Are you making progress with your calling? It is easy to become discouraged with so many areas of our lives to work on. One thing can be relied upon: developing godly character in one area of our life will undoubtedly reveal several other shortcomings that also require attention.
But God doesn’t want us to be discouraged. His goal for all men is to be saved and come to the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). John gives us insight into the Father’s feelings for us: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (3 John 2). One way to measure our prosperity is by the godly fruits borne in our lives. Jesus Christ noted, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (John 15:8).
To be the disciples of Christ, we must be growing spiritually. As the first seven verses of John 15 illustrate, we must abide in the law and love of God if we are to remain part of the vine, or family of God.
“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (verse 12). One of the most significant aspects of our love is the depth of relationships we build. Here are three fundamental qualities we should be building in our relationships with each other: Love, sacrifice and trustworthiness.
John wrote epistles to the Church giving detailed insight into the love of God. We know that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). God’s desire for us to be part of His Family burned so strong that He permitted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ!
God’s way of love is contrary to what comes natural for human beings. That’s because Satan, as the god of this world, transmits his attitude of vanity and selfishness into the minds of men. But we must follow John’s advice: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 John 4:7). In verse 12 we learn, “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” Continuing in verse 13, we see that God has given us a common factor to promote unity—His Holy Spirit. No matter what our backgrounds or differences, we are all unified by the Spirit of God.
Paul demonstrated the power of God’s Spirit by becoming all things to all men. Read through 1 Corinthians 9 to discover the depths Paul went through to win people over to him. Paul understood that in order to fulfill his responsibilities as a minister, he had to form relationships with God’s people.
Mr. Armstrong defined love as “an unselfish outgoing concern for the good and welfare of the one loved. Love is primarily on the giving, serving, sharing side of the fence” (Missing Dimension in Sex). That kind of love is not humanly natural. But it is possible, if God’s Holy Spirit is dwelling and working inside you.
Out of love for mankind, God gave up His only begotten Son. By that same love, Paul was all things to all men. And if we are to further develop godly relationships with the brethren, we must grow in God’s love and exercise that love with the other members.
That same passage in 1 Corinthians illustrates this second important quality. Paul stated, “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Paul was willing to do anything for God’s people. Willingness to sacrifice and serve was a trademark of this personable apostle.
Paul understood the value of his sacrifices for the people. Paul was unswerving in carrying out his responsibilities to God’s people. He spoke of the perils which he suffered on their behalf (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)—all in the name of feeding the flock! His depth of love for the brethren was demonstrated by his actions.
Our character and loyalty toward fellow Christians should be so apparent. If we are to engage in godly fellowship and forge relationships to last an eternity, we must demonstrate the same sacrifice as Paul. That kind of loyalty is not attained through lip-service; it comes only through continual godly behavior in our everyday lives. The amount of sacrifice and effort we put into a relationship builds trust and deepens the bond of friendship.
Trust is something that is earned. Bearing godly fruit over a sustained period of time makes us trustworthy to others. Because Paul deeply loved the brethren and sacrificed for them, they trusted him. He was sincere in his loving service.
If we want our relationships to deepen, both parties must have confidence in the relationship. By living the give way of life, others learn to trust us because they know our motivation is not self-centered. Trust comes as result of outpouring love and concern for one another.
James 4:1-3 teaches us that disagreements between one another are often enflamed by our lusts. Lust drives the honesty out of a relationship. Lust creates an atmosphere of “getting.” Once we develop this reputation, it becomes very difficult to make new friends. And to violate the trust of an existing relationship can cause tremendous damage. Remember, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city” (Proverbs 18:19).
The world is full of people who are out to get and who offend others repeatedly. That’s why living unselfishly places us at such a clear advantage when it comes to building relationships that last—relationships based upon trust. Don’t wait for the other guy to act. That’s selfish! Be the first one to give to your brother. Go out of your way to sacrifice for him. And see if that doesn’t draw others to you; others you can trust and who will trust you. Going out of your way to be a loving friend will attract friends who stick closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Now that’s a relationship based on trust!
A Philadelphian Responsibility
There is one particularly noble quality that God commends the Philadelphians for having. It’s found in Malachi 3:16: “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.” Philadelphians speak often to one another! Their names are recorded in a special book of remembrance. Is your name included in that book?
What an awesome reward God has in store for those whose names are found written in the book of remembrance: “And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him” (Malachi 3:17). God collects precious, faithful servants as one would collect treasures and jewels. He spares those special treasures from the horrific conditions that are soon to befall the world.
We should be stirred to make whatever changes are necessary to be numbered in the ranks of the faithful. Obeying the law of God is absolutely necessary if we are to progress to this level. Developing the very character of God requires obedience to His law. We are required to learn and grow in the love of God. To facilitate this process, God has given us the tool of fellowship through which we develop relationships grounded upon brotherly love. How much effort are you expending in this aspect of Christian development? God knows. We cannot afford to be negligent with our responsibilities. Deepen your love for your fellow servants, learn to sacrifice more, steel yourself by becoming more trustworthy, and you will experience agape love in your personal relationships.