Meditations for Troubled Times
“John answered, ‘A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven… For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.’” (John 3:27,34-36)
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
The world was turned upside down this year, so are you ready for 2021? I’m sure some of you hope that a new year will bring about a less repulsive political climate free from violence, arrogance, and even disunity among the body of Christ. Are you looking for a better financial picture, or an end to the virus, or at least that researchers will discover a cure or vaccine that is 100% safe and does not threaten your liberty? What happens if 2021 is worse?
What are your resolutions and plans for next year? I suggest you familiarize yourself with the gift of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. You might easily say, “The fruit of the Spirit is great for young people, but my personality is set, and it is too late to change. After all, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” You could also think you have reached what scientific blogger David Pfeiffer calls an “equilibrium of happiness” and that you are content with where you are spiritually.
Several weeks ago, Elder Justen Ellis introduced us to the Greek word “gumnazo” in our Sunday School lesson from Matthew 5:6 on hungering and thirsting for righteousness. “Gumnazo” (or what Christian counselors call the “The Gumnazo Principle”) should bring to mind the word gymnasium, which has the idea of training by habitual exercise. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 4:7b to “train (gumnazo) yourself for godliness.” The Scriptures teach that we daily put off sinful desires and acts and put on deeds of righteousness by pursuing godliness. (See Ephesians 4:22-24 and Matthew 6.) Ponder how Martin Luther put off the false celibacy of the Roman Catholic church and married (put-on) Katherina, who was a nun. It was certainly not a romantic courtship, but obedience to the commands in 1 Corinthians 7 and 1 Timothy 4:3. Sanctification does not take place instantly but requires effort on our part in conjunction with walking in the Spirit through obedience to the Word of God. The writer of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 5:13-14 that the mature have their senses trained to discern good and evil. This passage contrasts the young child that is unskilled to handle the word of righteousness. Would you characterize yourself as mature? I have a friend who taught K-4 in a private school, and she asked the parents to train their children for school by having their 4-year-olds sit quietly for five minutes. It is hard for a child by the age of 10 to sit still for 30 minutes if they haven’t been trained to sit still for five minutes. I’m sure you can think of many things you do by nature and habit. As a Christian, we have great hope of change by the Holy Spirit.
The great thing is that God has given us gifts of righteousness. The first is eternal or abundant life in Jesus Christ that will culminate in that moment of glorification. Second, while we are still in this body, God has given us the fruit of the Spirit for sanctification. Each fruit of the Spirit is at war with the deeds of the flesh. In this new year, may I suggest that you purposely study how you can increase in these fruits through the Holy Spirit and the Word.