PART TWO OF ……
THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT
by Keith Hunt
A common sight in America's Southwest desert is the century plant. It's unique. The century plant (Agave Americana) thrives in rocky, mountainous, desert sites. It has dramatic, splayed leaves that grow up to a foot wide. The plant can reach twelve feet in diameter. But what makes the century plant unusual, as its name suggests, is its long reproduction cycle. For twenty or thirty years (no, not a literal one hundred years), the six-foot-tall plant stands the same height and puts out no flowers. Then one year, without warning, a new bud sprouts. The bud, which resembles a tree-trunk-size asparagus spear, shoots into the sky at a fantastic rate of seven inches per day and reaches an eventual height of twenty to forty feet. Then it crowns itself with several clumps of yellowish blossoms that last up to three weeks.
Like the century plant, many of the most glorious things that happen to us come only after a long wait.
According to a traditional Hebrew story, Abraham was sitting outside his tent one evening when he saw an old man, weary from age and journey, coming toward him. Abraham rushed out, greeted him, and then invited him into his tent.
There he washed the old man's feet and gave him food and drink.
The old man immediately began eating without saying any prayer or blessing. So Abraham asked him, "Don't you worship God?"
The old traveler replied, "I worship fire only and reverence no other god."
When he heard this, Abraham became incensed, grabbed the old man by the shoulders, and threw him out of his tent into the cold night air.
When the old man had departed, God called to his friend Abraham and asked where the stranger was. Abraham replied, "I forced him out because he did not worship you." God answered, "I have suffered him these eighty years although he dishonors me. Could you not endure him one night?"
Some years ago a speedboat driver who had survived a racing accident described what had happened. He said he had been at near top speeds when his boat veered slightly and hit a wave at a dangerous angle. The combined force of his speed and the size and angle of the wave sent the boat spinning crazily into the air. He was thrown from his seat and propelled deeply into the water—so deep, in fact, that he had no idea which direction the surface was. He had to remain calm and wait for the buoyancy of his life vest to begin pulling him up. Once he discovered which way was up, he could swim for the surface.
Sometimes we find ourselves surrounded by confusing options, too deeply immersed in our problems to know which way is up. When this happens, we too can remain calm, waiting for God's gentle tug to pull us in the proper direction. Our "life vest" may be other Christians, Scripture, or some other leading from the Holy Spirit, but the key is recognizing our dependency upon God and trusting him.
Direction, God's Will
God's Word often refers to the Christian experience as a walk, seldom as a run, and never as a mad dash.
Steven J. Cole (Stress, Burnout)
God has his set times. It is not for us to know them. Indeed, we cannot know them. We must wait for them. If God had told Abraham in Haran that he must wait all those years until he pressed the promised child to his bosom, his heart would have failed him. So in gracious love, the length of the weary years was hidden. And only as they were nearly spent and there were only a few more months to wait, God told him, according to the time of life, "Sarah shall have a son." If God told you on the front end how long you would wait to find the fulfillment of your desire or pleasure or dream, you'd lose heart. You'd grow weary in well doing. So would I. But He doesn't. He just says, "Wait. I keep My word. I'm in no hurry. In the process of time I'm developing you to be ready for the promise."
—F. B. Meyer, Abraham
(Keith Hunt——AS A KID GROWING UP ONE OF MY DREAMS WAS TO HAVE A GOLDEN PALOMINO HORSE LIKE ROY ROGERS’ TRIGGER. I CAME TO WESTERN CANADA TO WORK ON THAT DREAM AT AGE 18. I FOUND THE LORD IN WAYS THAT SHOOK ME TO THE CORE, AND BIRTHED IN ME A DESIRE TO STUDY HIS WORD AS NEVER BEFORE, AND A DESIRE TO SERVE HIM. IT WAS MANY YEARS AND THROUGH MANY OF LIFE’S TRIALS, THAT DID NOT ADD UP TO EVER BE IN JESUS’ MINISTRY AS I THOUGHT; THEN AT THE AGE OF 40 I WAS ORDAINED TO THE MINISTRY OF JESUS CHRIST. I PUT AWAY MY CHILDHOOD DREAM, AND WITH EAGERNESS I SERVED IN THE LORD’S MINISTRY. THERE WERE MANY THINGS GOD NEEDED ME TO KNOW AND PUT ME THROUGH, IN ORDER TO SERVE HIM BETTER AS TIME MARCHED ON. THE VERY NICE HORSE BITS I GAVE AWAY; FIGURED I WOULD NEVER NEED THEM. OVER TIME AND MANY PLACES I LIVED IN NORTH AMERICA [3 AND 1/2 YEARS IN FLORIDA], I EVENTUALLY FOUND MYSELF IN THE CITY OF CALGARY, ALBERTA. THAT WAS 20 YEARS AGO NOW, AS I WRITE IN 2018, AND IT WAS ALSO THE TIME I STARTED MY WEBSITE. I WAS BUSY STILL IN THE WORK OF THE LORD, DILIGENTLY READING AND STUDYING, UPLOADING TO MY WEBSITE; ALSO ATTENDING LOCAL FELLOWSHIP GROUPS AND SERVING IN WHATEVER WAYS GOD WAS GIVING ME TO SERVE IN. I WAS 60 YEARS OLD; A STILL SMALL VOICE SAID TO ME, “YOU ENJOYED HORSE RIDING SO MUCH, IT’S TIME YOU HAD SOME RECREATION WITH HORSES.” I WENT TO A LOCAL PUBLIC HORSE RIDING RANCH. I VOLUNTEERED FOR THEM AS A TRAIL RIDING LEADER. DID IT FOR TWO YEARS FOR THEM IN MY SPARE TIME. I WAS 62 AND THE STILL SMALL VOICE AGAIN SAID TO ME, “NOW YOU CAN SEARCH FOR YOUR BOYHOOD DREAM HORSE.” SO I DID FOR 6, 7, 8 MONTHS, BUT NOTHING WAS COMING MY WAY. I PICKED UP A HORSE MAGAZINE ONE DAY; THERE WAS THIS AD SAYING “REGISTERED QUARTER HORSES FOR SALE, BECAUSE OF IL-HEALTH” —— THE OWNER THAT IS. IT SHOWED ABOUT 5 OF HER HORSES BUT NOT MY HORSE. I EMAILED HER AND ASKED IF SHE HAD MY CHILDHOOD DREAM HORSE—— A MARE, YOUNG, ABOUT 15 HH, DARK GOLD PALOMINO. I MEAN YOU LIST ALL THOSE THINGS—— NEVER DREAMED SHE WOULD ANSWER—- SHE EMAILED ME BACK AND SAID, “I’VE GOT THE VERY HORSE YOUR LOOKING FOR.” AND INDEED SHE HAD! I HAD TRIED TO SERVE THE LORD SINCE I WAS 7 YEARS OLD [MY DAD SENDING ME TO A CHURCH OF ENGLAND SCHOOL; FIRST 1/2 HOUR EACH SCHOOL DAY WAS IN THE BIBLE]. AS A YOUNG ADULT I GREW IN GRACE AND KNOWLEDGE; AS AN ORDAINED MINISTER AT AGE 40, I SERVED WITH ALL MY HEART THROUGH MANY TRIALS, TESTS, AND TROUBLES WITH ALL THAT COMES TO YOU AS A MINISTER OF GOD. I WAS DEDICATED TO SERVING GOD WITH THE WEBSITE HE’D GIVEN ME, AND PEOPLE HE SENT TO TEACH ME HOW TO ADMINISTER AND UPOAD TO IT, AS THE TECHNOLOGY OF THE COMPUTER AGE WAS LEAPING FORWARD. I HAD NO IDEA THAT ONE DAY….INTO MY 60s THAT GOD WOULD GRAND ME THE HORSE OF MY CHILDHOOD DREAMS—— I THOUGHT IT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN. BUT THE FATHER GRANTED ME, AFTER A LONG TIME, THE HORSE OF MY DREAMS, AND SHE IS INDEED THAT—— I AM PHYSICALLY BLESSED IN HEART AND MIND, THAT MY PHYSICAL BOYHOOD DREAM HAS BEEN GRANTED TO ME—— I PRAISE THE LORD ALL THE TIME FOR THIS BLESSING IN MY PHYSICAL LIFE. YES SOMETIMES WE HAVE TO WAIT A LONG TIME, THE FATHER KNOWS WHEN AND WHERE AND HOW, HE WILL DO THINGS IN OUR LIFE)
Oaks or Squash
Before James Garfield became President of the United States, he was principal of Hiram College in Ohio. A father once asked him if a particular course of study couldn't be simplified so that his son could go through by a shorter route.
"Certainly," replied Garfield. "But it all depends upon what you want to make of your boy. When God wants to make an oak tree, he takes a hundred years. When he wants to make a squash, he requires only two summers."
Have you heard about the Chinese bamboo tree? The Chinese plant the seed; they water and fertilize it, but the first year nothing happens. The second year they water and fertilize it, and still nothing happens. The third and fourth years they water and fertilize it, and nothing happens. Then the fifth year they water and fertilize it, and sometime during the course of the fifth year, in a period of approximately six weeks, the Chinese bamboo trees grows roughly ninety feet.
The question is, Did it grow ninety feet in six weeks or did it grow ninety feet in five years? The obvious answer is that it grew ninety feet in five years, because had they not applied the water and fertilizer each year there would have been no Chinese bamboo tree.
All of us have had these "Chinese bamboo tree" experiences.
One of John F. Kennedy's favorite stories concerned French General Louis Lyautey. After World War I, the general asked his gardener to plant an oak tree in a particular part of his estate. The gardener noted that the tree the general had chosen was slow-growing and wouldn't reach maturity for nearly a century. The general replied, "In that case, there is no time to lose. Plant it this afternoon."
His wisdom is sublime,
His heart profoundly kind;
God never is before His time,
And never is behind.2
2 V. Raymond Edman, The Disciples of Life (Minneapolis: World Wide Publications, 1948), page 78.
“AND THE LORD VISITED SARAH AS HE HAD SAID, AND THE LORD DID UNTO SARAH AS HE HAD SPOKEN. FOR SARAH CONCEIVED AND BARE ABRAHAM A SON IN HIS OLD AGE, AT THE SET TIME OF WHICH GOD HAD SPOKEN TO HIM. AND ABRAHAM CALLED THE NAME OF HIS SON THAT WAS BORN UNTO HIM, WHOM SARAH BARE TO HIM, ISAAC……AND ABRAHAM WAS A HUNDRED YEARS OLD, WHEN HIS SON ISAAC WAS BORN UNTO HIM. AND SARAH SAID, GOD HAS MADE ME TO LAUGH, SO THAT ALL WHO HEAR WILL LAUGH WITH ME. AND SHE SAID, WHO WOULD HAVE SAID UNTO ABRAHAM, THAT SARAH SHOULD HAVE GIVEN CHILDREN SUCK? FOR I HAVE BORN HIM A SON IN HIS OLD AGE” [GENESIS 21: 1-7].
“AND LET US NOT WEARY IN WELL-DOING: FOR IN DUE SEASON WE SHALL REAP, IF WE FAINT NOT. AS THEREFORE WE HAVE OPPORTUNITY, LET US DO GOOD UNTO ALL MEN, ESPECIALLY THEY OF THE HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH” [GALATIANS 6: 9, 10].
“FOR YOU HAVE NEED OF PATIENCE, THAT, AFTER YOU HAVE DONE THE WILL OF GOD, YOU MIGHT RECEIVE THE PROMISE” [HEBREWS 10: 37].
Under the headline "Gear Blamed in Crash That Killed Senator," the April 29, 1992, issue of the Chicago Tribune reported: A stripped gear in the propeller controls of a commuter plane caused it to nosedive into the Georgia woods last April, killing former U.S. Senator John Tower of Texas and twenty-two others, the government concluded Tuesday.
A gear that adjusted the pitch of the left engine's propellers was slowly worn away by an opposing part with a harder titanium coating, the National Transportation Safety Board said.
"It acted like a file, and over time it wore down the teeth that controlled the propeller," said acting board chairman Susan Coughlin.
Like the titanium-coated gear that wore away the softer gear engaged to it, so one abrasive, unkind spouse or friend can wear away the spirit of another.
In Honest to God, Bill Hybels writes:
Recently my brother and I spent a lunch hour discussing the mark our dad left on our lives.
Dan and I reminisced about the times we had sailed with him on Lake Michigan. We remembered violent storms with fifty-mile-an-hour winds. All the other sailors would dash for the harbor, but Dad would smile from ear to ear and say, "Let's head out farther!"
We talked about the tough business decisions we had seen him make. We winced when we remembered his firm hand of discipline that blocked our rebellious streaks. We never doubted it. Dad was strong, tough, and thoroughly masculine. Yet for twenty-five years he spent nearly every Sunday afternoon standing in front of a hundred mentally retarded women at the state mental hospital. Gently and patiently he led them in a song service. Few of them could even sing, but he didn't care. He knew it made them feel loved. Afterward he stood by the door while each of those disheveled, broken women planted kisses on his cheek.
As little guys, Dan and I had the unspeakable privilege of watching our six-foot-three, two-hundred-twenty-pound, thoroughly masculine dad treat these forgotten women with a gentleness that marked us.
Taken from the book Honest to God by Bill and Lynne Hybels. Copyright © 1990 by Bill Hybels.
Five Ways to Be Gentle
Jerry Bridges suggests these five strategies for obeying the biblical injunctions about gentleness:
* Actively seek to make others feel at ease. Be sensitive to other's opinions and ideas, welcoming opinion.
* Show respect for the personal dignity of the other person. When you need to change a wrong opinion, do so with persuasion and kindness rather than domination or intimidation.
* Avoid blunt speech and abrupt manner. Be sensitive to how others react to your words, considering how they may feel. When it is necessary to wound, also include encouragement.
* Don't be threatened by opposition; gently instruct, asking God to dissolve the opposition.
* Do not belittle or degrade or gossip about a brother who has fallen—instead grieve and pray for his repentance.
“THE SERVANT OF THE LORD MUST NOT STRIVE; BUT BE GENTLE UNTO ALL, APT TO TEACH, PATIENT. IN MEEKNESS INSTRUCTING THOSE THAT OPPOSE THEMSELVES; IF GOD PERADVENTURE WILL GIVE THEM REPENTANCE TO THE ACKNOWLEDGING OF THE TRUTH; AND THAT THEY MAY RECOVER THEMSELVES OUT OF THE SNARE OF THE DEVIL, WHO ARE TAKEN CAPTIVE BY HIM AT HIS WILL” [2 TIMOTHY 2: 24-26].
“BRETHREN, IF A MAN BE OVERTAKEN IN A FAULT, YOU WHICH ARE SPIRITUAL, RESTORE SUCH A ONE IN THE SPIRIT OF MEEKNESS: CONSIDERING YOURSELF, LEST YOU ALSO BE TEMPTED. BEAR YOU ONE ANOTHER’S BURDEN, AND SO FULFIL THE LAW OF CHRIST” [GALATIANS 6:1-2].
OH SUCH AN IMPORTANT TEACHING TO KEEP US HUMBLE AND GENTILE; THERE COULD COME A TIME WHEN WE NEED PEOPLE TO BE HUMBLE AND GENTLE WITH US - Keith Hunt
“KEEP YOURSELVES IN THE LOVE OF GOD LOOKING FOR THE MERCY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST UNTO ETERNAL LIFE. AND OF SOME HAVE COMPASSION, MAKING A DIFFERENCE” [JUDE 21-22].
WE NEED TO BE ABLE TO SEE THE SITUATION THE PERSON IS IN, AND/OR TO UNDERSTAND THEIR HUMAN NATURE IS NOT BEING CONTROLLED, AND SO WHAT WE SAY AND DO IS TO BE GOVERNED BY OUR UNDERSTANDING FOR THEIR SITUATION - Keith Hunt
“AND IF ANY MAN OBEY NOT OUR WORD BY THIS EPISTLE, NOTE THAT MAN, AND HAVE NO COMPANY WITH HIM, THAT HE MAY BE ASHAMED. YET COUNT HIM NOT AS AN ENEMY, BUT ADMONISH HIM AS A BROTHER” [2 THESSALONIANS 3: 14-15].
IT’S NOT ALWAYS EASY TO FOLLOW THE ABOVE ADMONITIONS AS HUMAN NATURE CAN GET IN THE WAY, BUT WE SHOULD REMEMBER THESE INSTRUCTIONS AND STRIVE TO PUT THEM INTO PRACTICE; IF WE FAIL AT TIMES, WE NEED TO ACKNOWLEDGE IT, AND ASK OUR HEAVENLY FATHER TO FORGIVE AND HELP US TO DO BETTER THE NEXT TIME - Keith Hunt
Bodie Thoene, coauthor of bestselling Christian fiction such as the Zion Chronicles, once worked for John Wayne as a script writer. In Today's Christian Woman, Thoene tells how that opportunity came about.
By the time I was nineteen, I was commuting to Los Angeles and doing feature articles on different stunt men and other film personalities for magazines. Four years later, an article I co-wrote with John Wayne's stuntman won the attention of the Duke himself. One day he called and invited [my husband,] Brock, and me to come to his house. He talked to us as if we were friends, showing keen interest in us as individuals. From that day on, I began writing for his film company, Batjac Productions. Brock helped me with the historical research. We were awestruck. Here was this man who had been in film for fifty years and he takes a young couple with small children under his wing! Once I asked him, "Why are you doing this? You're so good to us." He replied, "Because somebody did it for me." Goodness doesn't originate with us. We receive, and then we give. God is good to all, enabling all to be good to others.
One of the great heartbreaks of the 1988 Winter Olympics was the story of speed skater Dan Jansen. Just hours before his race he received the news that his sister, who had been fighting leukemia for more than a year, had just died. Bearing the weight of his sorrow, Dan laced on his skates to race for his sister. When the gun sounded, he sprinted from the starting line, only to slip and fall in the first turn. Four days later, in the 1,000-meter race, he fell again. The whole country mourned with him.
Many Americans sent Dan letters of consolation. According to Sports Illustrated, not long after returning home, Jansen received a letter from Mark Arrowood, a disabled thirty-year-old from Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Mark wrote: Dear Dan, I watched you on TV. I'm sorry that you fell 2 times. I am in Special Olympics. I won a gold medal at Pa. State Summer Olympics right after my Dad died seven years ago.... Before we start the games we have a saying that goes like this. "Let me win but if I can't win let me be brave in the attempt." ... I want to share one of my gold medals with you because I don't like to see you not get one. Try again in four more years.
Inside the envelope, Dan Jansen found a gold medal that Mark Arrowood had won in a track-and-field event.
Those who share their blessings are the greatest champions of all. Goodness is greatness.
(DAN SET MANY WORLD RECORDS IN SPEED SKATING, IN HIS CAREER, BUT IT WAS NOT TILL THE 1994 OLYMPICS THAT HE FINALLY WON A GOLD MEDAL [AND WORLD RECORD], IN THE OLYMPICS, IN THE 1,OOO METRES, A RACE HE WAS NOT FAVORED TO WIN - Keith Hunt)
In Robins Reader, Frank W. Mann Jr. writes:
An enlightening pastime is to make a list of favorite things that impact the senses.... It sharpens our appreciation of these golden moments in time.
For example, one person's list of ten favorite sounds: a distant train whistle; a mother talking to her new baby; the scrunch of leaves on a bright autumn day; seagulls crying; a hound baying in the woods at night; the absolute silence of a mountain lake at sunset; a crackling fire on a bitter day; a stadium crowd singing the national anthem; the screech of an airplane's tires as they touch down; his wife's voice at morning.
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
o all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
The person who looks for quick results in the seed planting of well-doing will be disappointed. If I want potatoes for dinner tomorrow, it will do me little good to plant them in my garden tonight. There are long stretches of darkness and invisibility and silence that separate planting and reaping.
“….A GOOD WORD MAKES THE HEART GLAD” [PROVERBS 12: 25].
“A GOOD NAME IS RATHER TO BE CHOSEN THAN GREAT RICHES….” [PROVERBS 22: 1].
“HIS LORD SAID UNTO HIM, WELL DONE YOU GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT….. ENTER YOU INTO THE JOY OF YOUR LORD” [MATTHEW 25: 21].
CONCERNING JOSEPH OF ARIMATHAEA—— “AND BEHOLD THERE WAS A MAN NAMED JOSEPH, A COUNSELLOR; A GOOD MAN, AND JUST” [LUKE 23: 50].
“WHERE THE LAW IS HOLY, AND THE COMMANDMENT HOLY, AND JUST AND GOOD” [ROMANS 7: 12].
“AND BE NOT CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD: BUT BE YOU TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND, THAT YOU MAY PROVE WHAT IS THAT GOOD, AND ACCEPTABLE, AND PERFECT WILL OF GOD” [ROMANS 12: 2].
EACH OF THESE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT COULD BE EXPOUNDED EVEN MORE, FOR A SERMON BASED UPON EACH OF THEM.
YOU COULD TAKE A WHOLE DAY TO USE SAY STRONG’S CONCORDANCE OF THE BIBLE, AND STUDY EACH OF THESE WORDS THE APOSTLE PAUL GIVES AS TO THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT.
I HAVE BUT PRESENTED ONLY A FRACTION OF THEIR FULL MEANING, BUT I TRUST ENOUGH FOR YOU TO DESIRE THROUGH THE SPIRIT OF GOD, TO MANIFEST MORE OF THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT IN YOUR DAILY LIFE, AS YOU MOVE AMONG THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD, AND THE SAINTS OF THE CHURCH OF GOD.