A Bible Verse about Strength
I can do all things through (Christ) who strengthens me, Philippians 4:13.
A Story of Courage
Pauline is a shining example of courage and strong faith simply because God has never let her go and she clings to that fact. Life has never been easy for Pauline, in fact, there have been seasons of real struggle. Pauline was named after her mom who was an anchor of faith and encouragement in her life. Polly prayed faithfully for their whole family including Pauline. Her mom did everything she could to provide a safe home of love and respect.
Pauline did experience abuse and was violated in her childhood despite her mom’s best efforts. Shame and failure ran deep in her heart which at times felt like she was choking. Unfortunately this is not uncommon for young girls because it does incredible damage and sets life on a very difficult course to overcome.
Pauline takes responsibility for bad choices that led to her addiction that has haunted her off and on for years. It was justified in her mind as a way to minimize her pain. There were prescription drugs, alchol and even a few street drugs that have been part of this journey of addiction.
In the midst of seasons of addictive behavior were other times when life was good and seemingly normal. A baby was born who brought delight. Life was good. Work and finances were limited but they got by. Pauline did what she could to put food on the table but her physical limitations due to nerve damage in her body kept life financially lean.
As her child became a teen, men paid more attention to her than ever. Pauline yearned for a normal family life but attracted men with troubles. There was drinking and irresponsibility. Pauline lost custody. This was heart-breaking and led to a season of darkness. It was a long winter of a deep sadness.
Spring has come. Pauline has arisen with Christ from the grave of her addiction and is once again sober. The battle of addiction is never really over. It is a day-to-day, sometimes moment to moment struggle. Through it all, God is ever faithful. Pauline has remained a part of Grace and volunteers where she is able. To never give up on God or the church shows incredible courage. Pauline is a loved and valuable child of God.
Ground Work: Read Galatians 5:1, 13-25
The Holy Spirit empowers and leads Christians in the way of Christ. This way of life is different than the secular way of self-centered living referred to in this reading as the way of the flesh. As baptized and anointed people of God, we have the power to live and be led by the Holy Spirit. We are still tempted to live in our old way of self-absorbed living. In our baptism, we died to our old way of living so that we could begin to live as Christ calls us to live. Let us walk in the way of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:19-20 list the works of the flesh which are powerfully at work in the world and still have power in our own lives. The fruit of the Spirit is where we need to focus our attention. These fruits can grow in our lives as we pursue the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Our part is to yield our will and release our desire so that the Spirit can grow these fruits in our life. Like a natural fruit: an apple or peach, they take time and the right conditions to grow. Do not be surprised that it takes time and practice to see joy, generosity or self-control to grow in our life.
Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit is not in any way intended to be a complete listing of the characteristics of a Spirit-led Christian. These nine fruits are major characteristics we see demonstrated in the life of Jesus. The first fruit is the hallmark of the Christian life: Godly love. You can read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a to get a more complete picture of what Christian love is and is not. This is the kind of love Jesus refers to that can even love an enemy (Matthew 5:43-44 – a love that knows that God loves everyone, even those who hate us). God’s true nature is love.
Joy is not the same as happiness. Joy can exist within us even in sorrowful times. Joy is more like an attitude or awareness than an emotion. Our true joy is found in the Lord who loves us and is ever with us (John 15:11). Similarly, peace is more than an emotion. It is a condition of the heart and mind. Peace brings a gentle calm even in a stormy situation. It is a characteristic of a Christian who has a peace of mind knowing the Lord is with me always. Knowing that promise of the presence of the Lord, brings a peace to our hearts and minds when others allow the stress of a situation to cause them to come unglued (John 14:27).
These are the big three fruits of the Spirit that enable the other six fruits to grow: patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If love, joy and peace are growing well in your life, the other six have the nutrients to grow too. If not, it is hard to be patient unless you have peace. It is much easier to see kindness, generosity and gentleness grow in your life when you have love and joy. Keep the desire of your heart open to grow in love, joy and peace and the characteristics of Christ will emerge in powerful and delightful ways.
To be led by the Spirit implies a willingness and openness of mind and heart to the direction of God. Resist the selfish way of the flesh in Jesus’ name and pursue the guidance of the Spirit. We do not need to make much space in our hearts for God to nudge and direct us. God leads us to others in need as well as into our future. God cares about every aspect of your life. Listen and follow.
- How have you sensed the leadership of the Holy Spirit in your life?
- The reading from Galatians 5 implies a conflict between the way of the flesh and the way of God. In what way does this make sense to you?
- Who is an example to you of the fruit of the Spirit, in particular: love, joy and peace? What fruits do you desire?
- What is your plan to be more attentive to the guidance of the Spirit?
A Final Thought about Love (Let all that you do be done in love, 1 Corinthians 16:14): Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, Love never ends, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a.