Summary: Our faith should be so that it is news to the lost world.
Paul had not been to Rome when Phoebe delivers this letter to the Christians there.
Paul has a strong desire to travel to Rome to meet these Christians, "whose faith is being reported around the world."
Paul goes on to say; For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore, I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. Romans 16:19
As a Christians our faith should be so that it is news to the lost world.
As he tells them how often he prays for them, he says something interesting about himself: "I serve (God) with my spirit." verse 9
What does this mean?
It seems there are some serve God outwardly, but their hearts are not into it.
Paul was this way at one time -- a Pharisee, zealous in his obedience to the law, outwardly religious (Philippians 3:4-9), but without a softened heart.
Then God caught Paul on the road to Damascus and changed him inside/out. This is what it means to be a Christian at heart. "We are the circumcision who worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh" Philippians 3:3
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.
For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established-- that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.
I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise.
So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. Romans 1:8-15
How do you know if you are serving God with your heart?
You are dependent upon God for all things -- even your faith.
A Christian at heart is one who knows that even our faith in Jesus Christ comes from God.
Paul thanks God "for their faith which is reported around the world." verse 8
Why does he not thank them?
Because Jesus Christ is "the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).
You take delight in God and your relationship with Him -- not your accomplishments.
"For God is my witness . . . that without ceasing I make mention of you in my prayers." verse 9
Christianity of the heart is not so much the saying of prayers as is is an attitude of prayer. Paul's heart went out to these Roman Christians, and God knew what was in his heart!
You have desires of God, but you humbly submit to His will in all matters.
Paul had a desire to go to Rome (on many occasions), but was unable to go.
I'm sure he asked God to take him there, but it had not yet happened. He tells the Romans that he intends to come to Rome again, "if God wills."
making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God ("if God wills") to come to you. Romans 1:10
"if God wills" is a Greek expression that some even use today.
What Paul wanted was a good thing. God sometimes holds us back from the good things, in order to bring better things to pass. "He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20).
Paul did eventually make his way to Rome "by any means" and God used Paul mightily.
You fulfill duty to God, but you leave the results in His hands.
Paul says, "I am a debtor both to the Greeks (civilized) and the Barbarians (uncivilized)" in verse 14.
Paul was their debtor simply because Paul "was called by God to be an apostle to them." He never saw himself as being "better" than the people in Rome.
On the contrary, he was anxious to see them that they might be of mutual comfort to each other. Every Christian would do well to remember that what we do, we do for our Sovereign Lord.