Spirit of Grace Ministries
SOGM
Spirit of Grace Ministries
-- Feeding Jesus' sheep
-- Equipping His servants
-- Proclaiming His Gospel

 

What is God After?

Creation

by Dennis Pollock

In trying to interpret the circumstances and difficulties of our lives, it is important that we understand what God is really seeking to do with us and in us as He directs and controls all the events that come rushing at us. Most of us have had times where we have been blindsided by such unexpected and bizarre situations that all we could do was to feebly ask the Lord, "Lord, what in the world are you doing here?" What He is always doing, once we have experienced the new birth, is shaping us, developing us, and conforming us to the image of His Son. Or to put it more simply, He is all about producing godly character in our lives. His primary lab for this is people. To be sure He will use a myriad of varied circumstances but they will almost always involve people. In producing His character within us He rarely uses deserted islands where we are surrounded with oceans, grass, and sand – but no people. He may use an office or a church or a neighbor or a dormitory, but you can be sure that whatever the venue, there will be people involved – and some of them may not be exactly loveable!

Perhaps the best Biblical definition of character (and therefore the best definition period) is found in 1st Corinthians 13. This is known as the chapter on love, but the love described goes much further than our normal ideas about love. In essence we have a description of what godly character looks like, and it is summed up by the word love. Paul writes that this love "suffers long and is kind." It is not preoccupied with self and therefore "is not puffed up" and "does not parade itself." When difficult times come this Holy Spirit-produced character "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." And it never fails. These attributes are not natural for human beings. Selfishness and greed come easily and naturally for all of us, but humility, patience, and concern for others do not.

Natural Not Always Best

Whenever you see a well-manicured yard, with beautiful green grass unspoiled by weeds, well-trimmed hedges, beautiful flowers, and tidy bushes, you can be sure it is not in a natural condition. Had the owner said to himself, "I want the natural look. I will do nothing to my yard and allow nature to take its course," the outcome would have been far different. An ugly, unsightly yard overgrown and filled with weeds would be the inevitable result. A beautiful, attractive, well-trimmed yard can only mean one thing – somebody has been at work here. Someone has taken a lot of time and trouble to get that yard in its pristine condition. So it is with godly character. It takes no special talent to go natural in the character department. Under ordinary circumstances without God's intervention we will exhibit anger, selfishness, lust, impatience, cruelty, and little concern for others. But when the fruits of love described in 1st Corinthians appear in our lives you can be sure that God, the Holy Spirit has been doing His work. And therefore these fruits are properly called "the fruit of the Spirit."

God is very much into character. He thinks it's a big deal. Yes, He very much wants us to do good works, but He knows that good works will always spring from good character. Get the character right and the works can't help but follow. In Galatians these character traits, the fruit of the Spirit, are listed: "love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." These are fruits that are guaranteed to appear as we abide in Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work. If we abide in Jesus the fruit will come; if the fruit does not appear, our abiding is suspect to say the least. From the moment we are born again God begins faithfully arranging the circumstances of our lives to produce these fruits – a dash of unexpected blessing, a pinch of disappointment, a dollop of delay, a smidgen of failure... God is a Master Chef who combines all sorts of ingredients in perfect measure to produce a masterpiece of character within us as we cooperate with Him.

Filled with the Fruits of Righteousness

Most of the time we are not nearly as impressed with the importance of character as God is. Sure, we know that we should avoid the big sins, stay away from fornication, avoid stealing and drunkenness and so forth… but as long as we avoid the biggies, isn't that enough? When we set goals for the new year, we may decide to lose 15 pounds over the year, or shave five strokes off our golf game, or learn to ski, or save up enough money to make a down-payment on a house. But who ever makes becoming more gentle a New Year's resolution? Or developing patience or being more faithful? And yet it is the character traits that God is most interested in, and in fact these are the foundations for many of our other desires. Develop self-control and you'll have no problem losing weight or saving up for that house down-payment. Walk in unselfish love and you'll probably find people responding to you more positively and doors opening for you that have been closed until now.

Fruits of righteousness

In Philippians we read "being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." Fruit is always a byproduct of a healthy plant. When a fruit tree is healthy, and getting the appropriate doses of sunshine and water, it can hardly help but produce fruit. Everything in that tree is geared toward fruit-bearing. It's DNA screams out for the opportunity to produce fruit. You really don't have to do too much. If you can keep it alive and healthy, you don't have to worry about the fruit. It will appear. Of course fruit comes in season. You might see an Michigan apple tree in the dead of winter looking like it could never possibly produce any fruit. The tree hasn't a leaf on it, snow is piled up a foot high along the trunk, and the tree looks for all the world like it is hopelessly dead and beyond any chance of resurrection. Ah, but don't let appearances fool you. Though you can't see it, there is life in that tree. Sure it is sluggish and not the least bit apparent at this point, but the life is there nonetheless. Don't chop down that withered looking apple tree. Leave it alone. Give it some time. Come back in September. The snow will be gone, leaves will cover the tree, and apples will be everywhere. The life that was so sluggish back in January is now surging through that tree and making it everything it was intended to be. The season for fruit has come. So it is with those who abide in the Lord Jesus. The fruits of righteousness will always appear.

Way to Ruin a Child

While everyone's life is unique, there are certain basic ways by which our God produces character in us. In order to see this, let's first consider the very opposite – how you would go about it if you wanted to produce bad character. Suppose you were given guardianship over a child and you were determined to ruin him. There are a number of things that could be done: you could beat him, tell him what a hopeless loser he was, and constantly mock his weaknesses. That would probably do it, but there is another way. You might do this: Give him everything he wants, regardless of how unreasonable. Give him whatever he wants as soon as he wants it. Make sure all is provided for him and never require him to work at all. Treat him like a god, making sure your world revolves totally around him. Never rebuke him and never discipline him. And never allow him to fail. If he is about to fail at school, bribe the teachers or threaten them, and do everything you can to make sure he succeeds at everything, regardless of how much or how little effort he puts into his endeavors. If you do this you will surely have ruined his life and produced in him such a monstrous, selfish, and obnoxious character that he will have no friends, be hopelessly inadequate for any significant contribution to this world, and be a pain and a misery to everyone around him.

 Because God is a good Father and not a bad one, we can expect that the reverse of all these points would be the case in His dealings with us. He will not give us all we ask as soon as we ask it, He will not keep us from the need to work hard, He will not treat us as a god, since He is the One and only God. He will not adjust His plans to revolve around us, He will expect our plans to revolve around Him.  He will rebuke us, He will discipline us, and He will allow us to fail when we set out on our little fishing expeditions and fail to make sure that Jesus is in the back of our boat! What all this means is that in the production of godly character in us, not all of our experiences, circumstances, and relationships are going to be one big barrel of laughs. We will be expected to work hard, we will go through seasons we don't especially like, and we will find that our most fervent prayers are not always answered immediately. There may be annoying times of delay in attaining the desires of our hearts, and all our praying and shouting and confessing are not going to change God's mind.

Pursue Character

After warning Timothy to avoid the love of money, Paul instructs him to "flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness…" Men are naturally goal oriented. We tend to be hunters, pursuers of goals, dreams, and possessions. And sometimes I think that ministers often have an extra dose of this ambition. We pursue a big ministry, we pursue souls, we pursue any and every opportunity to expand our ministry and our outreach. But here the word of God is telling us that the greatest pursuit for ministers, as well as everyone else, is the pursuit of character: "Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness…" Paul doesn't tell Timothy, "Pursue an enormous ministry with a huge mailing list, pursue a television program so that more people can know you, pursue lots of donations so you can reach more people…" He tells him to pursue character.

In every circumstance of our lives it is good to consider the question, "What is God wanting to do in my life, and build in my character through all this?" Whether a blessing or a trial, a disappointment or a thrill, we can be sure that our God is wanting the outcome to be the very character of His Son Jesus Christ produced in us more and more, day by day, month by month, and year by year. The two major keys on our part in this process are abiding and cooperation. As we abide in Jesus we stay healthy and the divine life flows in us that will surely lead to fruit. As we recognize what the Spirit is desiring to do in us through our present circumstances, we yield ourselves to Him in full cooperation. When Joseph found himself a slave in Potiphar's house, he could have whined and pouted, and determined to do the absolute minimum. He could have grumbled and taken on a bad attitude. Instead he cooperated with the purpose and plan of God (although he had no idea just where God was going with it all). He became an outstanding worker for Potiphar and soon served as chief administrator over his estate. When circumstances forced him still lower and he became a prisoner, still he refused to give in to pouting and whining, and once again was raised up to an administrative level. Finally when God's purposes were fulfilled, and a maturity seasoned by delay and disappointment emerged in his life, Pharaoh went to bed one night and had a dream he couldn’t figure out. He woke up the next morning, they called for Joseph to come interpret the dream, and the rest is history.

One of the greatest truths we can gain about this process is that life's events do not come at us randomly. Yes, I know they can certainly look random and even totally chaotic, but God has not abandoned His throne. He is working as a wise Master-chef producing a masterpiece of the character of Jesus Christ in you. Abide in Jesus, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and watch what God will do!

To see a full listing of all articles available, go to our Written Devos Page.
For a full listing of all articles as audio mp3 files (free downloads), go to our Audio Devos Page.

     

        For inspirational devos, bios of Christian leaders, free downloads, and the latest SOGM news:
Sign up to receive E-newsletter
>>

Your donations are needed and greatly appreciated!

 

 

Just for you!

Missions Outreach


A major part of Spirit of Grace Ministries is our ministry in the great continent of Africa. There is a tremendous harvest going on in the world these days, and we are privileged to be a part of it. Above is a brief music video featuring some pics from our recent mission in Magodes, Uganda.

Audio Devo: "Why is there suffering?"

People have debated this question for millennia. And we cannot speak concerning specific individual questions of suffering, but the Bible clearly speaks as to why suffering has always been a part of the human experience.