My Goodness! (Fruits of the Spirit part 6)

“The fruit of the Spirit is…goodness”

In his book Gifted Hands, Ben Carson talks about the brain processes that are required when someone raises their hand upon request. Two-dozen or so neurological micro actions that nobody thinks about, yet no one can think without.

Mark Batterson takes it one step further in his book Wild Goose Chase. He relates the story of when he walking his dog one morning, trying to think of every physiological activity in his body he could in order to thank God for it. A biology major in college, he certainly knew what was going on in his body and bloodstream. Even then, it took him an hour to barely scratch the surface. And this is just our brain, and body.

“Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

Try this on: Sometime tonight, if it’s clear out, take a look at the stars. See how many you can count. The last count I heard was 70 sextillion. That’s a seven, followed by twenty-two zeroes (70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000!)! Not only did God put each one where He wanted, He has a name for all of them (see Psalm 147:4). Kinda like us, hmm? Contrast this: Early astronomers were able, with their rudimentary instruments, to number a thousand stars (three zeroes). That alone blows my mind.

Any grocery store tells the story too. When I go to the produce section to get some apples (Fuji is my favorite), not only am I able to get them year-round (not Fuji), but I always pick the best looking ones. Never mind that they’re all edible and delicious–one little bruise isn’t gonna hurt me–I’m so spoiled, I’ve gotta have the cream of the crop! What about the fact that I’m even able to buy fruit, in a country where I’m allowed to go to the store anytime I want, day or night? Speaking of fruit, we’re talking about the sixth spiritual fruit listed by Paul in his letter to the Galatians, the fruit of goodness. All of this leads to one conclusion: God is so, so good to us. And as such, His goodness should be at the forefront of our thinking, all the time. These are but a few finite and physical examples.

“And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.” (Mark 10:18)

How then should we respond to such a bountiful expression of the goodness of God? We should certainly thank Him, yes (see 1 Thessalonians 5:18). But wait, there’s more. We can live it out practically by showing the goodness of God to others. Any blessing that God has shown you in abundance is not just for you. Jesus says “He that believeth on me…out of his (and her) belly shall flow river of living water.” (John 7:38). This is the same idea expressed in John chapter 15. This flow of His goodness isn’t supposed to stop with us. Rather God wants us to be so stuffed full of His bounty (spiritually and materially) that we have no choice but to express His goodness to the people we know and meet. Make a habit of being and doing the good to others as God has been and done to you.

Use your imagination! God is way ahead of us.

“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:7-9)

Joy>Happiness (Fruits of the Spirit part 2)

“The fruit of the Spirit is…joy”

Whereas happiness can be fickle and ethereal, like a mood, Joy is solid-state—meaning that it operates by itself, independent of you. Happiness usually (but not always) centers around a thing, a person, an event. And this is great, but joy is different. Deeper. Again, the world has a different definition of joy than does a Christian. So the joy which I will hereafter refer to as “joy” should be understood as something coming directly from God Himself.

“The Lord God is a sun and shield…” (Psalm 84:11a)

And this is where we start. If you’ve never experienced a trying time or any period of suffering then it may be hard to tell happiness from joy. Joy is not contingent on anything—good or bad—that may be happening in your life. Rather, God gives His joy to those who love and worship Him. In other words, the only reason you need to have joy—true joy—is God alone. And He is always joyful—like the sun. Yes the sun in the sky, but also like the sun in space. As I’m sure you’re aware, you can only get so close to the sun before you burn up. And Jesus, when he walked this earth, was ablaze with the joy of His Father, even though He knew He had to die. Jesus was always, spiritually, in the presence of His Father.

“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16:11)

And here’s the crux. There is actually something that we can and must do to remain in His presence and to know His joy. It’s called praise and worship expressed through gratitude. Psalms says that God “inhabitest the praises” (Psalms 22:3). Again, contrasting joy with happiness, it would seem that the very circumstances that might provoke the opposite of joy should instead inspire us to thank God for who He is and that He has created and recreated us–because we never get beyond those two things: creation and recreation. And that He is always with us in said (sad?) circumstances. There is joy in His presence.

It’s easy for an observer to not only want what you have, but also to mistake your joy for simple, garden-variety happiness. If they want to know, make sure you tell ’em!

In closing: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 15:13)