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.
Can you imagine what a wonderful world it would be if we all followed the two commandments found in Matthew 22:37-40? If everyone’s goal was to please God, and to help each other, the conflict in this world would be erased. You can be sure that Satan is doing everything within his power to keep that from happening. We are in a battle between the ways of Satan and the ways of God. No matter whose side we choose, there will be a constant struggle until Jesus returns.
Galatians 5:19-21 outlines some of the results of following our own sinful desires. Paul gives examples of sexual sins, religious sins, societal sins, and those stemming from a lack of self-control. He finishes his list by letting us know that it is not exhaustive; it includes other actions that put ourselves ahead of God and others. He warns us that by engaging in such activities we risk being consumed by one another, (Galatians 5:15) and that if this is the kind of behaviour we choose, we will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:21) That is not to say, that if we choose to follow God, and to be led by the Holy Spirit, we will never sin, but we must not cater to our sinful nature nor let it dominate our life.
How do we prevent our sinful desires from winning out over the ways of love and freedom in God? We ask the Holy Spirit to help us. We choose every day to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us. We cannot do this on our own, and God will not do it without our consent. We are not puppets. God could have taken all these desires away from us when we made the decision to follow Him. Why didn’t He? I believe it is because He always wants to allow us to have free choice, but also that He wants us to realize how much we need Him. We need to realize that we can’t make it on our own. He wants us to acknowledge Him, to remain in communion with Him, and to rely on Him to help us through every situation we face. The good news is that if we choose God’s way, the Spirit will be a continual help to us, and we will be on the winning side.
Do you ever feel alone? Do you feel like you just can’t face another day without some help? Does it feel like everything is always going wrong? Jesus promised us a Helper and an Advocate, so that you wouldn’t have to face anything alone.
When Jesus was on earth, He taught His disciples and guided them, but as He prepared to ascend to heaven, He promised to ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit to take His place and to live with the disciples, and by extension us, forever. (John 14:16) Since Jesus and the Father are one, when Jesus asked the Father for something, it happened, but the promise was predicated on a condition.
In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” Love here is not a sentiment or an emotion, but a commitment and dedication to Jesus that was demonstrated by obeying Him. Everything that is taught by Jesus in the gospels and throughout the New Testament is there for us to learn from and to follow so that we might be more like Christ. Even though every day brings trials that we must face and deal with, our responsibility is to continue to follow Christ. In Matthew 6:33, we are told that we need to pursue His kingdom and His righteousness above all else. If we do we what we are responsible for, He will take care of the rest. And we know that nothing is impossible with God. (Luke 1:37, Luke 18:27, Mark 10:27)
I can’t promise you that things won’t keep going wrong. As a matter of fact, I can pretty much guarantee that they will, (John 16:33) but you don’t have to face them alone. If you have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice and gift of eternal life, and if you strive to obey His commandments, the Holy Spirit will be right there beside you and within you to be your Helper and your Advocate.
Did your mother ever tell you that you had to share? Most mothers do. I find it interesting that children are forced to share when it is not a habit that is practised by most adults. While discussing this with a friend the other day, the parable of the ten virgins came to mind. (Matthew 25:1-13). Five of the ten came prepared for the long wait with extra oil for their lamps, and five didn’t. The ones who were unprepared asked the others to share their oil. If that were to happen today, would the prepared virgins be criticized for not sharing? Would they be called mean, just because they prepared for themselves but not enough to also take care of others? After all, we know from other passages in the Bible that God likes us to care for the needy (James 1:27, Matthew 25:40) and He loves a cheerful giver. (II Corinthians 9:7)
To be honest, sharing was not really the point of the parable, but it is interesting that the five virgins who wouldn’t share were not condemned for it. They were commended for being prepared, while the ones who had not brought enough oil to get them through the night were called foolish and were banned from the wedding feast.
Preparation is the point of the parable. Since it is a parable, the focus is to be spiritually prepared for eternity. The oil is representative of the Holy Spirit. There are many who call themselves Christians, perhaps because their parents did or because that’s the kind of church they go to, but only those who have truly accepted Christ as Saviour will be invited to the eternal wedding feast. This is your own decision--something you have to do on your own. No one on earth can share eternal life with you, but you can accept it as a free gift from God.