Apr 30 2023 End of Romans and What to do when You are Overwhelmed
30th April 2023
Last week, Dick had an announcement, which was really about his small group and living life together – and that is really what Romans 16 is about.
In Romans 16, Paul greets over 2 dozen people! These are a very diverse group of people – and when you’re reading it, you usually just zip over those names you can’t pronounce anyway…
18 men – 8 women – at least 4 married couples – some slave – some very poor – some people of status and wealth and at least one was a significant Roman official – a man of great honor was in the church – were all greeted.
So, as Paul is talking about unity among Jewish and Gentile Christians – and weak and strong, and Torah/Law and freedom – and here are these greetings – to so many diverse people.
Diversity is hard. It is not to anyone’s shame – but a reality – but for the most part, people tend to look for a church where people look like them (same race) – (most of the world, the church is divided, white/black – though some churches have changed that, but few) – Economically – culturally – and age-wise – it is just a natural way of doing things. Usually, people look for a church that is politically similar – same education level – and approach to our thinking.
This is just a natural reality – but it is a reality that needs to be fought – we need to work on that NOT being our reality.
Paul uses very descriptive language as he greets these people – and the language he uses gives us insight into what he thinks the church should be like.
First – Sisters, brothers, and mother. Family language – to describe the church. Then – Friends – and Beloved – language of affection to describe what the Church is like.
Then words like coworker, servant, helper – describing the church as a partnership.
As he goes through these greetings – “In the Lord” – or “In Christ” – people in Christ are a new family – a new community – a new partnership and team. And as he talks through them – and we’ll only look at a couple – but they are all participating in the church in significant ways – and that is something that we have going for us. People participating in our church in significant ways.
With that – just the first five verses:
Romans 16:1 Now I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, 2 so that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and provide her with whatever help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many, including me.
Phoebe is Paul’s courier – carrying the letter from Paul to Rome – more than just a mail person – more of an emissary or ambassador of Paul to Rome with the gospel. She would be responsible to read the letter – and generally, would know what questions people would ask and how Paul would like them answered! She is called, “Our sister” – we are all family here – don’t get mad at her! Servant at Cenchrea – Servant = minister = deacon – same word. Those who translate make a decision on how to translate it. Some say she was a deacon or minister in Cenchrea. She was a person of significant responsibility.
She was using her gifts – whatever they were – just by her job, she had some important things to do and must have been gifted to it.
And the Church in Rome has a responsibility to her – provide whatever she needs – take care of her – make sure she has it for her ministry! She has been a great help – benefactor – patron - Employer/Mentor/Supporter/Guardian – that would be that word for great help.
She was probably married to a man of status in the Roman world – and if that man passed away – the wife would inherit everything – although that was rare. She supported Paul’s missionary work financially – and Paul is saying she is owed a great gratitude of debt.
3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,
Fellow workers on Paul’s apostolic team – a married couple – leading couple in the Church…
4 who risked their own necks for my life. Not only I, but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. 5 Also greet the church in their house.
They are always a couple throughout the New Testament. They were leaders of a church in their house.
They met in houses for one reason – it was the only place they could meet! It was nothing strategic, but by this time, they were not allowed in the synagogues. For the first 300 years of the Church, they met in houses. Some houses could hold up to 100 people.
The upper room – at one point before Pentecost – they had 120 there!
Here we have it again, people using their gifts and abilities, participating together.
We talk about the New Testament church – and it was not about where they met or how they met – but they were family, partners, community – a united diverse group of people.
Part 2 – a couple of Psalms -
Psalm 142:1 I cry out to the LORD; I plead for the LORD's mercy.
For numerous reasons, all of us, at some time will feel, or have felt, as he says here in vs. 3 – overwhelmed. For whatever reason. Life sometimes crushes in on us. We have all been there, and if you have not, don’t worry, you will!
Sometimes it is circumstances or events – family issues, or global and national events – pandemics and inflation can be overwhelming. Personal financial struggles can be overwhelming. Relational strife can be one of the hardest.
And I want to take some time – the last 15 minutes here – let’s ask – How did I get here? And How do I get out?
We’ll look at these Psalms. First – how did we get there? Stuff happens to us. You can use a more colorful metaphor – but because we are broadcasting live – I’ll just say stuff. It is stuff that overwhelms us. Sometimes people cause it to happen to us.
Other times, it is just events that are out of control.
Second – we DO stuff – sometimes bad stuff. Not necessarily evil stuff. Or we do dumb stuff – and we become overwhelmed by the stuff we do.
Third – stuff happens to people we know and love – and that is really hard – when bad stuff happens to people we know and love.
And sometimes people we know and love do bad stuff – and that is hard.
These passages are not a formula for getting out of being overwhelmed. They are thoughts from David – and his overwhelming stuff was physical enemies.
What do we do?
First – we cry out to the Lord – I plead for the Lord’s mercy! Cry out! Don’t pray! What I mean, prayer can be a formal, pious undertaking – but David cried out.
My dad used to say I never knew what it meant – “For crying out loud” – I think that was that generation… I don’t hear anyone today saying that! We need to be able to cry out to God.
Are you comfortable crying out?
I plead for the Lord’s mercy – Supplication – and it means – God, be merciful to me! God be gracious!
We need to be God to be merciful to us.
Are you comfortable begging God for His mercy?
Then – look at this one: 2 I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles.
It is as raw as language as works for you. If raw language works for you – that’s how you should do it (But maybe not if there are a lot of people around!)
3 When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn. Wherever I go, my enemies have set traps for me.
There are some things that only God knows – He knows what is around the corner…
4 I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me.
When we hear someone say – No one cares for me… we can be kind of like – Get over it! But I don’t think that is God. God wants us to say – no one cares for me – but even when we do feel that way – there are times – when no person is able to be a help to us – only God can answer us.
Sometimes we need to be careful – and understand when we are no help and have no answers – we need to be there with them – be present – and that is all we can do.
Then he says:
5 Then I pray to you, O LORD. I say, "You are my place of refuge – a place of protection and safety.
The only True place of protection and safety. Then he says: You are all I really want in life.
Really? That is hard to say! Often, I have a lot that I want when I am overwhelmed. You, God, are all I want.
Psalm 143: A Psalm of David. LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; (Psa 143:1 TNIV)Answer me in Your faithfulness, in Your righteousness!
4 Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart is appalled within me.
When Bad Stuff happens – sometimes it leaves us with internal upheaval – his soul and heart have been wrecked. He has been emotionally and spiritually ruined.
5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Thy doings; I muse on the work of Thy hands. 6 I stretch out my hands to Thee; My soul longs for Thee, as a parched land. Selah.
He does some interesting things – He reminds God of Who He is. You are faithful and righteous! I demand that you act that way! We don’t NEED to tell Him that – but we need to put it all in perspective – we forget that God is faithful and just when everything falls apart – David is reminding himself.
Then he remembers what God has done – in the past – and what God has done in his own life experience – and we need to do the same – remember how God acted on your behalf.
I stretch out my hands to You – My heart longs for you like a parched land.
Our tendency is to reach to the solution – but God wants us to go past that – because He is the solution - not the ending – and it is okay to pray that the conflict gets resolved – but God wants us to grasp Him – because only then can our souls be restored. Having the problem solved does not necessarily restore our souls!
Psalm 143: 11 O LORD, for the sake of your reputation, revive me! Because of your justice, rescue me from trouble!
He is basically saying – God, this is Your problem! Me having all these problems makes You look bad!
That is really bold! But it is in the Bible! It is in our prayerbook/songbook of the Bible.
Are you comfortable with that in your own relationship with God? God will be righteous -and will take care of His reputation – and then he makes some suggestions about how God should do his job – Like Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof…
12 As a demonstration of your loyal love, - (Here is a suggestion!) destroy my enemies! (and maybe, while you are at it,) Annihilate all who threaten my life, for I am your servant.
We need to become comfortable coming to God in this way!
Psalm 61:1 Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. 2 From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint (= overwhelmed); lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Lead me up to an inaccessible rocky summit!) 3 For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. (a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.) 4 I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
The old saying – God will never give us more than we can handle. That is comforting, nice, and maybe totally false! We will often find ourselves in situations we cannot handle because God doesn’t want us to rely on what we can handle, but on His grace and mercy. He is the Rock that is higher than I. I am not a rock. I do not have the strength, the hardness, the weight to handle this – let’s pray.