What we repeat in times of ease, we recall in times of hardship.- Kelly Minter
There is a reason why the discussion of the Fruits of the Spirit occur. In the Bible it talks about the Fruit of the Spirit. I learned these as a child and I could say them in sing-song fashion (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). I would recite these as a child who memorizes things, but I did not understand the intent. Only in my adult years did I realize that the fruits of the spirit are not things I should “strive for” necessarily. I realize now that when it’s a fruit of the spirit, my role is to allow the spirit to work in me and then the Spirit provides the fruit.
So, what I have found is that if I allow God to work in me, those things will be more familiar patterns of my behavior and mindset. In times like these, where there is abundant stress and overwhelming uncertainty, these fruits really come in handy. That’s why God wants us to have these as our baseline. He wants us to respond to the stressors of life with these characteristics because then others will see His Spirit in us. So, when we allow God to develop these fruits in us, the times of hardship may show something different in our response than what we normally would have shown.
Ask God to begin to change your outlook, to renew your mind. You don’t know how He may use your attitude in these uncertain times. He may use your fruits of the spirit to draw someone closer to Him.
Have you ever had a really good day or week and were feeling really good about the way you deal with things? Like, you feel you have it all together, FINALLY. Maybe you begin to get a rhythm in your work or you develop a new hobby, or honestly, maybe you just haven’t had a catastrophe lately, and you’re content. Then POW- all of a sudden, something happens and it throws you off your game. That’s kind of how this year has felt to many of us. We were happily going about our days and dealing with things as they came, when COVID-19 hit and threw off life as we know it. We went from certainty to uncertainty, from predictability to things being VERY unpredictable…….or did we? Were we really certain about things and were things really so good in our pre-covid days? This isn’t to actually question that, but it is meant to bring light to our propensity to look at all our former days as the “good old days” What is familiar is often viewed as good, or at least comfortable. When we visit our family that we grew up with, don’t we sometimes find ourselves reverting to those old patterns of communication or even the roles we may have played in a family- Something to be aware of as we head into the holidays.
Have an awareness that this happens and you may see the interactions differently. God wants us to look at things with discernment as it’s said in Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. When we are discerning, He allows us to renew the way we see things into how He sees things.
Maura Fielder (Avery) is guest blogging today!
I was about 12 when I was diagnosed with clinical depression. It's not something that goes away easily. So naturally, my parents took me to a counselor. I went for about a month fighting and arguing. Eventually I had a very bad experience and would not go back. When I got home after this appointment, I shut off all communication with my family and friends. I felt alone and unsure of everything. I made some really poor decisions and only got more frustrated and angry at family and friends. I felt there was nobody to help. A friend reached out about going and riding horses. I didn't want to but she kind of forced me. It was amazing that she did. This is where I heard God. I heard him speak to me through a horse named Bargain. This horse, that didn't know me, showed me love and respect and that I had value to him. Through this barn, I was surrounded by other Christians and love. This all led to a better understanding of God and how he truly loves me. I am still around horses because they are my therapy and it's when I hear God the loudest. You can ask anyone in my family, those horses made a difference. I'm still working on my communication. I'm still working on building relationships. Still battling some rougher days, but I know God is with me and these horses who help me. I'm blessed to have the support I have and want to thank everyone for it.
We've talked this week about how God has a plan for everyone. He has a plan for you and me even if we are going through something that is challenging and traumatic. He had a plan for the Israelites throughout scripture. He wanted them to know that He was their God and He wanted the best for them. He had a plan for Gideon. Gideon did not believe himself to be worthy of God's trust in a fight, but God told him that he was a mighty Warrior and he did go out and fight in the strength that God gave him. When you are feeling weak and defeated, remember that God has called you a mighty Warrior. Your fight may be different than others, but our commonality is that we all have something that is a challenge to us and that God wants to help us overcome. If we don't overcome it, God sometimes wants us to come to terms with it and use it for His glory and for our and others good.
“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Matthew 5:13-16 NLT
Yesterday we looked at Gideon who was hiding in a pit threshing wheat. He did this because he was fearful of the Midianites and did not want them finding him. He then gets a Heavenly visitor who calls him a Strong Warrior and tells him to stand up to the Midianites- now Gideon may have thought he was calling him a worrier, because essentially this is what he was doing. This visitor then told Gideon to “Go in the Strength that is yours”, again pointing out something that was not clear in the character of Gideon- especially to himself. Gideon isn’t going for it because his answer asks how can he, an Israelite, do this? He says Israel is weak and his clan is the weakest, then he points out that he is the RUNT of that group. In other words, send someone else. ”I’m not your Guy”. The response? DO IT! Well, really, the response was “have I not sent you?” God often answers a question with another question.
Ultimately, after a lot of questioning and testing God in this message, Gideon did do what he was told and he won! Do NOT let what others say about you or a poor self image limit what God has planned for you. Remember who you are in Christ and trust Him when He says that you are more than enough!
Judges 6:11-16 CEV
11One day an angel from the Lord went to the town of Ophrah and sat down under the big tree that belonged to Joash, a member of the Abiezer clan. Joash's son Gideon was nearby, threshing grain in a shallow pit, where he could not be seen by the Midianites. 12The angel appeared and spoke to Gideon, “The Lord is helping you, and you are a strong warrior.” 13Gideon answered, “Please don't take this wrong, but if the Lord is helping us, then why have all of these awful things happened? We've heard how the Lord performed miracles and rescued our ancestors from Egypt. But those things happened long ago. Now the Lord has abandoned us to the Midianites.” 14Then the Lord himself said, “Gideon, you will be strong, because I am giving you the power to rescue Israel from the Midianites.” 15Gideon replied, “But how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest one in Manasseh, and everyone else in my family is more important than I am.” 16“Gideon,” the Lord answered, “you can rescue Israel because I am going to help you! Defeating the Midianites will be as easy as beating up one man.”
Gideon was living in the promised land after what his ancestors went through in wandering the wilderness for 40 years to get there. Israel, Gideon’s people, forgot that this was promised to them. They were weak at that time and rather than relying on God’s provision and knowing He can do what He had done in the past, they played it safe. They were literally hiding in the hills. One better, Gideon was actually in a pit threshing wheat to hide from the Midianites because he (and his people as a whole) were fearful. How many times do we get an answer to prayer from God and then shortly after we hide and become fearful, essentially dismissing all God has done?
We will discuss this further this week. Do you deal with fear? How do you give it to God?
I was born to two wonderful, but broken, people. My father was an alcoholic. When he was sober he was the smartest and one of the most tender men I've ever known. My mother was a Christian and loved God and tried to raise us to do this, but because of the chaos and dysfunction in our home, it just didn't stick for me. I was taught without being told that there are some things you do not share- namely what was happening in our home behind closed doors. I protected our family by asking for prayer "for a friend" whose dad was angry and hurtful all the time. How no one knew the little girl going to the altar WEEKLY with those needs for others was the one in need, I'll never understand. However, no one did and this continued all of my childhood. Not surprisingly, as a teen/young woman, I rebelled and dated a guy who was not the best fit and had some drug and alcohol issues, but did not display the redeeming qualities that my dad did. I became pregnant at 18 with my first greatest gift. I was sure that I wanted the baby, but also doubly sure that the man who fathered him was not good for either of us. Thank God it was mutual and he moved on for me and my son to live in peace. Years passed, and God brought a wonderful man into our lives. I'm grateful every day that God saw fit to bless us with him. We went on to have two other sons who have blessed our lives immensely. We have raised our children, not perfectly, but definitely with keen awareness that we need not continue our parent's mistakes and patterns. We do the best we can with what we have and know at the time. We never talked about anger toward our upbringing, but a definite desire to change patterns. With God in charge, He has broken generational strongholds in our family. The teenage girl who learned to hold secrets has become a mental health professional who is a safe place for secrets to land. She has a healing spirit because of what she has been through. God has redeemed the pain and has used it for good. By God's grace, we have created a safe family and one that loves one another, but also calls each other out on things that we are concerned for. I am so grateful for God's intervention in my life.
You planned something bad for me, but God produced something good from it, in order to save the lives of many people, just as he’s doing today. Genesis 50:20 CEB
One day, while Jesus was teaching in someone's house, many people were sitting there. Some of them were Pharisees. Other people were teachers of God's Law. They had come from many villages in Galilee, and from Judea and Jerusalem. The power of the Lord was there with Jesus to make sick people well. Then some men arrived. They were carrying a man on a mat. The man could not walk or move his legs. They tried to get into the house, because they wanted to bring the man to Jesus. But the house was full of people, and they could not get in. So, they carried the man on to the flat roof of the house. Then they made a hole in the roof. After that, they put the mat down through the hole. The man was still lying on it. He came down in the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. Jesus saw them. He knew that they believed in him. So he said to the sick man, ‘My friend, I forgive you for the wrong things that you have done.’
Jesus knew that spiritual healing was the most important, but we also know that he knew physical needs need to be met first. In psychology, there is an illustration called Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. In this, it describes that before someone becomes comfortable with themselves and is "self actualized", they must have their basic needs met. For instance, if someone is starving, they will not see the need for anything but food. If one is in an unsafe environment, they certainly will not be thinking about the Higher things that spirituality brings. Meeting basic needs is primary. James said this too. If Someone needs food, and we only try to preach to them or tell them how much they need Jesus, we are not doing God's work. Sometimes you have to meet the physical need first.
Jesus healed the man and then told him he was forgiven because of his faith.
He told the man because of the friend's faith, he was forgiven. Sometimes our involvement with our fellow man helps to sanctify them. They may be prayed for or cared for or just get a cup of coffee from us, but this is planting a seed.
Finally, keep in mind that as much as we, the church are the friends, we also NEED friends. We all can carry one another. The truth is we all need that. This is why groups are an important part of our church. Developing deep relationships is a vital part of our spirituality. There are times we cannot carry ourselves. it is then when our friends can carry our mats and we can do the same for them.
One day, while Jesus was teaching in someone's house, many people were sitting there. Some of them were Pharisees . Other people were teachers of God's Law . They had come from many villages in Galilee, and from Judea and Jerusalem. The power of the Lord was there with Jesus to make sick people well. Then some men arrived. They were carrying a man on a mat . The man could not walk or move his legs. They tried to get into the house, because they wanted to bring the man to Jesus. But the house was full of people, and they could not get in. So, they carried the man on to the flat roof of the house. Then they made a hole in the roof. After that, they put the mat down through the hole. The man was still lying on it. He came down in the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. Jesus saw them. He knew that they believed in him. So he said to the sick man, ‘My friend, I forgive you for the wrong things that you have done.’
Until now everything that happened to that man was based on his friend’s belief. He did not have the faith or ability to get where Jesus was. This is a picture of the favor and grace that God gives someone because of our prayers for others.
Remember, your friend’s and your leader’s faith can help get you into God's presence, but cannot take you from paralyzed to walking. You have to receive it.
Some of us or those we love are so used to their mats they are not ready to leave it or don't even know it's a mat. Our hang-ups and weakness can be like that. We don't want to give up that thing we use to numb ourselves or our habit that is not the best for us. Think about if this is something you need to look at and give to God.