Choose Joy

We’ve heard them preached on … some of us have even memorized the whole list of them … but often some confusion lingers about the “fruit of the Spirit” written about in the fifth chapter of Galatians. The first eight in the list are accepted readily: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness. We all see the value and blessing of these. But then there is that ninth one—that’s the one that gives us trouble: self-control.

We get uncomfortable when we think self-control is required of us, because we worry that maybe we don’t practice as much self-control as we should. Leaping to our minds are occasions from our history when self-control wasn’t uppermost in our minds.

But this line of thinking leads us completely off track. The whole point is that these are fruit of the Spirit; these are the result of the Spirit’s residence in our lives. The Amplified Bible defines the fruit of the Spirit as “the work which His presence within accomplishes.” Rather than convicting us for something we lack, the list is our assurance that we have full right and access to all of these.

When I find myself coming up short—perhaps in patience, perhaps in peace—I can remind myself that the patience and the peace are already there within me where the Spirit resides; I simply have to choose to live in it.

Last week the shortage seemed to be joy, so I made a sign for the corner of my bathroom mirror. It says “Choose Joy.” Every time I see it, I am reminded that the joy is already within me, accomplished by the presence of the Spirit.

           

Two More Extraordinary Promises

I heard recently that there are 7,000 promises in the Bible, and admit that I have no idea how that number was determined. Maybe it’s just a nice, round number with a 7 in it. But whether they total 7,000 or not, there are too-many-to-count extraordinary promises in the Bible. Every few weeks, this blog looks at some of them.

Today I want to point out Psalm 32:8 and Psalm 34:7–10. If you were trapped in a wilderness and had no other promises but these two, I think you could live happily.

Psalm 32:8 (NIV) reads: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” In less than two dozen words, we are given the promise that we don’t have to sort out our way all by ourselves, but divine help—from one who loves us—is available to us.

Psalm 34:7–10 (NIV) expounds on a theme: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” This is covenant language: you agree to do this, and I agree to do that. Your part is to fear [regard with reverence and awe] the Lord, to experience the Lord directly, to seek the Lord. In return, the Lord ensures that (1) His angels will settle in around you to protect you, and (2) you will lack nothing good that you need.

Words to live by.