Summary: Some of the greatest things ever accomplished in this world have simply been accomplished because people refused to quit. A big oak tree is nothing more than an acorn that refused to give ground. It just hung on. There’s great value in persistence.
Open your Bibles to Romans 1. This letter is very autobiographical, very personal. Paul is revealing his personality, revealing his heart to them. In fact, in these verses today we are going to find the first personal pronouns “I”, “me” or “my” 17 times. Now, that’s not like Paul. I haven’t counted it, but I would guess he doesn’t use it 17 times in the rest of the book. So, here he is saying, “I want you to see my heart.” Today as we talk about the heart of the apostle, Paul, I am going to be asking you to consider what’s in your heart today. What is in the heart of a believer?
Let’s begin reading here in Romans 1:7. The first 6 verses is his introduction of who he is, and then he says, “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s his signature. He always said, “Grace and peace to you.” It’s never peace and Grace because you never find God’s peace until you find his grace. Look at the first part of verse 7. He says, “To all of you who are loved by God and called.” You can just mark out the words ‘to be’ because they are not in the original language. It literally says “called saints.” I say that because there is a real misconception in the world today about who the saints are. Many of you think it is a practice of the Roman Catholic Church to award sainthood to certain individuals who have been dead for like a hundred years who have performed some kind of notable sacrificial service. Those are the people we sometimes call “saints.” That’s why if you have a King James Bible it says, “St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. John, St. Luke,” because these are men who had been awarded sainthood. But that is wrong. Sainthood is not restricted to those who died.
My wife and I just returned from a wonderful little vacation over in Europe. We visited a lot of cathedrals, and I was amazed to see all of the cathedrals are named after St. This and St. That. There are so many saints. A saint is not somebody who is dead and has been exalted by the Catholic Church. A saint is any believer who is alive right now and exalts Jesus Christ. Paul is not writing to dead Christians. He is writing to people who are living and breathing. There were alive. We are saints today. When you hear the song “When the saints go marching in, I hope to be in that number,” all you have to do is know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and you will be numbered with the saints. So it is correct for me to say, “St. Mike, and St. Jim” except in the Bible no individual is called saint, it is always used in the plural sense. Saints together, set apart for God’s service. So, that’s who the letter is written to. Now, let’s begin reading in verse 8 and see what Paul writes:
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be open for me to come to you. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong –that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. I am obligated [and the word means “in debt, a debtor”] both to Greeks and to non-Greeks [the word is barbarian] both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.”
I believe Paul was a great Christian. He, himself, wrote in one of his letters to the church at Corinth, “Be imitators of me!” Now, that is quite a statement for a man to say, “I want you to imitate me!” The reason he could say that was because Jesus Christ was living in him, and they did not have a New Testament like we have today to learn what Jesus was like. So, when I say, “Let’s look and see what was in his heart.” we’re going to be using him as a comparison to all of us because what was in his heart that we see in these verses ought to be in our hearts.