02 Jul 2017 0544
“Fruits of the Spirits”. We heard that the evidence of a spirit filled Christian is the manifestation of moral excellence in a person, we also call “spiritual fruits” or virtues. A morally excellent person has a character made-up of virtues valued as good (referencing Galatians 5:13-24). And then we also heard that we have to be selective with the people whom we allowed to seat with us in our “wisdom table” (referencing Matthew 7:15-20).
What I didn’t hear was virtues can only be produce over time, not over night. Spiritual gifts or virtues are like muscles that has to be practiced and strengthened at the heart of everyday life so that can we live with purpose.
A godly character is not built overnight; it is developed through a process involving experience, hard work, and learning from past mistakes. The apostle Paul had this kind of character in mind when he admonished Timothy to “exercise yourself toward godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7, NKJV). Paul knew that Godly character comes only through resisting evil influences and impulses and focusing on the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
One of my favorite books “The road to character” written by David Brooks said, “Wisdom isn’t a body of information. It’s the moral quality of knowing what you don’t know and figuring out a way to handle your ignorance, uncertainty, and limitation. Humility is the awareness that there’s a lot you don’t know and that a lot of what you think you know is distorted or wrong. We don’t become better because we acquire new information. We become better because we acquire better loves. We don’t become what we know. Education is a process of love formation. When you go to a school, it should offer you new things to love. The self-effacing person is soothing and gracious, while the self-promoting person is fragile and jarring. Humility is freedom from the need to prove you are superior all the time, but egotism is a ravenous hunger in a small space—self-concerned, competitive, and distinction-hungry. Humility is infused with lovely emotions like admiration, companionship, and gratitude. In this method, you don’t ask, What do I want from life? You ask a different set of questions: What does life want from me? What are my circumstances calling me to do? In this scheme of things we don’t create our lives; we are summoned by life. Love is the strongest kind of army because it generate.”
I also didn’t hear the “spiritual fruits” can’t be observed from a far. You have to have full observation, in close proximity, to see if it’s real. And then you have to “hold and take a bite”, inviting and holding a heart, to taste it whether the fruit is sweet. The apostle Paul faced the same challenges during and after his conversion as he interacted with people and attempted to integrate with other Christians. Ananias, the guy who was sent to meet Paul after his conversion, was terrified of this Pharisee who was a chief persecutor of Christians! And the Christians with whom Paul would become close and do ministry with were also initially afraid of him. And why not? Paul was an enemy of the early church. He was passionate about snuffing out the smoldering embers of Christianity: “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem.” (Acts 9: 13). But Paul had an intensely personal encounter with the living God that changed him radically, forever. In that experience, God changed his heart and mind, helping him see the misapplication of his fervor. When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. (Acts 9: 26, emphasis added) So the guy God appointed to help with the conversion experience (Ananias) along with the disciples who were supposed to be kindred spirits were all afraid of him. It took a consistent change in his actions over time, and testimony from those who would vouch for him, to change the minds of his skeptics. My point is this: because Paul had a track record of inflicting pain and persecution, the people in his life were cynical and critical of his change. And they had every right to be. They were hesitant to buy it. The process of gaining credibility and trust took the good apostle over three years! (See Galatians 1: 18) Surely they’d heard rumors that his heart and life were changed, that he was one of them. But upon meeting him, the disciples still held him at arm’s length, reluctant to believe he had changed. After three years. In the face of skepticism and doubt, it is still possible to build trust. With effort, energy, and divine guidance, these tools will help you build trust back into your relationship.
With that in mind, “Nothing on the planet will stop me from becoming the man God is calling me to be.” The most important thing in my life was not rebuilding trust, but passionately pursuing the character that God was trying to develop in me. A by-product of that pursuit was the restoration of trust and our relationship.
Good morning, 5:44am
Grace and peace