hands for him. My natural response was wondering what he wanted it for. He told me it was for the front of his new prayer journal. He wanted a reminder that prayer is our sword as a Christian.
I think my Uncle Mark would have been what the Romans envisioned Paul to be after reading Romans 1:11-12. Uncle Mark is the person who is an encouragement to me every time I am home. He asks hard questions, but also just enjoys talking with me about all parts of life—what I’m learning, work, and other opportunities. His life challenges me to live for Christ. He is an encouragement of faithfulness to me, always reminding me that it’s all because of Christ.
In verses 8-12, Paul describes his great desire to see the Romans. He gives several reasons for this desire. First, it is because their faith has been reported all over the world. Verse 8 says, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.” Notice how his thankfulness is not directed at the people in Rome, even though it’s a result of their actions. Paul’s thankfulness is directly towards God. He recognizes that we do not remain faithful by ourselves but through Christ by the grace of God. This should also be an encouragement for us – when we walk after Christ, we point people to Christ and the glory goes to Christ.
So often, we as Christians seem to focus our lives into pouring out to others and being poured into. Here, Paul clearly states his desire, “That we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” He doesn’t see this as one or the other encouraging, but both being encouraging to one another. Sometimes our pride keeps us from accepting other believers’ encouragement and love. On the other end of things, sometimes we don’t know how to really love the Church because we don’t know what the Church needs or what our giftings are. It is so encouraging to look at Romans 1 and see Paul remind us that there are things he can give and also things he can learn from the Church. This humble and confident outlook is a wise model for us as Christians. I am grateful for people like my Uncle Mark who have taught me how to value good community.
Who has the Lord has placed in your life as an encouragement? Thank the Lord for blessing you with them. Who do you pray for, or want to be praying for? Write their names down and put them somewhere you’ll see them. Try sending them a text next time you pray for them to let them know they’re on your mind.