The Struggle is Zeal: A SOAP Study on Romans 12:18-19

Not long ago, I was on the phone with an obstinate client. 

A stubborn deer in the headlights, I made every attempt to lead him to clarity. Timelines, next steps, how to discern and provide relevant information…the works. 

Yet, after 20 minutes of verbal tennis, our conversation had locked even at deuce, the writing on the wall now clear: No call to action or motivational strategy was going to move this client

Partially defeated, I started to guide this call to a landing when I suddenly I heard the following: “Do you advise I do this?” 

A necessary inquiry in this case but one rarely sprung so late in the game. With match point in sight, I summoned my best response in the moment. The lead off?

As far as it be with you…

A few seconds later, I sensed a shift in momentum as if somehow this sentence had turned the tides. Finally, the silence was pierced. 

You’re right. While I had considered that, I just needed to hear it was possible.”

And before you knew it, we were on our way – 20 seconds of insane courage pressed against 20 minutes of desperation trying to get there. 

Fast-forward to today and I’m still processing this happy ending and the clause that made it happen. Given the Scriptural implications, I’d like to piggyback off this story to help us understand Romans 12:18-19 in a fresh light and how we can serve customers of all types with zeal (Romans 12:11, Titus 2:14)…as far as it be with us

Ready to jump in?

Let’s do it…

Scripture 1: “Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.” ~ Romans 12:18 (MSG)

Scripture 2: “Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” ~ Romans 12:19 (MSG)

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” ~ Romans 12:19 (NIV)

Observation 1: Let’s be honest. While God created good in everyone, we seldom see it in full display during our initial interactions. Perhaps the occasional flash or two. But generally nothing more due to limited exposure, the hustle of business, and the lack of physical engagement. In a marketplace context, this is especially true when dealing with difficult customers and colleagues. With the number of walls and veils in existence today, discovering the beauty in everyone can seem like blind faith; however, when we filter this verse through a vocational lens, we can find joy in blessing all people under our breath, if not through direct encouragement. Even when we encounter antagonism, we can promote harmony as peacemakers in the opposite spirit. As Paul later says in v. 21, we champion goodness, generosity, and joy not by what happens to us externally but the light we carry internally. Accordingly, if your goal is to be reactive, then you cannot be proactive in seeing the silver linings in challenging people and situations.

My thought is: When we go into work each day, why not center our hearts and make up our minds to get along with everyone? After all, we don’t commit to these calls because they’re easy but because we have the ingredients to season our settings with hope. All the more reason to say, ‘Thank you, Jesus‘ during the dial-ins and commutes of life. 

Observation 2: In a fast-paced culture, timing and timeliness are everything. At least, that’s what culture wants us to think. And to be fair, in a client care context, this makes sense. Many times, the pathway to blessing a customer is to honor their time with a mixture of best practice and efficient decision-making. But what about when clients delay the help they crave through impatience, procrastination, even obduracy? What do we say, what do we do when colleagues or clients insist their way or the highway? Is there a holy solution to “good riddance”? Well, in a single word, yes. There is most certainly a way and Romans 12:19 hints at the answer:

Whenever we’re inflicted in a way worthy of judgment, we have an opportunity to let go and let God handle it.

Far too often in the heat of the moment, our offense disables compassion and grace; however, when we apply v.19, we make room not only for God’s wrath (i.e. His ministry of reconciliation and love manifest through justice) but for care to be centered on the person, not their grievance. Don’t waste time trying to make things right in your own strength; you’ll only burn out in frustration or overstep an unauthorized boundary. Instead, as far as it be with you, trust God to take care of the consequences as you passionately bear results through meekness. Put another way, don’t consume yourself with unassigned fire; rather pay it forward with humility and watch God win your adversary over. 

Bottom Line 1: As you follow Christ’s example and live a life controlled by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:15-21), inspire peace and mutual upbuilding (Romans 14:19). 

Bottom Line 2: As you trust God in trying situations, make room for His justice and reconciliation to prevail. 

Prayer: “Father, we come before you now. We thank you for creating in us hearts that desire good and godliness, for upwelling thirsts for righteousness in our workplaces; however, we also confess we’re not always consistent in acknowledging your beauty, let alone the beauty you’ve cultivated in others within the mundanities of life. For those who may be struggling with offense, desiring retaliation in self-gratifying ways, refresh their hearts to know your wrath is pure and able to permeate the darkest chaos. Help them be still, to know your presence as they leave room for your wonder working power. As for the rest of us, center our desire for influence, excellence, and resolution in a supernatural satisfaction that only comes from abiding in your sovereignty. Regardless of where we’re at, what circumstances we’re facing, help us exchange our lust for control for a trust that surrenders. In all we commit our hands and feet to, may the fruit of our effort be blessed for your glory’s sake. Amen.”

Cover graphic creds: Business 2 Community

Lockstep Leaders: A SOAP Bible Study on Galatians 5:25

Scripture: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (ESV)

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.” (MSG)

As God-fearing vocationals, this verse packs a punch on multiple levels. On one hand, Paul is confirming the Holy Spirit as a perpetual gift received upon conversion; on the other, he’s charging the Galatians to see living as Christ as abiding by the Spirit. Given the acceptance of Christ is not detached from this process, the question, as captured throughout the second half of Galatians, becomes clear: “If I have the Holy Spirit through faith, what’s next?

In few words, if God’s Spirit lives within you, live by it; to live by it, keep in lockstep.

Simple enough, right?

Well, it can be…but to get there we have to remember the life we have chosen through free will and divine inspiration was also predestined from the beginning. Essentially, to abide in our calling is to not only believe God ordained it before creation but continually blesses it as we live. Big picture, the implications are massive but for starters, we’ll keep it basic:

Just as God is faithful to help us discover Him, so must we be faithful to discover Him through His Spirit

In worldly terms, the word ‘discover’ often implies a one-time or seasonal pursuit; however, with heaven in mind, believers can know as long as we have breath, we’re meant to discern and mature in the likeness of Jesus as sanctified new creations. Since we live by the Spirit, we have everything we need to remain tethered to God’s nature through His Word and the still small voice reminding us we can do all things with the mind and strength of Christ. 

Application: As for how this looks occupationally, I love how the Message translation provides focus. If we accept the truth that abiding by the Spirit is a daily exercise, we can further embrace our unique identity as dedicated stewards of the jobs we’ve been given. For instance, since we know perfect love hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7), we can abide in God’s presence with confidence and accept His perfecting work knowing we’re 1:1 masterpieces designed to bring God glory.

Accordingly, it makes sense, as Paul suggests, to associate life in the Spirit with a life lacking room for vain imaginations and false comparisons; granted, in our insecurity, we can succumb to the idea respect and love is contingent on skills, knowledge, charisma, and chemistry.

Yet, as for you, dare to have more interesting things to think about and work towards. Sure, you may feel left at the altar with certain dreams; you may feel like you got the short of the stick in how people treat you. You may even struggle to understand why some don’t give you benefit of the doubt and/or are quick to write you off. Honestly, there many ways to struggle and wrestle in this day and age.

However, when we bask in this verse, we can know God not only as the one who has our back on the clock but also as one who never stops refining what He’s planted within. Therefore, while the daily grind may weary our flesh, we can delight through the Spirit as the gap between joyful dependence and fear-based anxiety expands over time.


Bottom Line: By abandoning the distractions of unholy fears and passions of former ignorances, we can keep each step in perfect sync with the Spirit as faithful stewards/marketplace leaders. 


Selah.

Prayer: “Lord, we thank you for calling us to a free life and celebrate your sovereign hand in guiding us towards your heart. As faithful workers, we are humbled to represent your nature to our colleagues, clients, and connections; however, we also confess we can’t possibly do this in our own strength. As willing vessels weak in the flesh but strong in your Spirit, we ask you continue to sharpen our desire to do your work your way. Develop and cultivate an internal thirst to stay persistent in perseverance and consistent in compassion. May our commitment to what we believe is true be a banner by which we conduct our behavior and affairs. Guard us from legalism and self-righteousness as we help others discover your plans and purposes. Help us get out of our way regarding prideful comparisons and coping mechanisms. Above all, as Galatians 5:25 reminds us, open our eyes to any place where we’re abusing grace, reducing the Spirit-filled life as a warm sentiment, as fortune cookie wisdom. Convict and channel what needs to waste away so we can taste your goodness in all things. Finally, create in us a new heart conformed to your precepts and new efforts seasoned in sensitivity and expectancy. While we believe good fruit and good days are ahead, we acknowledge you as the reason. Whatever happens in the weeks and months ahead, make us more and more like you as your will is perfected in us. Inspire and champion your ways in us today. In your precious name we pray, amen!” 

Graphics creds: istockphoto.com

Wading for God: A SOAP Study on Romans 15:1-7

Note: Usually I separate the observations and applications when writing these SOAP Bible studies; however, I believe the following observations are better attached to their respective applications in light of the content. While normally I  flesh out marketplace implications, due to word count, I’m allowing the pod above (and future pods) to cover this piece.

Scripture: Romans 15:1-7 (MSG)

Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, ‘How can I help?’ That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!

Observations/Applications:

1. I like how the Message captures Paul’s heart in v. 1:Strength is for service, not status.” For one thing, it quickly defines what strength is designed for while contrasting it to the contrary. I might even add ‘skill’ to the ‘not list’ given our culture’s way of synonymizing strength to societal contributions. Still, it’s imperative we grasp what Paul is stating: We are strong in Christ meaning we’re strong in faith and in our conviction to persevere in weakness. Internally, this can mean accepting God’s grace without debate; externally, this can mean patiently enduring with shortcomings outside of our control. Regardless of how this looks, we must be thorough in translating faith to action since many practice truth in theory without it correlating to tangible care. For instance, some forgive without saying the words while others are easily content being willing to help without actually helping. Perhaps this is why in v. 2, Paul is straight-up straightforward: “Let each one of us [make it a practice to] please his neighbor for his good, to build him up spiritually.”

2. If there’s one main concern I have about the church (and the Christians in them), it’s how we have programs to reach people, yet avoid people’s troubles in fear of not being able to handle them. One could say we want to win souls for the Kingdom without having to address their warts and worries along the way.

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Yet, as Paul emphatically states, in v. 3, “That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out.” Put another way, He took on the troubles of the troubled and that in a nutshell is how we should approach the communal aspect of our evangelism and discipleship.

Galatians 6:1-3 (MSG) captures this beautifully:

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.”

3. The dance between the Message and Amplified translations in v. 4 is fascinating:

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.

Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next.”

For starters, we don’t just endure through the Word; we encourage through it. Likewise, we don’t just read the Word to stay alert; we study the Word to inspire diligence and vigilance. After all, for counsel to exist, there must be a community of ‘two or more’ gathered (Matthew 18:20) where confidence and trust can be shared maturing in God’s promises. Furthermore, while it’s important to be ready for the ‘next’, we can’t get there if we’re not loving in the now with apparent hope. This is why trust isn’t an individual exercise, but a corporate pursuit. To be on mission with Christ is to co-mission with each other. All the more reason we should embrace weakness as our endurance, encouragement, and counsel strengthen and builds up the body.

4. Finally, in v. 5-7, we see the purpose of endurance and encouragement captured in one word: Harmony. To have harmony is to have unity. And like the early church in Acts, God desires these gifts to help us be of one mind and one heart…according to Christ Jesus. But how do we achieve this in a way the words resonate at our core? In short, Paul gives us a template in these verses:

May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as  Jesus gets along with us all…so reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory.” 

Again, it’s interesting to note how many facets of God’s nature can’t exist in a vacuum or isolation. Case and point: “glory” – the very last word of this passage reminding us why all of this matters. As for how we experience glory, many would say righteousness, walking the walk, living out the truth we declare and believe, etc. But honestly, this is more how we posture ourselves to glory. To encounter it, we must seek the Lord as we reach out and welcome one another to where He is. Doing this implies love and as we know from 1 Peter 4:8, love covers a multitude of sins and seeks the best for others. Accordingly, as we’re inviting people to glory one step at a time, let’s embrace weakness as pressing into Jesus regardless of our circumstances. If we’re actively pursuing freedom and healing from strongholds and helping others do the same, no question we’ll inspire Scripture to come alive in people.

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Prayer:

Lord, we thank you for your goodness, your grace, your capacity to redeem and restore. We thank you for the golden opportunities and divine appointments you’ve been setting up around the world in recent months. We declare our joy and satisfaction in your ways and purposes. But now, Lord, we ask you to forgive us for not taking our faith seriously, specifically in the areas of relying on your strength and for helping others as we see fit, not as you see fit. We say it is you, God, who makes us fit, who equips us for good works and establishes our steps for them to happen. I know in my case I have hidden behind the quarantine at times and avoided being available to lick wounds from past resentments. I admit there have been times I’ve prioritized my perception of healing, basing it in distance from people and the absence of personal errors and wrongdoings toward me. But I’m gripped, oh God, by how you pursue us regardless of the trouble we’re in. I’m amazed how you’ve orchestrated the Scriptures through the passage of time for our benefit. As such, we choose to wait for you as you wade in for us and choose to lean on you as the rock of ages who never forsakes us. Even though we may not see the evidence of maturity and growth in every place in our lives, we ask God you help us rely on your steady counsel as our source, our refuge, and our strength. We choose to make peace with our brothers and sisters, with those who disagree with your ways and who criticize without compassion. We choose to not be disheartened by the evidence of disunity. Instead, show us the way to harmony and maturity in dealing with those who are lost, whether by faith, in character or in their understanding of you. After all, at every point in our lives, we are lost without you one way or another. Why not be warm in our correspondences with one another as we humbly seek your heart, your strategies, and your invitations? Why not say ‘yes’ to your unfathomable joy as we hand out those invitations to those who really need them for such a time as this? Be with us as we go forth from this moment and this place. To yours be all the glory, forever and always. Amen.”

Selah.

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Cover photos creds: wallpapercrafter.com