Romans 12:11, 12
Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
While we are to think of others, we are to think of ourselves also. Herbert Spencer has contrasted the "religion of enmity," or the religion of heathenism, with what he calls the "religion of amity," or the religion of Christianity. But he speaks as if the Christian precept was, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour better than thyself." It is not so. The command is, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
"To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man." The apostle enumerates some duties which the Christian owes to himself.
I. DILIGENCE IN BUSINESS. Each man should have some definite work or business in life. Especially should the Christian be free from the sin of idleness. Whatever our work is, let us be diligent in the performance of it. "The hand of the diligent maketh rich." "Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men."
II. EARNESTNESS OF SPIRIT. "Fervent in spirit." It is a strong phrase. Fervent means "burning," "on fire." Yes, we need more Christians who are on fire. It is the enthusiasts who have done the best and most lasting work in the world. They are usually called fanatics at first, but the day comes when their memory is blessed. St. Paul was a fanatic to Festus. Festus could not understand the fire that burned in Paul's heart and in his words. "Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning cloth make thee mad." William Wilberforce, the emancipator of the slaves; John Howard, the prisoner's friend; Samuel Plimsoll, the sailor's friend; Lord Shaftesbury, the friend of the overworked artisan; - all these men at first were sneered at and ridiculed by the multitude of indifferent and interested men. Earnestness and enthusiasm may be incomprehensible to the world, but they are indispensable to the true Christian.
III. A RELIGIOUS SPIRIT. "Serving the Lord." That spirit consecrates life, sweetens life, saves life. Serving the Lord does not lead us to the drunkard's degradation, the disgrace of the dishonest or fraudulent, the cell of the murderer or the grave of the suicide. The Christian will serve the Lord in every relationship of life - in his home, in his business, in his amusements. Can we all say as St. Paul did (Acts 27:23), "Whose I am, and whom I serve"?
IV. HOPEFULNESS AND JOY. "Rejoicing in hope." The apostle elsewhere in this Epistle uses the same phrase, "And rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:2). Dr. Chalmers has somewhere said, "That which distinguishes wisdom from folly is the power and habit of anticipation." The Saviour himself, in his earthly life, was sustained by the hope of what lay beyond. "Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross" (Hebrews 12:2). So it was with St. Paul. He looked forward to the crown of righteousness. Therefore the Christian should be full of joyousness. Why should we groan under life's heavy burdens when we think of the rest that remaineth to the people of God? Why should we be unduly distressed by life's trials when we remember that they that are tried shall receive the crown of life? This, too, is a duty the Christian owes to himself. Work becomes no longer a burden when it is done with hopefulness and joy.
V. PATIENCE UNDER TROUBLE. "Patient in tribulation." The true Christian will know how to suffer. He knows that trials have their meaning and their place in the discipline of the children of God. He knows that whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and that "though no chastisement for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous, nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby."
VI. PERSEVERANCE IN PRAYER. "Continuing instant in prayer." Prayer is the beginning and the end of the Christian life. We should ever go forth to the discharge of our duties, humbly asking for the Divine guidance and the Divine help. And then, when the duties are performed, we should not forget to pray that the Divine blessing should follow the work that we have done. This thought is well brought out by St. Paul in his description of the Christian's armour (Ephesians 6:11-18). Having exhorted his readers to put on the whole armour of God - the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit - he adds, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit." This is the fitting climax of the whole. It is the fitting conclusion of any exhortation about Christian warfare or Christian work. "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it." Such, then, are the Christian's duties to himself. Diligence. Earnestness. Religious spirit. Hopefulness. Patience. Prayerfulness. Let us cultivate them. - C.H.I.
Parallel VersesKJV: Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;