Our existence? Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.
Paul continues to describe our lives in Christ in a series of related short commands. The three commands in this verse are key to the emotional and spiritual well-being of every Christian.
The first command to Christians is to rejoice in hope. Often, we resist instruction about what we should feel: that we should change our attitudes to be joyful. The idea here, though, is more about declaring ourselves as having reason for joy. It’s not a command to be happy, but to have the right perspective on our situation. We should agree with God that our hope is worth rejoicing over. What hope? Paul is referring to the hope of the redemption of our bodies and being united with our Father forever once our adoption is complete (Romans 8:23–24).
The next command is to be patient in tribulation or affliction. This becomes much easier if we are keeping the other two commands. Those who see their future worth celebrating and who pray to the Father continually will have a much easier time being patient during hardship. Paul is not downplaying the genuine pain of those experiences. Life can be unpleasant, and not all moments are happy moments. Yet Paul has pointed out that the struggles of life on earth are not worth comparing with the glory to come (Romans 8:18). So, we wait with patience (Romans 8:25). The final command of the verse also connects with Paul’s thoughts in Romans chapter 8. We’re commanded to be constant in prayer, or to keep praying continually. During any time of suffering, while waiting for what we’re hoping in, we should pray. Prayer brings a connection with our Father through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26–27). He hears, understands, and helps in response to even our clumsiest attempts to communicate with Him.
Romans 12:9–21 is a list of numerous brief, bullet-pointed commands. Taken together, they paint a picture of what the living-sacrifice Christian life should look like. The unifying theme of the list is setting ourselves aside, to effectively love and serve the Lord, each other, and even our enemies. We must serve with enthusiasm and focus, mastering our emotions to rejoice in our future and be patient in our present. We must refuse to sink to evil’s level in taking revenge and instead overcome evil by doing good to those who harm us.