I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen. —Romans 15:30–33
In the closing verses of Romans 15, Paul makes a request of his church family in Rome. He asks them to pray, and he asks them to “strive together.” In the ancient world, this was the language used for an athletic team. When a sports team comes together, they all strive together. They are all unified. Paul talks about striving together in the Spirit because this mitigates division and brings unity. Division says, “I want this. I want that. I think this person should be in charge.” Unity happens when we don’t ask for what we want but rather, “What does God want?”
I have been a senior pastor for 25 years. People come up to me all the time and say, “I think we need this. I think we need that.” I’ve learned to reply, “Have you prayed and asked the Holy Spirit if that is what He wants?” Zero times in 25 years have I heard anyone say, “I prayed about it, and I feel like this is what the Lord is asking of us.”
Who rules over your life? Jesus does. It’s His life through you. It’s not just your life, your marriage, your family, your money, or your ability. Everything we have belongs to God; we are just stewards of what He owns. It’s reasonable to ask God, “What do You want me to do? What do You want me to give? Where do You want me to serve?”
If we are striving together in prayer, then we are getting God’s vision so we have unity rather than division. Division literally means “multiple visions.” Paul is going to warn us in Romans 16:17, “Watch out for those who cause division.” The way we overcome division is striving together in prayer to get God’s vision.
My wife, Grace, and I met at age 17 in high school. We’ve been together for a long time. Do you think we have ever disagreed about anything? Of course, we have. And when we disagree, the question is not, “Does she win and I lose, or do I win and she loses?” The question is, “What does God want?” I have found that praying is better than arguing. Praying is better than fighting. Praying solves things nothing else will solve. If you want to grow in unity, then pray with people. If you have a problem, then don’t fight about it—pray about it. Instead of yelling at them, talk to Him. For some of the biggest decisions in our life together, Grace and I didn’t start at the same place, but we strove together in prayer and came to the same place.
Unified unbelievers are more powerful than divided believers. Up until this point, Paul has told us, “Here is the gospel. Jesus Christ is Lord, God, Savior, and King. He lived without sin and died for your sin. He rose as your Savior. He hears your prayers. He is ruling and reigning, and He is coming again to judge the living and the dead.” The nations need to know who this Jesus is, and if we’re divided, it doesn’t happen. In His high priestly prayer in John 17 (Jesus’ longest prayer), the Lord spends the longest section praying that we would be unified, not divided.
Unified unbelievers will defeat divided believers. There’s a story in the Old Testament about the Tower of Babel. Godless people came together to build a city without God, a counterfeit of the Kingdom of God. They tried to build a high tower so they could sit up high like God and look down on everyone else. They thought, For what do we need God? We will be our own God. God looked down and said because they were unified, “nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:6). So, He divided their languages and scattered them “over the face of all the earth” (v. 9). That’s why we have nations and languages.
How can you strive to be united with other believers?
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