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Accordingly, when we perceive God’s love and love Him in return, we experience joy and peace. From this experience we can afford to be patient because realize increasingly that there is rarely any need for us to hurry ourselves or to rush others. This is not because patience is the same as indolence, in which state we do nothing. Instead, patience is the virtue of a principled waiting upon and trusting in the wisdom, love, and power of our God in all times and situations.
Part of our having transformed minds by the mercies of God in Christ is that we serenely and joyfully resist impulses to impose our wills on others and to do so with haste, lest we miss the opportunity to succeed in our feverish trying. Instead, we accept and vitally rest in the reality that our God knows best, loves best, promotes true righteousness best, and that He fits us to serve Him better in terms of His empowering and inclining us to do so with effectual fruitfulness, than we could ever do by our rushing ahead of Him.
When Jesus calls us to come to Him in all of our weariness, He promises us and gives to us rest (Matt. 11: 28-30). That rest is found not only in the cessation of our pitiful and sinful labors (works of the flesh) as we live and luxuriate in His saving love and grace. But we also experience rest as a result of our being blessedly yoked to Jesus and bearing with Him those burdens He calls and empowers us to bear in cooperation with Him. Consequently, we come to understand that patience is not so much a matter of our inactivity as it is our pacing ourselves according to the living and loving movements of our heavenly Good Shepherd. We lie down when He makes us to lie down because He lies down in yoke with us. We rise up and move to refreshing waters because He knows perfectly where those waters are and when we most need them (Ps. 23:2). Even when we encounter life’s valleys of humiliation, pain, and perplexity, we do not obey the fearful impulse to run away from such trials or to rush through them. Instead, we walk with measured and confident steps through them, precisely because He is with us to minister to us precious comforts that we cannot best receive apart from our tribulations into which He leads us (Ps. 23: 4, 31:21).
Our patience is a feature of the Spirit of Christ in us and of our new nature in Christ acting together to exercise that precious faith the Lord has given to us. By such faith we vitally and practically realize that our God reigns with sovereign authority, infallible wisdom, and almighty power to sustain and govern the world and orchestrate everything in it for our good (Rom. 8:28).
In all of this, He does not require us to be in a rush, but He always calls and prompts us to wait on Him and sometimes to be still and, knowing that He is God, watch Him work for us as well as through us (Rom. 8:31). So much of our growth in the Lord and of the development of our loving intimacy with Him and with others depends on our being intentionally perceptive with the eyes of faith and receptive of all that we see the Lord is in His person and in His work for us.
We should learn to resist the false sense of urgency that distracts us from such edifying and comforting wealth as we impetuously rush blindly to have our own poor way, instead of the enriching way our Lord provides for those who wait on Him.
Yours learning of the wealth in waiting, William Harrell
Dear Friends, In this month’s letter, I will address the fifth aspect of the fruit of the Spirit: kindness. It is found in the middle of the second triad of the nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. Of the three facets that form this second triad, two of them (kindness and goodness) are gently demonstrative, while the first of the three listed (patience) is undemonstrative. These are aspects that make us to be gently virtuous. The Holy Spirit leads us to be undemonstrative, or gently demonstrative, when our impatience or lack of kindness would unduly alarm or pain others for whom we have loving consideration, and to whom we may be trying sincerely to speak the truth in love.
In last month’s letter, we considered the virtue of patience. We saw that while the patient may be longsuffering with the slow development and even unjust contradiction of others, they do not bear with stoic indifference such things that try their patience. The Spirit not only prompts and enables us patiently to endure the inconsideration and even cruelty we may receive, but He also prompts and enables us to demonstrate kindness towards those with whom we bear patiently. But there is more to this than the Spirit’s prompting and empowering us to act kindly.
Through His sanctifying work in our lives, the Spirit nurtures and stimulates the growth of our new natures in Christ. Accordingly, we act kindly because we are becoming truly and essentially kind in Christ, and are not merely acting kindly under compulsion.
We perceive kindness more in the manner of one’s speech and action than in what one says or does. Kindnessis the lovingly considerate softening of our expression in the administration of truth and love. We are right to speak the truth in love, even when it may hurt others to hear that truth. However, our growing kindness leads us to be intent upon softening the blow as much as possible as we determine not to add any unnecessary pain to the salutary suffering we may be obliged to administer to others. Jesus faithfully and lovingly rebuked sinners such as the woman caught in adultery and busy Martha. He spoke to them words that were true and loving. But He also did so in a kind manner that befitted His love for them and his respect for their penitential regard for Him. The truly spiritual person does not blast out blunt truth, but instead considers how to clothe his communications in kindness that will better commend the truth.
The incarnation of God in Christ was an essential and vitally necessary demonstration of the kindness of the Lord. He who is our glorious Maker and sovereign King could have in truth and righteousness confronted us with His holy wrath and condemning judgment. However, in the counsels of eternity, our God in love chose us in Christ to be His redeemed and adopted children and to stand before Him ultimately holy and blameless (Eph. 1:3). When God entered the world to accomplish our redemption, He did so not with the consuming glory of His pure and holy divinity, but rather He came humbly as very God of very God but also in the true humanity of the baby born in Bethlehem. As the God/man, Christ Jesus grew up in obscurity and poverty, ministered faithfully in the face of growing opposition, and humbled Himself ultimately to become sin for us and to die the death of a judicial execution wherein He was regarded as a blasphemer and criminal (Phil. 2:10ff). All of this demonstrates the kindness of the Lord that we are taught to observe with gratitude and that leads sinners to repentance in a way that mere true and righteous commands could not do (Rom.2:4). Jesus makes this most clear to us when He issues His most appealing invitation, in which He says: Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light. (Matt. 11: 28-30). It is the Spirit of this kind Christ who indwells us. It is also the nature of this kind Savior that has been planted in us at our regeneration and that is developing in us as we grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. This is why we have the characteristic of godly kindness and as we look for and find more and more of the kindness of God written on every page of Scripture, and observe especially the kindness of Jesus in His dealings with others, that we shall behold our perfect example of kindness after which we can model our attitudes and actions.
We must never regard kindness as a weakness that may be endearing in spiritual infants or children or mild-mannered adults, but has no place in the strong, mature, and effectively serving saints of God. It is the kind gentleness of our saving God that sweetly draws us to Himself as He powerfully delivers us from the hard dominion of our sin and exalts us to His glory (Ps. 18:35).
As we grow in kindness we will find our effectiveness in true spiritual service increasing greatly, and our circle of close friends and brethren growing to be almost embarrassingly large. Only the wicked, the fearful, the tyrannical, and the brittle, who delude themselves into thinking they are strong who despise Christian kindness. And in the history of the Church, even many of them have been blessedly conquered by the gentle but potent virtue of godly kindness.
Beloved Friends, I continue to write in this letter on the fruit of the Spirit. At this point in this series of letters we have considered five of the nine aspects of the character of Christ that is forming in us as a result of our new natures growing in conjunction with the sanctifying work of the Spirit of God.
The previous aspect, kindness, speaks to us of the manner in which we seek lovingly to bless others. The spiritual person is not only conscious of the truth but also endeavors to convey the truth to others in a kind way that comports with the love that should characterize all of his communications. Such manifestations of kindness serve better to commend the truth to others while at the same time, making the truth more acceptable to others.
With goodness, the sixth aspect of the fruit of the Spirit, such kind ministering of blessing to others is guided by one’s being consciousness of and committed to what is right and even best for others. As love without truth is no longer love, but is really sentimentality, so kindness without goodness is no longer kind, it is really a sweet but cruel indulgence of the evil passions of others. We can reach a point, in our dealings with some people, when kindness becomes a pearl that must be withheld from those who prove to be moral swine. Jesus was kind in His dealings with weak, broken, and grieving sinners, such as the woman caught in adultery.
However, our Lord manifested more goodness and less kindness when He drove the money changes out of the temple and when He castigated the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23).
The goodness of the Spirit-filled will not permit them to allow their kindness to be perverted into an indulgence of wickedness. Such indulgence would be neither good, nor kind, nor loving. Instead, goodness fills us with a consciousness of the good character, holy will, and righteous deeds of our God. Those who have goodness developing within them are ones who have themselves been rescued from their naturally inherited depravity by the redeeming provision of their God who is good and the source of all that is good. In their possession of an increasingly good disposition and their loving devotion to the God of all goodness, they are filled with a grateful commitment not only to be good themselves but also to do good to others.
There is definitely a positive dimension to goodness. That dimension issues from our redeemed moral appetite for all that is true, right, pure, lovely, and excellent (Phil. 4:8). Our good God lavishly feeds this appetite with the nourishment contained in His holy Word, and by the sanctifying work of His Holy Spirit. There is also a negative dimension to goodness. That dimension is our hatred of and opposition to all that is evil (Rom. 12:9). The good soul will tolerate evil not from a spirit of apathy, still less from a spirit of pity. Those full of the goodness of the Lord will only endure evil when they are convinced that such patience will serve the higher ends of goodness. For example, our Lord is patient with sin and with sinners, not because He is indifferent to sin, but because He purposes to lead some to repentance (Rom. 2:4) while allowing others to fill up their allotted measure of sin before He brings His righteous judgment upon them.
The goodness of the Lord is the fountain of the goodness that we who are in Christ possess in growing measure by the edifying work of His Spirit. It is from the goodness of the Lord that His saving grace and redeeming compassion flow (Ex. 33:19). Those who know the Lord as their Shepherd can have the comforting confidence that His goodness and lovingkindness will not only go before them, preparing their way, but also will be with them in their daily lives and even will follow them as their rear guard, mending the wounds they have received through the evil attacks against them as well as from their own stumbling and falls in their walk by faith (Ps.
23:6). By our goodness that is a fruit of His goodness to us, we become more intent upon our being good to others, especially to those who are of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). God has made it clear to us what is the sum of what He requires of us: to love Him with all that we are, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Such love is good and right in the sight of God and desirable among men. The practical aspect of such loving of others is our doing justice, our loving kindness, and our walking and working humbly with our good God so that we do good to others (Mic. 6:8).
With goodness we have come to the final aspect of the second triad of the fruit of the Spirit.
We have seen in this second triad components of the quality of meekness that is the gentleness of the Lord that invites us to Him and into the realm of His goodness so that we might find the regeneration and refreshment of our souls in Him (Matt. 11:28-30). As we find our deepest rest in the gentle yet strong yoke of His grace, we become increasingly inclined and enabled to be meek ourselves and to show our virtues gently to others so that they, too, seeing God’s light shine in us, might be drawn to taste the sweetness of the Lord’s grace and delight in His goodness.