May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul often included benedictions in his letters—sometimes more than one. In fact, Romans 15.5-6 is the first of three benedictions Paul writes in the chapter (15.13, 33). A benediction is like a well-placed rest stop along a well-traveled road. It refreshes the mind and encourages the heart by feeding the soul and energizing the spirit. A benediction renews our hope by empowering us to carry on and complete our journey. A benediction breathes into the assurance that if we endure the journey will end happily.
So when Paul writes, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” his goal is to inspire us to keep following Christ by reminding us of what is our ultimate responsibility: to glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The journey between the first breath of our confession of faith and the last breath we take on earth as a believer is long and sometimes arduous.
Even the faithful Christ-follower will grow weary. And weary Christ-followers, like weary travelers need rest stops. They need places where they can refresh themselves and receive encouragement so their strength can be renewed enough to complete their journey. Just as weary travelers need rest stops, weary Christ-followers need benedictions.
Several years ago, my family and I drove back to our home in Canada after visiting family in Northern Virginia. As if the fourteen hour drive was not long enough, we were trying to outrun a snowstorm. Despite the fact that we would share the driving, neither I nor my wife were looking forward to the intensity of a long drive home in bad weather.
By the eleventh hour we reached St. Catherine’s, Ontario. We were three hours from home, and the snow was increasing in intensity. We were hungry, tired and in need of a break. So we exited the highway at a familiar rest stop to refresh ourselves and grab a snack.
The snow continued to fall as we ate our soup and sandwiches. The rest and the food had its desired effect. So with our bellies full and our hope renewed we set off for home. As we walked back to our van we noticed the snowfall was letting up. As we got closer to home the snow stopped altogether. And by the time we were an hour from home, the sky had cleared so much we could see the stars.
Obviously, our stopping to rest did not cause the skies to clear and the snow to stop. However, by taking the time to eat and refresh ourselves we all noticed an improvement in our attitude as well as our behavior the rest of the way home. Before we stopped to rest we were tired, hungry and short of patience. After the stop we were in a much better frame of mind. That rest stop was the benediction we needed to encourage us to carry on.
We who follow Jesus need rest stops, too. We need benedictions such as the one Paul writes in Romans 15. We need the refreshment that comes from God’s word. We need the encouragement to endure as we follow Jesus through sunshine and storms.
Paul’s benediction from Romans 15 also reminds us that since we do not travel alone, we must try our best to live in harmony as we make our way toward our eternal home. We are reminded that the God we serve is the God of endurance and encouragement. When we need endurance He is our source. When we need encouragement He is our supply. When we need to learn how to live in harmony He is our teacher and our example.
Compared to eternity we spend a brief time on this earth. Still, from our perspective life can be a very long, very lonely, and very tiring journey. We all need rest stops at which we can revive our endurance and renew our encouragement. How good it is to know that the God we serve is the God who gives both without limit to those who trust in His Son.
You think about that.