Key thought: when we grow in the characteristics of faith, hope, and love, we will have greater joy, peace, and hope. But how do we do it?
Over the past couple of months, I have explained that the book of Romans is a book that is designed to lead us to greater joy, peace, and hope. As Paul wrote, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (15:13). This was Paul’s prayer for what this letter would accomplish.
The key to growing in joy, peace, and hope was greater faith in what God had done in Christ to forgive us and will do to transform us. The key was greater hope in a brighter future for ourselves individually and for the world. The key was greater love that would love others better, even when it was hard. The key was growing in the virtues of faith, hope, and love.
Becoming people of greater faith, hope, and love is much harder to do than to say. So, how do we do it? I want to conclude this series on Romans with an explanation of how to grow in faith, hope, and love so we can feel greater joy, peace, and hope. I hope that this will serve as a guide for you to study and review the principles of this great letter to the Roman Christians. This advice is derived from what the Apostle Paul is doing in this letter.
How to Grow in Virtue
1. Pray specifically to grow in faith, hope, and love. This is what Paul is doing at the end of his letter in the blessing he declares over them. He is asking God to increase the faith of the Roman Christians. That’s what we should do. We have not because we ask not. Ask, and it will be given you. God delights to give us the gifts of greater faith and love. Pray specifically each day that God will give you faith, the gift that opens the door to all other gifts.
2. Read the Bible to change your mindset. You need to read the Bible, but the goal of reading the Bible is not just to get it done. It’s always a blessing to read it, but the purpose of the Bible is to give us a mindset of greater confidence in God, greater hope for the future, and greater love for all people. We should always ask, how does this passage help us see something different about the world? We should ask, if I really believed this, how would it change the way I interact with the world? For example, if I believed I was really accepted by God and valued by Him, how would this change the way I work? Relate to people? Take up new challenges? Experience suffering? Think about what your normal reactions would be apart from faith, and visualize what they would be if you lived out of faith. That’s what reading the Bible should lead us to do.
3. Implement the new mindset. Once you have visualized what it would look like to live that new mindset, then implement it. For example, when you feel that others look down on you, try to let your dominant emotion be joy that you are accepted by God. In your mind and heart, relativize what others think and magnify what God thinks. Try to react in a way that is in accordance with faith rather than the old patterns of the world. See if you can really react differently in a way that fits what you believe rather than what you told yourself in the past.
4. Evaluate your actions. Once you have tried to implement it, evaluate how you did. For example, did you live as if what people thought about you matters the most? Or, were you able to rise above it with the confidence that you were accepted by God? When did things break down? How could you have done it differently? That is the key. You need to evaluate and learn from your failures. The good news is that we are not accepted by God based on our growth in virtue but on the basis of what Jesus has done for us. Our transformation is not up to us primarily; it is God’s work in us. That should give us the confidence to simply lean into and join what God is already doing in transforming us into glory.
5. Repeat 1–4. Character change is not a one-time thing. It is a long-term project. It will take a long time. You need to keep repeating the work that you did. Over time, you will see the work of God, and you will also see that your effort has played a part in it. It will make a difference. There is hope for change. The testing of our faith produces patience. Patience produce character. Character brings hope. Hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:3–5).
Thank you for taking the time to read my series on Romans. I hope it was a blessing to you. God wants to do something great in your life. His power is available to change you and enable you to make a great impact in the world. That’s my hope and prayer for you. If you have found this helpful, please share on social media or subscribe below. I would also love to read your thoughts on the series in the comments below.