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,
Paul sums it all up by saying,
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,
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 the trials 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,
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:
In some of the Beatitudes, Jesus called some things “blessings” that don’t feel at all like blessings when they happen to us. He said,
I know something about mourning, because I’m a widow. After my husband died, God comforted and encouraged me through Scripture and during times of prayer. And I have been able to pass that comfort and encouragement on to other people. The Apostle Paul wrote about something similar, saying,
Here is another Beatitude that doesn’t feel like a blessing when we face difficult circumstances. Jesus told us,
What does it take for somebody to “hunger and thirst for righteousness”? Going through the trial of having to endure unrighteous behavior. This can range from relatively mild things to serious crimes. It can involve traumatic one-time events, or a series of events. It can be something done to an individual or to a group of people.
How could such a thing turn out to be a blessing? I have heard testimonies of men and women who were so appalled by unrighteous behavior that they longed for truth and justice and goodness and righteousness. And they found it — in God. They became Christians. God not only satisfied their longing, He also changed their hearts and made them His children.
Here is another difficult Beatitude. This is hard to endure, but it can result in eternal rewards. Jesus said,
Could this be a blessing? Yes. Have you ever met Christians from countries with severe persecution? They have a kind of wholehearted love for God that is rare in nations where it is safe to be a Christian. And their zeal for others to know God is so strong that they risk their lives in order to share the Gospel. Their life here on earth is difficult, but they will have great joy in Heaven for all eternity.
God really does bring good out of everything that happens to people who love Him. (Romans 8:28)
5. Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: A Contemporary Version of a Devotional Classic Based on the King James Version (Peabody, Masachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1991), p. 144.