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The Pursuit of God

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 12:12–13

True godliness is not measured by religious ritual but by a continually growing development of Christlike qualities reflected in a godly mindset, private devotion to prayer, and selfless actions to meet the needs of others.


I find it ironic that the founding fathers of America put into print something that is the frustration of every human heart. Signed in 1776, they wrote in the Declaration of Independence these words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

I have always found that statement somewhat tragic, because you will never find life worth living, true liberty, and genuine happiness by pursuing them. In fact, they cannot be caught. You find them when you pursue God.

What does it mean to pursue God? And what does that pursuit look like? Are there some guidelines to help us as we lace up our running shoes?

These are the questions Paul is addressing here in Romans 12. In a very real way, Paul is showing us what it looks like to pursue God, which really means to pursue the character of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus.

What Paul does here is point out character qualities of what we could call a Christlike life—when we are truly pursuing the character of Christ. He begins in verse 12 by writing, “Rejoice in hope.” Paul is effectively saying, “In that which you confidently hope, rejoice!” He wants us to tie our emotions to our theological convictions. Jesus was never emotionally out of control, and that is because He knew His Father was always in control. And when we are like Him, our attitudes in life will be guarded and controlled by promises of God.

I remember reading how an American astronaut was often asked how he felt as he sat strapped inside a rocket listening to the countdown for the launch. His answer was, “I felt exactly how you would feel if . . . you were sitting on top of two million parts—all built by the lowest bidder.”[1] He did not have a lot of reasons to hope for the best.

Not so for the Christian! We have a living hope (1 Peter 1:3) and a dying hope (1 Corinthians 15:55). We have the blessed hope (Titus 2:13), and we have an eternal hope (Titus 3:7). Our hope produces an optimistic heart.

Now be careful here to notice that spiritual optimism does not rule out spiritual realism. Paul’s very next words here in verse 12 are these: “Be patient in tribulation.”

We are going to have trouble in life. “Tribulation” can refer to trials of any kind. Paul spoke with realism to the believers in Corinth when he wrote these words:

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

Let me put it this way: rejoicing in hope is spiritual optimism. Persevering in tribulation is spiritual determination.

But maybe you are asking yourself, “How can I make it through the suffering and the pressure and the difficulty I am facing today?” Paul quickly adds the answer in this next phrase: “Be constant in prayer.”

He is not saying to throw up a quick prayer, which is just fine, by the way. Paul is not even referring to an act of prayer; he is referring to a life of prayer. The word translated “be constant” means “to hold fast to . . . to give attention to.”[2] Paul is literally saying, “In regard to prayer, do not stop.”

That is convicting, isn’t it? Our problem is not that we pray too little; it is that we do not pray very much at all! And when we do, we easily tire of it because there seems to be so few answers in return.

Martin Luther, the reformer, wrote in his commentary on Romans more than 500 years ago, “There is no work quite so difficult as praying to God.”[3] Now keep in mind that Paul is not telling us to be more eloquent in prayer or to make longer prayers. He is not referring to acts of prayer as much as he is referring to our attitude of prayer.

This is not a five-minute exercise—this is a way of life. Paul is encouraging an ongoing conversation with God. Pursuing God means you are developing a continual, ongoing conversation with the Lord.

Pursuing God also means you care about meeting the needs of people around you. Paul writes in verse 13, “Contribute to the needs of the saints.”

The word translated “contribute” comes from the word koinoneō. The noun form, koinonia, is the well-known word for communion or fellowship. Paul is telling us to fellowship in tangible ways. Whenever this word for need appears in its plural form, it normally refers to those needs that are met by financial contributions. Having a greedy heart is impossible when you are pursuing a godly heart.

I received a letter some time ago from a listener who was serving time in a penitentiary. He wrote how much he appreciated Wisdom International, and he confessed that he did not have any money to send in to help us. But he did earn postage stamps at his prison job, and he wrote that he was going to start sending in some of his postage allowance—and there inside the envelope were a couple of postage stamps.

Beloved, this is true fellowship. He is contributing to the needs of the saints.

Now there is one more character quality given here in the last part of verse 13, where Paul writes, “Seek to show hospitality.” Christianity not only develops an open heart and an open hand, but also an open door![4]

Somebody once said that hospitality is making people feel at home even when you wished they were! Biblical hospitality takes it much farther; it makes people feel as if they are home whenever they are in yours.

Staying in an inn during the days of Paul was risky and dangerous. They were usually operated by organized crime. History records that bedding was infested with lice and the food was normally bad in a typical Roman inn. It was not a place you would want to stay.

The solution was simple. Paul told the believers to “seek to show hospitality.” Open your home and provide hospitality. And by the way, the word here for “hospitality” is a compound word (philoxenia), which literally means “love of strangers.” In other words, this might include inviting into your home someone you might not know very well at all.

In the first century, this would not be uncommon. Many Christians were in exile. Pastors and evangelists were traveling, like Paul from city to city, entirely dependent upon fellow believers for lodging and sustenance.

I can well remember sitting in a hut in Africa, with block walls and a thatched roof. The wife of the pastor, whose congregation I had just finished teaching, brought a tin cup filled with sweet tea—tea leaves boiled with sugar and water and milk. It was probably the best cup of tea I have ever had. What sweet hospitality and sacrificial hospitality. That tin cup was more beautiful than any fine China I have ever used.

Are you pursuing God? Then you are pursuing the godly character of Christ. And your progress along the journey will include several things.

  • It will include spiritual optimism—this is developing the art of tying your emotions to your convictions.
  • It will include perseverance—this is developing the art of running the race of faith, no matter how often the goal line seems to be moved.
  • It includes private devotion—this is developing the art of a conversational walk with Christ.
  • It will include financial generosity—this is developing the art of an open hand and an open heart.
  • It will include hospitality—this is developing the art of making people feel as if your home belongs to them.

This is how you pursue—and find—a meaningful life, true liberty, and genuine happiness.

[1] “John Glenn Quotes,”

[2] Fritz Rienecker, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, ed. Cleon L. Rogers Jr. (Regency, 1980), 377.

[3] Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans (Kregel, 1954), 176.

[4] William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans (Westminster Press, 1975), 167.

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