There is an old saying that has been attributed to many different people which says,
“The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”
In essence it means that the individual components of something when put together make something greater or better than the individual components themselves could ever be. For example, in Ecclesisates 4:12 we see the verse that says,
“…a threefold cord is not easily broken.”
Rope is generally made up of two or three strands that are twisted and bound together and each piece adds additional strength to the rope that is greater than a single strand can hold. So too when we are bound together with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit we are much stronger than we would ever be individually and we can stand in the face of all adversity.
As I read this verse in Romans 12:12 this observation of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts occurred to me, for I have often looked at and read this verse in terms of its individual parts but never considered it as a whole. So let us look at it with new eyes again.
The Parts – Rejoice In Hope
There are three distinct sections to this verse and each makes sense in their own right.
First we are told to rejoice in hope. We have come to the Lord and in Him we have great reason to hope for it is only in Jesus Christ that there is the hole of salvation.
In this verse Paul is firstly exhorting us not to forget this fact and to rejoice in it. We have been plucked from the sin and destitution of this world to share in the glory of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. We have come to a place that was most eloquently described with wonder by the writer of Hebrews as;
22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, (Hebrews 12:22-23)
This is our home. This is where we have been called. This is the inheritance we are to be given for our faith and perseverance in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is our hope. To be part of that gathering. So let us rejoice and be glad for in due course we shall be here with the Lord and all of His people if we are strong and continue to walk in Him.
The Parts – Patience in Tribulation
But as they say in the movies, “It ain't all beer and skittles!”
In this life in the world we will suffer tribulations, fiery ordeals, pains, anguish and sufferings. Everybody in the world suffers at some time, but the Christian will cop it worse simply because they choose to follow Christ.
Jesus said of himself that they hated him without a cause. They likewise hate His people without a cause simply because we choose to stand with the Lord. They will do all kinds of wrong to the people of God.
And what are we to do? Retaliate? Fight back in violence? Take up arms and stand against them?
No! As the scripture tells us here we are to be patient in tribulation.
And that is very, very hard. Patience is hard enough in good times, but when you are suffering in tribulations, when you are being wrongfully attacked for doing what is right, then it is even worse.
But this is our call for the vengeance of the Lord will come upon those who choose to reject Him and disobey. And it WILL be come for the Lord has said,
Vengeance is mine; I will repay (Hebrews 10:30)
It is not our place or right to take vengeance on anyone. Instead, we are called to turn the other cheek, following the example of the Lord.
Why? Because we do not know who the Lord is working with and who, regardless of how evil we may think they are that the Lord has His hand upon. Consider for a moment the apostle Paul. Would you have considered while he was standing and approving the stoning of Stephen that Paul would become one of the greatest of those who would spread the message of Jesus Christ? I know I would not have though that.
So too today we do not know who the Lord is calling to himself. He will take the appropriate action and in justice determine who will be avenged and who will be called.
She we then look at the last part of this verse we see the coming together of the parts.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
Be constant in prayer. Here is the third cord that binds together our joy in our hope and enables the patience in tribulation.
In all things we must take our experiences to the Lord in prayer. Whether we are on the highs of joy or in the depths of sorrow. Whether we are learning new things or be attacked by those who know no better. Pray about it.
The Lord wants to hear all things from us, good and bad. Praise Him for His gifts and His protection in your life. Seek Him in your times of trouble and tribulations for He will give you the strength to endure.
This is the key to this verse. Whatever situation you find yourself in, go to God in prayer and seek His counsel as well as giving Him the praise due for His presence in your life.
Thus is the whole greater than the sum of the parts for God is greater than all and when we seek His input, presence and insights we too become greater for He makes us great. In humility as we seek Him he works with us to keep us safe and make us strong.
(Photo sourced from freeimages.com taken by Maja Piskorska)
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