Study to Do Good

I already mentioned that our Sunday School class has been studying the fruit of the Spirit.  Recently, after a lesson on self-control in financial matters, I gave the class a homework assignment — find a way to be generous this week, something beyond what you would normally do.  Then  I came across this quote by Richard Baxter (1615-1691) who was an English Puritan church leader, poet and theologian.

“Do not only take occasions of doing good when they are thrust upon you;  but study how to do all the good you can, as those ‘that are zealous of good works.’  Zeal of good works will make you plot and contrive for them;  consult and ask advice for them;  it will make you glad when you meet with a hopeful opportunity;  it will make you do it largely, and not sparingly, and by the halves;  it will make you do it speedily, without unwilling backwardness and delay.  It will make you labor in it as your trade, and not consent that others do good at your charge.  It will make you glad, when good is done, and not to grudge at what it cost you.  In a word, it will make your neighbors to be as yourselves, and the pleasing of God to be above yourselves, and therefore to be as glad to do good as to receive it.”

In other words, we should not only study to know God’s Word, we should study to apply it.  Have you been studying this way?

For more on generosity see this post:

the thank-you project by Nancy Davis Kho–Book Review

 

A Fruit We All Need — Self Control

We’ve been using a study in our Sunday School class on the fruit of the Spirit, which St. Paul lists in the book of Galatians. This has been a long study and we’re nearing the end — self-control.  At the beginning of this section, one of the questions was about anger — what circumstances tend to make you angry? Anger is an emotion that often causes us to lose our self-control.  We all have our hot buttons, and one of mine is customer service people, or even people in general, who don’t care about doing their jobs conscientiously.  Maybe it’s because before I retired, I was a buyer, and our supervisor always stressed the need to help our customers — and our customer was anyone who called with a question or needing help.  (Hmmm … sounds a bit like the who is my neighbor question, doesn’t it?)  It was simply not acceptable to say “I don’t know” or “That’s not my job” or just route the caller to some other department.  If we didn’t know the answer, we were to find the answer and call the customer back ourselves with the exact information or person needed.  (Oh my, I fear this is becoming a rant).

At any rate, my devotional reading today was speaking right to me and the way in which I sometimes lose control.  Here is the Bible verse:

Like a city whose walls are broken through
is a person who lacks self-control.”  Proverbs 25:28

 

In other words, when we lack self-control our emotions can easily overwhelm us.  We say things we regret, and act in ways that are unbecoming to any Christian.  We may think our anger is righteous, but if we look carefully, that’s rarely the case.  Anger is generally all about us and not getting what we want.

The quote from my devotion was written by H. L. Sydney Lear:

“One valuable way of practising self-control is in checking grumbling, and an unnecessary display of vexation at petty inconveniences.  A workman has fulfilled his task imperfectly, some order is wrongly executed, some one keeps you waiting unreasonably;  people are careless or forgetful, or do what they have in hand badly.  Try not to be disturbed;  be just, and show the persons to blame where they are wrong, even (if it be needful) make them do the thing over again properly;  but refrain from diffuse or vehement expressions of displeasure.  A naturally quick, impetuous person will find that to cultivate a calm external habit is a great help towards gaining the inward even spirit he needs.”

Point taken.  I’m going to try cultivating that habit of calm the next time my buttons are pushed.  What about you? Where do you need to exercise self-control?

For more on the fruit of the Spirit see these posts:

Mmm . . . Fruit.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Fruit of the Spirit

Let the Fruit of the Spirit Flow

 

 

Increasing the Fruit

“…make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  2 Peter 1:5-8

No farmer is satisfied with a poor harvest.  He works to increase the yield and quality of his crops.  As Christians, we should also want to grow in our faith and understanding of Jesus Christ.  The verses above tell us how.

To grow in Christ, we need to “supplement” our faith by practicing Christian virtues:  the fruit of the spirit.  This requires discipline, or self-control.  I mentioned in a previous post that our default position is sin which leads to the “bad” fruits–anger, jealousy, dissensions, lust, etc..  I find in my own life, these kinds of emotions rear their heads quickly, especially when I feel criticized, humiliated, irritated or ignored.  It takes a little holding back to avoid giving in to them.  However, the effort is worthwhile.  When I yield to sin by becoming angry, confrontational or self righteous, a bad situation escalates and becomes even more sinful.  On the other hand, pressing the “reset” button and remembering to be kind, gentle, loving,  and patient defuses the problem and leads to peace and joy.

I read a story once about an Indian grandfather.  His grandson said to him, “Grandfather, there are two wolves fighting inside of me;  one is cruel, angry and destructive.  The other is peaceful, kind and loving. Which wolf will win?”  The grandfather answered, “The one that you feed.”

Feed the gift of faith that God placed within you;  let the fruit of the spirit become your habit.

 

 

New Month/New Theme

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such things there is no law.”  Galatians 5:23

One of our authors was interested in having some sort of “free for all” month when we could write on any topic.  After discussion we decided to select “fruit of the spirit” as our theme for December.  Although we are limited to the nine qualities above, this still allows us a wide range of verses and ideas for blogging.

The fruit of the spirit also seems especially appropriate for the Christmas season.  This is a time when we should experience this fruit as we eagerly await Christ’s birth.  But do we?  Sometimes this season of joy and peace becomes filled with stress and discord.  Our patience is tried as we attempt to do it all:  shopping, baking, entertaining. Instead of being kind, gentle and loving, we become tired, irritable and whiney.  Self control is lost as we participate in the gluttony of eating, drinking and gift-giving.

Surely this is not what Christmas is about.  So join into our blog discussions and let us know how this Holy Season is affecting you.  Is the fruit of the spirit evident in your life?  How can you cultivate this fruit?  Let us know what you think.

God loves you and so do I!