As, therefore, God’s picked representatives, purified and beloved, put on that nature which is merciful in action, kindly in heart, and humble in mind. Accept life, and be most patient and tolerant with one another, always ready to forgive if you have a difference with anyone. Forgive as freely as the Lord has forgiven you. And, above everything else, be truly loving, for love binds all the virtues together in perfection. (Colossians 3:12-14, JB Phillips Paraphrase)
I have really been enjoying reading through the New Testament in the JB Phillips paraphrase. I love the way he words some of my favorite passages in a way that helps me to better understand what they mean. The above passage is no exception. I got such joy from reading it that I wanted to share it with you, and tell you how it spoke to my heart in this season when the pain I experience is more intense and limiting.
First of all, this passage tells me that, regardless of how physically able I am, God still picked me to be His representative. So, that means that I can honor and glorify God even if I can’t leave my bed! I am able to fulfill my God-given purpose, which is to glorify Him (Is 43:7) regardless of my physical condition, and this encourages me to persevere. Since I have been purified, and because He loves me, I can be merciful, kind and humble. I don’t have to give in to irritability and the tendency to be short-tempered when I am hurting. He has given me a new nature so I can overcome these things.
As I accept what is happening, the patience and tolerance that follows will make my relationships more peaceful. Because I have been freely and fully forgiven, I can practice that same forgiveness with others, even when I am in pain. I don’t have to be unhappy or discontented. I am loved by God, and He has enabled me to love Him and others. As I love God and others, those virtues of patience and tolerance that are available to me will flow into and out of my heart, because of the perfection that He conveys on me.
The best thing about all of this is that these qualities and actions of God enable me to join with Him in making something good out of my pain. As Joseph said in Genesis 50, though spiritual forces of evil would try to use our pain in their favor, God intends for our pain to do us good. I believe that our enemy knows about our pain, and is crouching at the door, waiting for us to give in to the impatience, irritability, and strained relationships that can come so easily when we are hurting. But God has ordained this pain for me, and he has also chosen me before the foundation of the world to be His!
So, as I am determined to represent Him well, I gain strength for the battle against my flesh. I put on that nature which is “merciful in action, kindly in heart and humble in mind,” and I wear it into the battle. It is my joy to remember that physical strength is not what is needed in this particular war . Spiritual strength is what is needed here, and the very weakness that would disqualify me for a physical battle is the key to my spiritual strength!
So, for the most important battles of my life—the ones that involve my relationship with God and with the people that I love—I am fully equipped. Second Peter 1:3 tells me that I have everything that I will ever need for life and godliness, so I can be sure that no circumstantial limitation will ever change that. Only the One True God could orchestrate such a mercy. He makes all things work together in such a way that even on our most painful and difficult days, when we feel old, wretched and useless, what we really are is brand new, purified, and chosen! Hallelujah! What a Reality! What a Savior!