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Steadfast Servants – Part One

“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 5:22, 23

Jesus said, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much….” He then added one of His most pointed comments: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16: 10 & 13).

Members of the U.S. Marine Corps have as their motto that which is becoming of all of us. Their motto: “Semper Fe,” means “always faithful.”

Having trained together and sharing a mutual goal, they bond themselves to the corps and one another with a pledge to always be faithful.

Do you approach your calling as a Christian with less commitment? Are you perpetually making excuses for yourself? Do you allow yourself liberties our Lord never intended?

In Galatians 5: 23, “faithfulness” is listed among the fruit of the Spirit. That is, in the Spirit filled believer’s life one characteristic is faithfulness. The Greek word translated faithfulness is PISTIS, meaning “the character of one who can be relied on.”  It means we are obedient to God and loyal to our associates. That is the fruit of the Spirit.

The text does not say fruits, plural, but fruit. These are not nine separate virtues we are to seek to develop. They constitute one body of excellence that are the natural product of the Spirit-filled life.  They are not some things we do, they are what we are to be.

Let’s recapitulate as we consider this seventh characteristic of the nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. 

The first three have to do with our UPWARD relationship with God: love, joy, and peace.

The next three are OUTWARD on a horizontal plane, and have to do with our relationships with people: longsuffering, kindness, and goodness.

The final three have to do with our INNER being: faithfulness, meekness, and self-control.

P.T. Forsyth, a giant of a theologian of a past era said, “Unless there is within us that which is above us, we shall soon yield to that which is about us.”

Our faithfulness is founded on God’s faithfulness to us which stimulates our faith in Him.  When we have faith in Him we desire to be faithful to Him.

The core reason we find so little faithfulness today is not that we are too passionate about bad things, but that we are not passionate enough about good things. To be faithful to a person or position we must be passionately committed to it. Such commitment comes from the belief that God can be trusted with the things that matter most.

Faithfulness to God is not like building a house where there are no storms; rather it means building a house that no storm can destroy.

Resolve to Semper Fe.

Talk the Talk

Too many Christians are like the Arctic River, frozen at the mouth. It is time to “let the redeemed of the Lord say so.”

There are many voices calling for our attention, so many that a lot of people of faith have become mute. If you dare to speak up in support of a faith based opinion expect for there to be efforts to make you shut up. Expect it, that is OK.

Always use grace and tact. A zealous barber could hardly wait to share his new faith. It was in an era when people often went to a barber to get a shave. His first customer wanted a shave. As he stood by the chair sharpening his straight razor on the leather strap, he could think of no better way to begin than by asking. “Are you ready to die?” Not tactful. 

Remember, “If you don’t use tact, you may lose contact.”

Know your subject and supportive evidence. Resolve to always be gracious. Make sure that even if your words don’t carry the day, your manner can. Perhaps such will leave the door open for further contact.

Advocates of secular aberrant concepts are not always as well prepared to support their points as might be thought. They are, however, almost always aggressively vocal. That intimidates some. Resultantly many prefer to remain mute.

Dare we sit on our apathy while the world around us perishes?  Dare we extend ourselves in a loving effort to feed the spiritually hungry? Inaction is often as bad as active wrong-doing.

Don’t be concerned if you are not successful in making your point. You are not responsible for success, just faithfulness.

There is a simple formula for trying to establish rapport. 

It is: Feel — Felt — Found.

“I know how you feel.” Gives the person a sense of understanding.

“I felt that way until I found….” This reveals you got a better understanding.

“I found….” At this point present your position.

Always let the other persons express themselves fully without interruption before speaking. Don’t let an awkward moment throw you off. Always be shockproof regardless of what is said. Though it may be shocking you must remain shock proof.

Conversing is like playing tennis. When the ball is hit to you, return it. When an idea is served-up to you, respond to it. Always, always return the serve.

Study Scripture. Then you can “be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you ….” (I Peter 3: 15)

It isn’t necessary to always quote a Scripture, but always speak scriptural principles. 

Be brave, worry less. Even if it’s uncomfortable, be brave and just share a defense of your position.

Think Before You Think

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23: 7

When you think happy thoughts, your brain produces the complex neurotransmitter serotonin (which contributes to an overall sense of well being and happiness), as well as dopamine (which is largely associated with pleasure and reward).

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and a hormone. It communicates chemical messages between nerve cells in your brain or between your brain and the rest of your body. It is also a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward system and pleasure center.

Every thought releases some type of chemical. When positive thoughts are generated, when you’re feeling happy, or optimistic, cortisol decreases and the brain produces serotonin, creating a feeling of well-being.

Serotonin is a chemical that carries messages between nerve cells in the brain and throughout your body. Serotonin plays a key role in such body functions as mood, sleep, digestion, nausea, wound healing, bone health, blood clotting and sexual desire.

Serotonin in your brain regulates your mood. It’s often called your body’s natural “feel good” chemical. When serotonin is at normal levels, you feel more focused, emotionally stable, happier and calmer. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression.

With these scientific facts as a background, give thought to the value in training your brain to think wisely. These steps are suggested:

Express gratitude when possible. Make a gratitude log. This will afford you the opportunity to concentrate on things and people deserving gratitude. Find reasons for humor and dwell on them. Make friends with positive people and enjoy being around them. Some of the best talks we make are those we have with ourselves. Engage in positive self-talk. Identify and write down your areas of negativity.

Commit to memory (yes you can) Scripture passages that encourage a positive outlook. Take your time in doing so even if you have difficulty memorizing. Remember, “Thy Word have I hidden in my heart.”

As a starter memorize: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4: 8)

Make a journal listing one of each of these on a page. Thereafter list a note of a positive thought you expressed each day on a topic.

If all of this seems complex and time consuming, it is. However, remember you have spent years cultivating the habit of thinking as you do. Any habit, good or bad, is hard to break. Develop the habit of a better way of thinking.

Think before you think. Think the biblical way.

Living in a Rarefied Spiritual Atmosphere

Jesus loves you and wants to indwell you and enable you to live a spiritually victorious life with a rejoicing spirit.  He and He alone, not things, can enable you to live the “abundant life.”  In a culture where many think peace and contentment comes from the abundance of things, He offers abundant life even to those who are devoid of things such as material goods, family, a host of friends, and property.  Even those who have these assets are offered His “abundant life.”

Live as though each day were to be your last and each person was hearing to remember your last words.

“Bless the Lord….” is an oft repeated Biblical expression. “Bless” means to speak kindly of and make happy. 

Don’t let your prayer life become a series of requests for things wanted and thanks for goods delivered.  This is often done for fear that if it isn’t, the next request might not get through.

Instead of singing “Count your blessings, name them one by one” many of us should be singing “Count your blessings name them ton by ton.” Praise by these individuals is indeed a sacrifice to the Lord.

Old Testament followers of the Lord gave a “thanks offering.” We have an altar, the cross, and a high priest, Jesus. We have an offering, a sacrifice of praise.             

To live with a thankful heart is to live in a rarefied spiritual atmosphere.     

While climbing the Chimneys in North Carolina, we passed persons about one hour up the trail coming down.  We asked, “Is it worth it?”  They replied, “Above here everything is worth it.” So it is spiritually.

        Gratitude has been called the memory of the heart.

        Little people are rarely thankful.

        Thankful people are never small.

        Thanksgiving has a subject and an object.

        What we are thankful for is the subject.

        The One to whom we are thankful is the object.

        People are often worthy objects. 

        God is always the supreme ultimate object.

“(Be) content with such things as we have:  for He hath said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.  So we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man can do.” (Hebrews 13: 5, 6)

We share the love and sufficiency of our Lord by our praise of Him. Doing so makes you His agent of praise, a witness to all.

“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.”  (II Corinthians 2: 14)

Pain With a Purpose

The timeless paintings of the great French Impressionist, Auguste Renoir, literally glow with life and light and color. Renoir seemed to put light inside the people he so beautifully portrayed on canvas. For the last twenty years or so of his life, Renoir was crippled with arthritis. His hands were twisted and gnarled; even his spine was affected, so that he could not stand when he worked, and needed assistance to move from one position to another. The pain he suffered while working caused beads of perspiration to stand out on his face. On one occasion, his prize student, Matisse, asked Renoir, “Why do you torture yourself to go on like this?” Renoir replied, “The pain passes; the beauty remains!” 

Renoir’s words can be likened to the presence of the resurrection power of God in our lives. There is the pain of our daily little deaths; the pain of relinquishing all of that which is spiritually destructive in our life; the pain of developing a lifestyle in the spirit of loving service to others; the pain of changing whatever needs changing in our life in order to do God’s will. It passes, but the beauty of our new life, the beauty of being a person endeavoring to live in the likeness of our Lord lives on.

When called on to suffer for our Lord instead of asking “why” ask “how.” How, Lord, in light of this can it be used to your honor and glory? How can it best enable me to glorify you?

When it is your lot to suffer for Jesus, don’t wimp out on Him. Don’t let suffering for Him cause you to cower or compromise, rather let it inspire commitment and courage.

Suffering causes even greater anguish if it is only interpreted as an inconvenience interruption rather than a constructive purpose. It is like a weight in physical exercise. The purpose of the weight is to build strength. Our struggles in life do the same for us.

Suffering requires response. It will embolden and bless us or burden and break us. Which depends on what is our life’s foundation.

Suffering comes in different sizes and shapes, but it is certain that it comes to all. One type of suffering is being criticized, belittled, ostracized, or left out because of standing for Jesus. He suffered such for us. We should follow the example of the apostles who because of their identity with Jesus were beaten with a whip. The pain of such a beating is severe. After their mistreatment because of their faith they went out rejoicing that they were counted worth to suffer for their Lord. (Acts 5: 41) They saw a purpose in it.

By our suffering for Jesus we are molded into the model God has in mind for us.

“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” (I Peter 5: 10)

The pain passes, but the beauty remains.