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The Fruit of the Spirit Series (Part 3): The Fruit of the Spirit is Peace
When I think of the word “peace,” two images simultaneously come to my mind. First, I am reminded of the 2-finger peace hand signal used by hippies in the 1960s. I fondly remember my classmates in elementary school exchanging this peace sign, especially when our teacher told us to remain quiet. Second, I recall the numerous jokes I’ve heard over the years from people trying to tackle world peace or pointing out how impossible of a goal it would be. While it may not be possible to create world peace, the Holy Spirit provides us with a powerful way to obtain personal peace. Personal peace is highly desirable and within our reach.
Hebrews 12:10-12 New International Version (NIV)
10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.
Peace Requires Real Effort
We come out of the womb screaming. When we don’t get our way we get mad, act out, or bury our anger inside. We lose our keys, can’t find our cell phone, or the car battery won’t start and a new vocabulary emerges from our body. Let’s face it; living in a state of peace does not come naturally.
When it comes to nations, there are usually internal disagreements on policies and procedures. Take it a step further to the international level and we add differences in worldview, the value of life, and religious difference too. Once again, we see that peace is not the default.
To share a personal story with you, when my first child was born she was a talker. She was always making some type of noise. A few years later when my son was born, he was super quiet. I thought something was wrong with him because he seemed so content. Twenty some years later, they still have the same tendencies. But we shouldn’t confuse quiet for peace. Even my quiet child caused quite a bit of trouble of the years. Needless to say, our home was not always a shelter from the storm.
You Can’t Get Away With Murder
Some people mistakenly think that they can do whatever they want in live and still reap the rewards of hard work. I hate to break it to them but that isn’t going to happen. The majority of us don’t get handed things on a silver platter and we can’t get away with murder. We can’t expect to obtain inner peace unless we’re willing to pay the price for it. In case you think you’re immune to this problem because you would never commit murder in the first place, think again. There are tons of times in life most of us try this without even realizing it. Consider a few of my examples.
But We Think We Can
- Did you ever think you could eat and drink whatever you want on a two-week vacation and not gain weight?
- Wait until the last minute and expect to acquire the hottest gifts for your family at Christmas?
- Postpone scheduling an appointment and then think they’ve saved the most popular time for you?
- Forget to shop for a new outfit and then find yourself with nothing to wear on the day of the special event?
- Not make doing your taxes a priority and end up with late fees because you didn’t submit them on time?
None of the things on the list above is horrible and they probably won’t land you in jail. Nevertheless, you can see how easily they can happen. They happen because of a lack of planning and not making them a priority. I must admit, I tend to forget things easily because I quickly move on the next thing. My lessons have been learned the hard way. So, I need to write things down if I don’t want to forget. I also set up reminders so that I’m not doing important things at the last minute.
The same is true when we seek peace. We need to plan and remind ourselves that we can’t expect peace if we’re not willing to work for it. A great example is how easily we can get stressed out from being overly busy. The cure to schedule related peace is setting clear boundaries and saying no. Recently I had to tell someone that I could not participate in something very worthwhile. There was just no way that I would be able to make the time to do it, even though I thought it was a great thing. Paying the price of possibly disappointing someone and feeling left out was a price worth paying in order to have peace.
Strengthen Your Feeble Arms and Weak Knees
Take notice that the Bible verse above from Hebrews 12:12 tells us that we need to strengthen our feeble arms and weak knees. There is no misinterpreting this verse, God is telling us we need to get stronger. We get stronger by “working out” in a physical sense. But we also need to work out in a spiritual sense too. Spiriting working out is done through repeated practice. And you know what they say about practice; practice makes perfect!
While I’m certainly no body builder, I do lift weights. I lift because it makes me stronger and as I age, the odds are against me. I don’t want to be weak and frail if I can avoid it. So I choose to lift weights. I also choose to take on spiritual challenges from time to time too. Not because I want to, but when I get stronger spiritually, I am able to find greater peace. After years of studying God’s word and having plenty of practice applying it to my life, I now do some spiritually difficult things with ease. But I am still learning, growing, and getting stronger every day.
Finding Peace in the Midst of the Storm
Another area where we are easily fooled is in thinking that to have peace everything in our lives needs to be calm. That’s ideal but not always possible. We don’t have the ability to control other people or many of our circumstances. But we can still find peace in the midst of the turmoil around us.
In Matthew 8, we read about a time when Jesus was sleeping in the middle of a storm. Even though everyone else was afraid, Jesus stayed calm and peaceful. He simply rebuked the winds and the sea calmed down. When you are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, you too can perform miracles and do the impossible if it the Lord’s will. Knowing that, how can we be anything else but peaceful?
Matthew 8:23-27 New International Version (NIV)
23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
- On a scale of 1- 10, with 10 being complete peace, how peaceful would you say you are today?
- How do you respond when your circumstances change for the worse?
- Are you ready to be more disciplined and to strengthen your spiritual arms and legs?
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
The Fruit of the Spirit Series (Part 2): The Fruit of the Spirit is Joy
Over the course of my life, I have frequently been criticized for being too serious, too ambitious, and lacking true joy. I would often point out that I felt joyful. I believed that my introversion disguised my true feelings. But onlookers weren’t buying it. They insisted that I lacked joy, while I insisted that I had it. There was probably a bit of truth in both of our perspectives. And I imagine that same things I experience are things that many other people deal with too. It’s the battle between the sun and the clouds of life. The sun is still there even when we can’t see it. Let’s delve into some thoughts about joy, what it is, what it looks like, and why the sun inside us often gets buried.
We often use words interchangeably and fail to distinguish true meaning. Joy and happiness are two words that frequently get mixed up. It’s easy to see why this would happen, when outwardly joy and happiness may look the same.
But, notice that Dictionary.com defines joy as “an emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or pleasurable.” This means that joy is a step above happiness, it is better than happiness. Does this mean you’ll have a bigger grin or longer smile? Not necessarily.
Both Brown (2012) and an article in 412Teens discuss the differences between happiness and joy. Happiness is based on what happens to or around us. We are happy when we hit all the green lights on our way to work, get a raise, and win an all-inclusive vacation. We are happy when the test results come back good, when we get an “A” in a tough class, and when our toddlers are finally potty-trained.
On the other hand, joy is deeper and longer lasting. It is not dependent on external things to go our way. Joy is not something that everyone experiences because it is based on deep convictions and beliefs. Many people live in the superficial and never reach this level of contentment within.
From a human perspective, joy can come from knowing you did your best or when something extraordinary occurs. Below I’ve included a list of things we often hear references as joys that people experience.
The Bible has over 300 instances of using the words joy or rejoice. And many Christmas hymns are built around this theme. One of my favorites is from James 1: 2-4
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.”
Looking at this verse, we can see that joy can exist in the midst of bad situations in our lives. This verse is speaking about the apostle Paul. Notice his focus is not going down the “poor me” path that is so common in our world today. Rather, Paul’s focus goes beyond what is happening and sees the greater good and the ultimate result.
Paul speaks of becoming perfect and complete. Probably most of us agree that we would love to attain those rewards. But, in order to get there, we may have to have our faith tested, and endure difficulties. That’s the point where many of us get off the success train. We are simply not willing to pay the price.
However, when Christians truly believe what they profess, that Christ died for them and that the gift of salvation is freely given for them to receive, the price is totally worth it. Would a mother not give her life for her child? Would not a secret service agent place himself in harm’s way to protect his president? Surely, a true Christian will experience inner joy knowing that his or her entrance into heaven has already been bought and paid for by Christ’s blood and God’s love.
Unfortunately, people don’t always look like they are filled with joy. Ever heard the phrase, “If you’re happy tell your face?” What we see outside doesn’t always perfectly match up with what’s inside a person. There are three primary reasons this happens.
Lack of Freedom to Express Oneself.
There are many times when an individual does not feel free to express how they are feeling inside. This may come from a person’s personality or things they experienced in life. Either way, they have learned to stay quiet and not share externally what is going on inside.
In other situations, those around a person place undue pressure on an individual and it is not safe to share one’s thoughts and feelings. For example, someone may judge you for feeling sad too long, or having difficulty overcoming difficulties in your life. It’s not easy to express only some emotions; so many times people just clam up and don’t express any emotions freely.
Distracted by the Woes of Life.
We get up each day with a clean slate to start our life anew. Sometimes that works out really well. We wake up to the sun shining, birds chirping, and the smell of fresh clean air. Other days, it doesn’t quite work out that well. We wake up to a dog with GI problems, a leaky pipe, sick kids, and roads covered with ice.
As hard as we might try, it’s not easy to overcome the woes of life. They can really beat us down and wipe the smiles off our faces. It’s even harder when it seems to go on for weeks or months with one negative thing after another. This is another common reason why joy is stolen and we look miserable to outsiders.
Cease & Desist Orders Initiated.
A cease and desist order is a court document telling a business to stop an illegal activity and not start it again. You may be wondering what this has to do with joy. Well, the reality is, misery likes company and not everyone wants to see other happy or joy filled. So, those people or spiritual forces make it their mission to put an end to joy that may exist.
With the odds against us at times, it brings to light the reality that we must fight for our joy if we want it to dominate our lives. Overflowing joy doesn’t come easy and it doesn’t come without a cost. The good new is that when we make it a goal and we desire it to be an expression of who we are; it is quite possible to live a joy-filled life!
Foster (2017) embraces the reality that joyful people don’t always feel like it or look like it. This author provides some excellent ideas for ways we can demonstrate more of what’s inside our hearts in our everyday lives. Examples include focusing on blessings and gratefulness, and setting up reminders of God’s love, provision, and promises. We also prompted to encourage others with positive messages of truth, inspiration, and humor.
- What would you consider your biggest joy stealer?
- Where does your hope come from in life?
- In what ways can you fight better and demonstrate emotion that is more positive in your everyday life?
Brown, S. L. (2012). Joy- VS- Happiness. Psychology Today.
Foster. E. (2017). Fruit of the Spirit: Joy. LifeHopeandTruth.com.
Is there a difference between joy and happiness? 412teens.org.
Joy (2016). Dictionary.com.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.