And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. (Exodus 33:19 NIV)
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17 NIV)
In the 1970's there was a popular TV programme called "The Good Life" which was about a couple who abandoned the busyness of modern life and sought to become self-sufficient. They gave up their jobs, converted their garden to an allotment and began to live a simpler life. At first, their very middle class neighbours were outraged but eventually a great friendship grew up between the two couples. There was an innocence and vulnerability about them, an openness that took things on face value, something very uncomplicated and lacking any pretence.
There was a goodness about them. An inherent quality, not connected in any way to doing the right thing. Unselfish and motivated by something other than the normal rules of behaviour.
This, of course, is only a partial picture of the Father's goodness. The Psalmist reminds us regularly that the Lord's goodness is a result of his enduring love for us. He is motivated by love because he is love. He delights in blessing his children because he is love. His goodness releases mercy to us when we don't deserve it. His goodness does not come and go like the shifting sands. He is always good as goodness is the fruit of love.
We may do all the right things but that does not necessarily make us good. Goodness is the fruit of the spirit of love living in our heart. As we live in love we are transformed and our actions and lifestyle become motivated by righteousness and a desire to be a blessing. True goodness is not self-made but the outworking of the seed of love in our life which will cause us to 'love your neighbour as yourself' (Galatians 5:14). As the Passion Translation says, "love is revealed through a life full of virtue".
The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV)
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. (Matthew 25:35 NIV)
A well known BBC reporter, Kate Adie, wrote a book called "Kindness to Strangers" in which she recounts her travels (mainly in war zones) and the many times strangers were kind to her either by giving her food or shelter. Even in a war, where people are deprived of the basic essentials, there is still kindness which can shine above their circumstances.
As I've thought about kindness, I see it's easy to be kind to your family or close friends, but it's harder to be kind to those in need or to those who are strangers or migrants.
True kindness involves a cost and it involves giving. It's easy to be kind when we feel like it or when our own resources are abundant but it's not so easy when there is a cost involved, either of our time or resources. This is, I believe, true kindness. Kindness sees others who are in need and then reaches out to cover that need. The problem may have been caused by the other person, but kindness doesn't blame or seek revenge, instead it accepts and provides a covering of love.
This is exactly what our Father has done for us in Jesus. In his loving kindness, he reached down and provided a covering for our sin and shame and has made a way for us to come back into relationship with him. As we allow him to be a Father to us, the spirit of sonship living in us will produce the fruit of kindness. We, like our Heavenly Father, will become kind to those in need, we will provide a covering for their faults and be able to show them the same loving kindness which we have received.
We are grateful to God for your lives and we always pray for you. For we remember before our God and Father how you put your faith into practice, how your love motivates you to serve others, and how unrelenting is your hope-filled patience in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 TPT)
I am one of those people who, when I start a project, wants to finish it straightaway, if I am stuck in traffic I start drumming my fingers on the steering wheel, if I'm out in a restaurant I don't like waiting too long for my meal. All these show a lack of patience. In other circumstances I can show great patience, like when I'm watching a sunset, waiting for the perfect moment to take a photograph or simply resting and waiting for something or someone.
The dictionary defines patience as 'waiting without complaint' or 'calmly enduring suffering'.
When we read about the fruit of the Spirit we are easily excited about love, joy and peace but then we arrive at the ones where we feel more work on our part is needed. It's a good thing it's the fruit of the Spirit and not our own self-generated fruit.
Patience requires trust and dependency on another. Inevitably, patience involves waiting for something to happen. However, it's not the waiting that is important but rather how we wait. The Psalms are full of encouragement to wait and see God act on our behalf ..... 'I waited patiently for the Lord'. They show us the dependency that, particularly, King David had on his Heavenly Father. When he couldn't achieve things in his own strength, he waited for the One who was much stronger and more able.
If we can learn to wait, then we will discover the fruit of patience at work in us and we are led into rest.
Human patience may be in short supply but as we live in love the patience of the Holy Spirit will be seen in our lives.
All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:25-27 NIV)
It's very easy to look at other people's lives and think they are not living in peace. But what about us? Do we live in peace? Peace, like rest, is something that eludes us, it seems to slip so easily out of our grasp. Life can be very full as we feel we are being consumed by activity and busyness with little or no time to slow down and discover a slower rhythm. Stress is all around us and there is a constant pressure from so many sources to conform or to have or to be. Often, even when we sit at home, we are not truly at peace because the engine of our heart is still whirring madly. Where, oh where, is the peace we crave?
As we allow God to be a Father to us, we will be filled with his Spirit. It is the indwelling of the Spirit of life in us that will produce the fruit of peace. Not our fruit, but the fruit of the Spirit.
On his last evening with them, the disciples are unsettled and so Jesus gives them a gift. The supernatural gift of his peace. A peace that goes beyond our limited understanding and becomes a protection or shield around our heart and our mind (Philippians 4:7). Peace sometimes sounds like it is a bit fluffy and lacking substance but here we see it as a powerful protective force.
My prayer for us today is: can we let the power of his peace surround us in order that, even in the storms of life, we can be at rest, experiencing his peace flooding our heart and our mind?
And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. (Isaiah 35:8-10 NIV)
Over the next few weeks I'm going to look at the fruit of the Spirit. When we allow God to be a Father to us, we make room for the Holy Spirit to live in our heart. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of sonship who enables us to cry 'Abba, Father', the cry that recognises we are sons and daughters and that God is our real Father. This cry is the result of an awakening to and awareness of the reality of being loved. We can say the words, but without the Holy Spirit at home in us they are just words. These are more than words though, they are a cry which is connected to the source of life, they are words that declare "I'm alive".
When we know we are loved, when we experience perfect love our hearts will come home. When a heart comes home it can be filled with joy. This is not a joy based on our external circumstances or how we happen to feel on any given day, but it is a heart filled with the Holy Spirit. The wonderful thing about the fruit of the Spirit is that it is his fruit and not ours. It is not dependent on us but on him. That's why it's possible for you to be joyful even when you are walking through the midst of difficulties.
This is why Nehemiah could say 'the joy of the Lord is your strength' (Nehemiah 8:10) or Malachi could describe us a young calves leaping out of the stable (Malachi 4:2). King David, in his prayer of repentance, asks that the joy of God's salvation would be restored to him (Psalm 51:12). He was not looking for his joy to be restored but the joy that comes from knowing Almighty God is your Father.
My prayer today, is that we would not seek to make ourselves joyful but would rather allow his joy to rise up within us and to be the source of our life. It is not our joy we seek, it is the joy of the Lord.
A Father to YOU is a signpost to the heart of the Perfect Father. When we became Christians we were given the right to become children of God (John 1:12). Sadly, many of us fail to take up that right and instead continue to live as slaves or orphans. But our true destiny is being sons and daughters who have a permanent place in the Father's family. This blog is an encouragement to help you know who God really is and who you really are.