An excerpt from "Strength for Tough Times" (pages 33-36)
Blessings in Disguise
By Maria M. Kneas
“...put on tender
mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;
The Apostle Paul wrote the Colossians a pastoral letter giving them some practical instructions in how to develop Godly character. These are guidelines which apply to all Christians, including us. They are based on our relationship with Jesus Christ. (Colossians 3:1)
An important aspect of this is setting our minds “on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2) We need to see things from the perspective of Heaven and eternity — as opposed to being primarily focused on what things look and feel like right now, down here on earth.
Paul tells us to “put to death” and “put off” various kinds of carnal behavior that are sinful and destructive. Among these are sexual immorality, covetousness, anger, and lying. (Colossians 3:5-10) Then he tells us how Christians should live. He says,
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:12-15)
Paul sums it all up by saying,
“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)
If we can’t add “in the name of Jesus” to what we say — without dishonoring the Lord by doing it — then we shouldn’t say it. Similarly, if we want to do something that Jesus would not want to have His name be associated with, then we shouldn’t do it.
How can we become people who live like that? How can we act that way consistently enough for it to become a normal, habitual part of our life?
When people want to build up physical strength, they need to work against resistance. That’s why people lift weights and do isometric exercises. The process can be uncomfortable at times. That’s why there is the saying, “No pain, no gain.”
The same principle applies to building Godly character. In order to develop patience, we need to be put into situations where patience is required. That gives us the opportunity to develop our “patience muscles.” In order to become more forgiving, we need to have things to forgive. That enables us to strengthen our “forgiveness muscles.”
In order to become more loving, we need to have people in our lives who are difficult to love. Sometimes that can be quite challenging. When it is, we can ask God to change our hearts and give us His love for those people.
Charles Spurgeon wrote about the importance of loving our neighbors. When discussing the problem of loving difficult people, he said,
“So much the more room for the heroism of love. Wouldst thou be a feather-bed warrior, instead of bearing the rough fight of love? He who dares the most, shall win the most; and if rough be thy path of love, tread it boldly, still loving thy neighbours through thick and thin.”
Such trials enable us (by God’s grace) to develop character qualities which will bear good fruit for eternity. If we can get a vision for the valuable end results, then we will be able to see each trial as being helpful. That will enable us to “count it all joy” — to consider it something to be grateful for, rather than a problem to endure. The Apostle James said,
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
Our trials here on earth are so brief compared with eternity. We can ask God to give us that eternal perspective, so that we see them as He does. Then we will be able to understand and appropriate the following statements of the Apostles Peter and Paul:
"Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things that are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
1. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Morning and Evening
(Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1991), p. 144.
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