February 16, 2011

Preparing for the Harvest

By now many New Year’s resolutions have been broken. Some couldn’t last, because they were “works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19, KJV). Works suggests things that are made and fabricated by human ingenuity and effort.
But as wonderful as our inventions and creations are, or the benefits we derive from them, there is one thing even the greatest minds have been unable to produce—life. Therefore, all our works, however grand and awe-inspiring, will not last forever. So I offer these nine words brimming with eternal life. They will last long after this year is history, for they are both the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23) and gifts from Christ.
Love heads the list. It is the character of God, a command of Christ (John 15:12), the primal demand of our Christian faith, and the fulfilling of the law (Rom. 13:10). Join me in choosing love every day, for there is no occasion so terrible that hatred, bitterness, or betrayal is worthy of our energy.
2011 1505 page27Joy is a personal gift to every believer. It is rooted in grace. Just as study of God’s Word expands and enriches our intellect, strengthens and braces our will, so joy heightens and deepens our emotional life. Let’s always rejoice and be glad by rejecting the temptation to be cynical or gloomy.
Peace is more than peacefulness. It guards our hearts from the control of troubles and disappointments that are sure to appear in the coming months. Let’s exercise this gift so that the irritations to which we seem most susceptible will not give way to inertia and indifference, but will generate the peace that passes all understanding.
Patience, or long-suffering, is much more than magnanimity. It is longanimity, for it’s not just the breadth of temper as the length of temperament. It is the capacity to bear all things and tolerate the intolerant without being irritated because of its divine source. So rather than curse those who betray us or complain about things that delay us, let patience rule the day.
Kindness is a disposition that shows itself in action, a social virtue by which we can ameliorate many of the troubles swirling around us. Let’s do a simple act of kindness every day—to the poor, for they have so little and are usually alone; to the rich, for they have much but are generally afraid; to the unkind, for that’s how God treats us even when we are undeserving.
Goodness, in all its range and content, calls to mind that fascinating list of words beginning with the syllable “bene,” i.e., benevolence, beneficence, and benefits. All the wealth accumulated in love, joy, and peace is generously poured out in active, influential measures into this one gift we can pass on to others as freely as we receive it. Let goodness flow like a river by confessing before we accuse and understanding before we judge.
Faithfulness is the manifestation that all things committed to us are being handled honestly. Every day let’s keep our promises so that creditors will not regret their trust, associates will not question our word, families and friends will not disparage our fidelity.
Gentleness, or meekness, is not cowardice. It demands high courage. It is the spirit of Him who, when He was reviled, did not retaliate; and when abused, did not threaten, even though He had the power to call legions of angels. Gentleness helps us exercise the mind of Christ, bear slights, insults, even false accusations, and is still willing to consider others better than ourselves (see Phil. 2:3). Let’s choose this virtue so that when we raise our voices, it’s in praise of the One who declared, “I am gentle” (Matt. 11:29).
Self-control, another rendering of temperance, is a wonderful core value. It comes last in the list because it is the foundation of all the other fruit. Good measures of it can be gained only by grace and deployed only through faith.
Let’s resolve to usher revival and reformation into our church by allowing the Spirit to employ all these gifts in our lives every day.
Hyveth Williams is a professor of homiletics at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan. This article was published February 17, 2011.