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Overcoming the World: Part 3–Living by the Spirit

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against these things!  Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

 

I am a very task-oriented person.  I am all about the to-do lists.  I get pleasure when I check something off, and I get stressed when I get to the end of the day, and there’s still 12 more things on my list that I didn’t get to.

 

Because of this, I have a tendency to turn almost every facet of my life into a sort of mental to-do list.  Everything feels like a competition or a performance to me, in which I will emerge as either a winner or a loser.

 

Most of life really isn’t supposed to be that way, though.  I am learning that it’s actually OK to simply live life as it comes and to appreciate moments as they’re happening.  I am learning that it’s more important to start each day with gratitude than to finish it with a gold medal.

 

So what is it about us that we keep wanting to go back to the things that we know didn’t work the first time?  Are we just addicted to futility?  Or is this just part of the natural state of being human?

 

I think that the problem lies in our tendency to define ourselves by what we do or by what we fail to do.  If I win, then I am a winner, but if I lose, then I am a loser.  Nobody wants to be a loser though, so we do everything we can to win at life.  And if we find we can not win, then we start doing things that are truly ridiculous.

 

Some people try to downplay life’s natural consequences by attempting to eliminate the concept of winning and losing, a concept that I call the “participation trophy” mentality.  You’re a winner just for showing up!  And if you didn’t even show up, we’ll try to find an excuse for you, so that you won’t lose.  After all, you deserve to win!

 

Then there are the “glory days” people (I tend to fall into this category).  These are the people who used to be the best at something, but then they either went somewhere else where there were other people that were better, or maybe they just got old and weren’t as good as they used to be.  If a person like this is focused on the winning, and he isn’t winning anymore, bitterness takes over in a hurry.

 

A person in this kind of a rut can’t let go of the past, can’t be happy for anyone else who wins in the present, and is bleak about the future that he sees for himself filled with nothing but losing.  Because if you lose, then you’re a loser.  But you can’t be a loser, because you used to win.  But now other people are winning, and keeping you from the victory that is rightfully yours.  So if you can’t beat them, then you have to tear them down, so that you can be on top again.

 

Both of these misguided worldviews lead to the same error—trying to put everybody else on earth at the same level so that we can feel good about ourselves, either by having no distinction of greatness, or by declaring ourselves great by attrition.  Both of these philosophies fail, because they are both built on the foundation of defining our worth by what we do, rather than who we are.

 

God gave us a better way to live.  In the Bible, Paul calls it “living by the Spirit.”  This is a churchy way of saying “getting out of your own way and letting God do His work through you.”  Living by the Spirit isn’t about checking things off of a religious checklist.  It is more about being aware of God’s influence in our lives, and allowing ourselves to be led away from our own plans and deeper into His.

 

Notice in the verse at the beginning that it is the Holy Spirit that produces the fruit in our lives, not us.  We don’t overcome the world by accomplishing all nine of those things on our own.  Rather, when we yield to God’s leading in our lives, these fruits are the natural result of the change that He works within us.

 

 

(So what does that look like?  Come back for Part 4—Keeping in Step.)

 

 

 

 

 

The Mission and the Message

 

Who has believed what we’ve been saying?
Who has seen the Lord’s saving power?  (Isa 53:1 NIRV)

 

Some people ask me why I write this stuff without getting paid for it.  Simply enough, I didn’t pay to receive the messages, so I imagine it’s only fair to offer them for free.

 

Basically, I sit down to write, I pray for a message, and I type what comes.  It is no concern of mine who accepts the message and who doesn’t.  My job is simply to deliver it.

 

So is it worth it?  I would say yes.  I do encounter some opposition, but not as much as you might think.  That would probably be significantly worse if I were broadcasting my own opinions, but since I deal in Truth, I am more interested in ending arguments than starting them.

 

Sometimes I wonder though.  Why is it that I don’t encounter any more opposition than I do?

 

Do the messages have more authority because they come from God?  Well, Jesus was speaking the words of God straight from His mouth, and they crucified Him, so that’s not it.

 

Is it because of my superior skills as a writer?  Doubt it, because then somebody would be paying me more for my words by now.

 

Maybe my messages just aren’t bold enough to make people angry enough to respond?  Maybe, but I’ve never really been one to hold back.  If anything, I’m known for erring on the side of Truth rather than grace.

 

So what is it then?  I have an idea.

 

You see, I pray before I write so that whatever message comes out of my laptop onto this page is the message God wants me to broadcast to the world, but I also pray when I’m finished writing, just before I click “publish,” that the message will be delivered to just the people who need to see it.

 

This is where faith comes in.  I am never thinking of anyone specific when I write.  I just write.  I am completely relying on God that the message will be coherent, and understood by those who need to hear it.

 

I don’t get many comments, and I am OK with that.  But it does mean the world to me when somebody drops me a brief note to tell me how something I tossed out onto the internet brightened their day or caused them to look at something in a new way.

 

That is how I know I am fulfilling my mission.  Why would I charge money for that?  Part of the trust and reliance I have on God is that my needs will be met if I obey his instructions.  And they are.

 

I never know what I’m going to write when I sit down to do a Truth Mission post.  Many professional writers will tell you that’s a bad idea, but I am reminded of a story Corrie ten Boom told in her book, The Hiding Place.

 

Corrie would frequently ride the train from Haarlem to Amsterdam with Casper, her father.  He would always have the tickets in advance, but he wouldn’t give Corrie her ticket until right before they got on the train.  The lesson is that she always got what she needed right at the moment she needed it, and not a minute sooner, even though she knew that it was coming.

 

That is how faith works.  God knows what we need before we do.  He holds onto it until just the right time.  This may not be what we perceive as the right time, because we are not patient people.  But faith is trust, and trust involves learning to wait.

 

Life isn’t ever going to be perfect, and things rarely go well on our own schedules.  I would love to be able to post every day on here, and have advertisers falling at my feet wanting to sponsor my site, and make lots of money writing so that I would never have to hear an alarm clock again.

 

But that’s not why I’m here.

 

I am here to plant seeds of Truth.  The harvest is God’s job.

 

I’m not trying to “save the world.”  But if something I felt prompted to write affects even one person’s life, then I have changed that person’s world.

 

And who knows where that might lead?