Well, greetings once again friends. I’m Loren Fenton, and this is Episode 40 of the GoodlifeNews! Podcast and Blog.
The focus of this month’s episode is the spiritual fruit of “Goodness.” Goodness is the sixth of the nine fruits of the Spirit—Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness and then Goodness.
These nine fruits are naturally divided into three groups of three each:
- Love, Joy, Peace (The fruit of a spiritual heart).
- Patience, Kindness, Goodness (The fruit of spiritual relationships).
- Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control (The fruit of a godly character).
As I mentioned last month, each of these individual “fruits” build on each of the other fruits preceding it. For instance, the fruit of Love—agápe love—serves as the foundation for all the rest. Agápe love then produces Joy, which in turn provides us with Peace. When we have Peace, we can experience Patience, Kindness, and Goodness. From there, we can move on in our spiritual journey to Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control.
So today, let’s spend a few minutes thinking about #6 —
I pray that you will experience all the fruits of the Spirit in your life today—and know the power they provide to live in positive witness for Jesus in every relationship of your life!
For a couple of weeks in the summer I turned 25, I had the privilege of camping high in the Colorado Rockies to participate in a wilderness survival training experience. The scenery was spectacular, our group was friendly and congenial, and the instructors obviously knew what they were doing. They had many years of experience to share with all of us students.
I’ve never forgotten the first night around the campfire. The skies were ablaze with a million stars, the cool mountain air pushed us close to the crackling fire, and we enjoyed sharing our names and a few details about ourselves as we began getting acquainted.
When everyone had finished sharing, the leader/teacher of our class spoke.
“We’ll be teaching you several vital skills this week so if you ever find yourself stranded and isolated in the wilderness—for whatever reason—you will have some important knowledge that can save your life. But, there is one thing you must always remember: The Wilderness Doesn’t Care.”
So, why would I start an episode of the GoodlifeNews! Podcast/Blog focusing on “Goodness” with this story?
Caring comes from love, and love can only come from a Person—a GOOD Person. Not from rocks or rivers, mountains or mist, majestic trees or buried treasure.
The wilderness doesn’t care. It can’t because it doesn’t have the capacity to love. The wilderness is neither good nor evil, although both good outcomes and evil outcomes can result from engagement with the wilderness. Looking at the wider universe of outer space, or the micro-universe of microscopy, we see nothing anywhere that contains within itself the quality of “person-hood” needed for love, joy, peace, patience, or any of the other fruits of the Spirit.
Nonetheless, we have all experienced caring from other people, even if we only count the cuddling, feeding, and caressing we received as newborn babies. But, as life goes on, the vast, vast majority of human beings live in community that cares about them. “Caring’ exists! We all know it from life. The most tragic condition is for someone to feel he/she is in a situation where “no one cares.” Thousands of suicides occur every year for this simple reason.
But there is Someone who does care! The same God who created the wilderness created you—and He cares about YOU!
God cares because He is good.
Please think carefully about this and make the connection.
“Goodness” MUST come from a Person–because it is a spiritual, moral quality non-existent in bare nature alone.
Let’s talk about that for a bit.
In the ancient world, the concept of a “good” deity was unknown. Pagan Roman, Greek, and Egyptian gods were basically magnified versions of human beings—anthropomorphic super-beings with super-powers who cared nothing about mere people. Their existence was in an imagined, fantastic universe, the stories of which were repeated generation after generation. The belief in these so-called deities was so strong that great temples were built to honor them. People made long pilgrimages to gain approval or find personal peace.
The gods of the ancient Canaanites were particularly evil! Their “blessings” (better described as “condescentions”) could be obtained by humans only at great cost. Unthinkable sacrifices (e.g. children burned alive to appease the god Marduk) were demanded by the local and national deities. The people lived in constant fear because of the evil threats from their “gods.”
But, the God of Abraham was altogether different!
Yahweh (Jehovah) was known to be the Great Creator of all the Universe, yet was also a God of compassion, patience, and love. The peoples of the ancient Levant knew of Yahweh through Abram whose reputation was as a “friend of Yahweh.”
This idea of a divine Being who could be a personal friend of individual humans was an entirely new concept for them. Abram was a nomad dwelling in tents, and everywhere he pitched his camp he built an altar to Yahweh. After Abram moved on, the altars remained as mute testimonies to a God who cares, and who wants to bless human beings with hope, healing, and kindness.
Now, here’s a thought:
The God of Abraham is still the very same God we worship today! And, just as Yahweh related as Abraham’s divine Friend, He wants to have the same relationship with you! He wants to be YOUR Friend. He created you for a purpose—to be an ambassador for His kingdom of agápe love and grace. God wants you to be a carrier of his goodness to your world—a world filled with angst and evil.
But, how can we convey God’s goodness—both adequately and faithfully—when we ourselves wrestle with both good and evil in our own hearts?
The Apostle Paul had the same problem. He detailed his spiritual struggle in Romans 7. Toward the end of that chapter he cries out in utter desperation, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24, 25 NLT).
Paul then launches the most powerful passage detailing the gospel message in all the Holy Scriptures.
“So now,” he says, “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Romans 8:1, 2 NLT).
About 3 years after Paul addressed his letter to the believers in Rome, he penned a letter to the church at Ephesus. His letter to the Ephesians is—again—one of the core messages of God’s love and grace found in the New Testament.
I want to share with you chapter 2, verse 10, but I really urge you to spend some quality time with this book. Understanding Paul’s theology of the gospel will fire your soul like nothing else!
Here’s Paul’s message to the believers in Ephesus—and to us:
“We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).
So, let’s think of it this way: God not only saves us by his grace, but restores us to the spiritual standing we need to faithfully and accurately represent him with our lives. This was God’s purpose for us from the beginning, but by sinning we spoiled our witness and corrupted our influence, so when other people see us in our unsaved condition—even though we may claim to be Christians—they get a distorted, negative view of God’s character.
But consider those words I just shared with you from Paul: “[God] has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
God brought us into existence for a very specific purpose, just as he created the angels to be an essential part of his kingdom of love and grace. We each were designed to be filled with the goodness of God, and live that goodness every day of our existence—in all of our relationships, communications, thoughts, words, and deeds!
I don’t know about you, but I find that idea both inspirational and impossible!
I know very well that in my own strength I cannot possibly live up to that high standard. Nevertheless, that’s the very reason the promise of God to produce in us the fruits of the Spirit is so very precious. Since God is the source of “goodness,” he produces the fruit of “goodness” in every soul accepting his calling.
In our world there is both good and evil. Many anecdotes illustrate the kindness of thoughtful people. Many others report the evil actions of the power-hungry or self-centered.
Frankly, to live a balanced life we must recognize and acknowledge the reality of both good and evil — and choose which pattern we follow. Choosing good does not deny the reality of evil, but empowers agápe love to live above it. Choosing evil may feed self-righteousness with temporary good feelings, but in the end it destroys everything it touches–including the very one who indulges evil/hateful/lustful thoughts and/or actions.
The choice is yours. Where will you focus your heart today? Look well to this day. Yesterday is only a memory. Tomorrow is only a dream. Today, well lived, makes every yesterday a fountain of joy, and ever tomorrow a vision of hope.
The choice you make–whether large or small–will carry an irretrievable influence into the world around you.
Choose well, therefore. You are creating your own legacy today.
Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.
I hope you can join me for next month’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts on the spiritual gift of “Faithfulness.” Watch for it on July 25!
Mark your calendar! Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you!
If you enjoy these Podcasts and Blogposts, please do share the links with your friends, family, or whomever! And, my many thanks—in advance!