We live in a turbulent world. We never know what is going to happen to us next. It could be a natural disaster like a tornado or a flood, a house fire, a car accident, a sudden death in the family or a rebellious child who takes our focus away from what we would rather be doing. Somehow things never seem to go according to our plans. Thankfully, we don’t have to rely on our circumstances to find peace.
The word ‘peace’ was a common Hebrew greeting; it was said as we would say ‘good-bye’. That is why in John 14:27, Jesus emphasized the word ‘my’ when He was saying good-bye to His disciples. He was about to leave the earth and return to His Father. Rather than just saying the word ‘peace’, He said ‘my peace I give to you’. He clarified that He wasn’t giving peace the way that the world does. His peace was different, all-sufficient, ever-lasting. His peace would ease their sorrow at His departure, and bring them courage to continue without His earthly presence.
Jesus had already given the disciples an example of His peace when they were out in a boat on the stormy lake. (Luke 8:22-25) Jesus had been asleep in the boat when the storm came up, and the disciples were afraid. Jesus rebuked the storm, and then addressed the disciples, “Where is your faith?” That is the key to peace: faith. If we completely trust God to take care of us in every situation, if we believe His promises that He wants the best for us, (Jeremiah 29:11, Matthew 7:11) if we know that somehow everything will work out for our good because we are called according to His purpose, (Romans 8:28) we will have peace.
Few of us will ever face the kind of trials that David faced. He made a lot of mistakes, (January 11, 2011) and he fought a lot of battles, and illness, and there was frequently someone trying to take his life.
Many of David’s psalms started out as laments. He cried out to God, and asked for mercy, healing or protection from his enemies. Psalm 13 (February 11, 2011) is a good example of this. David starts out by asking “How long, Lord?”, but he ended by trusting in God’s faithfulness, rejoicing in His deliverance and praising God. Somehow in the midst of all David’s trials, he was able to find joy.
In Psalm 30, David was in a similar situation. He had been praying to God for healing. He had asked for mercy and deliverance. In Psalm 30:11-12 David’s prayers were answered. His lament was turned to joy. The reason that David was considered a man after God’s own heart is not because He always did the right thing and never made mistakes. It was because He always turned to God. And whether his prayers were answered the way he wanted them to be or not, David continued to trust in God and praise Him for His faithfulness.
Joy is not the same as happiness; it does not depend on circumstances. If we want to have joy we need to find contentment in whatever we are facing, do the best we can in the situation, and leave the rest to God.
There are many references to love in the Bible. John 3:16 is probably the best known, and the one that clearly tells us how much God loves us, and the gift that awaits us if we believe in Him. Matthew 22:37-40 outlines what Jesus considers to be the two most important commandments. Both of them require us to love, both God and others. 1 John 4:7-8 commands us to love because love is from God. If we do not love, we do not know God, because God is love.
But 1 Corinthians 13 is known as the love chapter; it is the passage that describes most thoroughly what love is. In my last post, I said that the fruit of the Spirit is produced in us because we invite the Spirit into our lives to work through us. It is not through our striving that we achieve these qualities. But that does not mean that we should not work to exhibit these characteristics in our lives. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to do it, but it is through our cooperation that He is able.
In Greek there are three words that are translated ‘love’. Eros is a self-centered, physical love, the kind displayed between a husband and a wife. Philos is a considerate, affectionate love, as we would (or at least should) show to our fellow human beings. Agape is a term that was coined to express Christ-like love. It is recognized not by the feelings it invokes, but by the actions it displays—the actions described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
True love, God’s love, will never end. Prophecies, language and knowledge will all end, but love will not. Faith, hope and love will remain, but the greatest of these is love.
Recently we have been talking about having discernment, being led by the Holy Spirit, and the results of following our own sinful desires. Now let’s look at what happens when you allow the Holy Spirit to be the influence over your decisions and actions. It is outlined in Galatians 5:22-23.
Take note that this passage says that “the fruit of the Spirit is”. There are two important points here. First, the term fruit is singular. All of these characteristics are one fruit; they are all given in equal abundance when we allow the Holy Spirit to flow through us. Secondly, it is not the fruit of our works or striving; it is the fruit of the Spirit. We cannot achieve these things on our own. When I was younger, I used to think that I had to work at exhibiting these qualities in my life. I would try to be loving and joyful and all of the other things listed here, and thereby gain more of the Holy Spirit, which I thought was a noble goal. The problem was that I had it all backward. What a relief to find out that it wasn’t up to me to become good and kind and gentle. Especially gentle.
We become these things by having more of the Holy Spirit. That part is up to us. We need to choose, and it is a daily, perhaps hourly, choice to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. This is done through reading and studying the Bible and through prayer. This is how we get to know God better, and the better we know Him, and the more we allow Him to lead our lives, the more the Holy Spirit will work through us. The word fruit is an apt description. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me—and I in him—bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing. (John 15:5) We are not the source of all that goodness, but it is our choice to remain in the vine and allow the fruit to be produced through us.
Over the next three weeks I will look at each of the nine elements of the fruit of the Spirit.