Cultivating the Fruit of Goodness and Faithfulness

Cultivating The Fruit Of Goodness and Faithfulness

Chapter Twelve

Cultivating The Fruit Of Goodness and Faithfulness
Moral Indignation In Christian Goodness 143 Fair-Weather Followers? 150
Motivation For Christian Goodness 144 Reviewing a Heritage Of Faithfulness 151
Attitude In Christian Goodness 145 Faithful In The Midst Of Persecution 152
Agenda For Christian Goodness 146 Discussion Questions: 153
The High Call To Faithfulness 147 Discussion Questions: (Continued) 154
Being 'Successful' Or Being Faithful? 148 Discussion Questions: (Continued) 155
Faithful Amidst Changing Circumstances 149    

Mark 3:1-6

Moral Indignation In Christian Goodness

The fruit of the Spirit is Goodness. Goodness, as listed among the fruits of the Spirit, is speaking of a moral quality. It is speaking of moral goodness and justice and right in contrast to moral evil.

The Spirit-controlled person, like Jesus, is to have a high regard for justice and right. Moral sensitivity in an age of moral relativism, where moral distinctives are blurred, there is a need for a declaration of moral absolutes. In an age of easy toleration, there is need for strong convictions and a rejection of the false. In an age where so many are doing that which is right in their own eyes, there is need for the prophetic voice which declares "Thus saith the Lord!" When men turn all the 'blacks' and 'whites' into pale 'grays', there is need for clear thinking and a renewed emphasis upon the morally good and the morally bad. The believer must never deny the legitimate existence of some moral relatives, personal convictions, individual preferences, and cultural tastes, but neither must the believer deny the fact of moral absolutes and universal principles, which apply to all persons, in all societies, in all ages. Adultery is just as wrong today as it was when the Ten Commandments were first given.

The person who is cultivating the fruit of Christian Goodness in his life, is the person who has a strength of moral character, a sensitivity to right and wrong. He has a strong sense of justice and righteousness. He is aware of the moral issues, and he seeks good and right solutions in the moral arena of individual and corporate relationships. He seeks to apply Christian truth to the difficult problems in society. He has a toughness of moral fiber in his character. He is not easily swayed by society's majority opinions. His awakened conscience seeks for the right, not merely for the popular, solutions to moral problems. He is morally upright, intellectually alert, decisive in moral decision-making.

The man of goodness knows that his strong sense of moral oughtness originates in the Divine Mind. What is morally right, therefore, for him, is morally right for all, for, since the Divine Mind rules all the world, what is morally right for one individual is also morally right for all individuals.

The man of Christian Goodness is a champion for righteousness and justice for all persons. The man whose goodness is being strongly exercised is the man who is seeking justice and right for all people. The man of goodness honestly faces the moral and social issues of his day. He is eager, with all good men, to see righteousness prevail in the lives and institutions of men. He is zealous of good deeds.

"Father, help me to cultivate every fruit of the Spirit in a balanced way. The goodness of kindness tempers justice with mercy and does not allow the goodness of righteousness, which seeks to destroy sinful practices, to destroy sinful men in the process. Cultivate both the fruit of tender kindness and the fruit of tough righteousness in my life. In Jesus' name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The balanced cultivation of moral goodness with tender kindness will enable me to champion holy causes with a holy spirit.

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143


1 John 5:1-5

Motivatoin For Christian Goodness

Why do people attempt to live good lives, lives characterized by good deeds? There are many motivations to do good. There are those who are 'good' simply because their friends are good, or because they are afraid of the consequences of wrong-doing. Others have a higher motive; they are 'good' because of duty. "His jaw is set; his eye looks straight ahead; he has but one purpose. Up the flinty way he comes. He passes the craven and the invertebrate. He is on that path because it is right to be on the path. He doesn't claim to enjoy it. 'Enjoyment' is a word he doesn't often use. He braces himself at the thought of duty and steadily but joylessly … he passes by." (Daily Readings, p. 254; Sangster)

Duty may be a noble motivation, but it is not the highest motivation for doing good. "Duty alone may produce the type of character that is cold and unattractive, the sort of man of whom we say, 'Yes, he is a good man– undoubtedly a good man, but I don't what to be like him'." (Ibid, p. 266)

There is a higher motive than duty. It is the motivation of love. There are those who are good (in terms of moral righteousness and in terms of personal winsomeness) because they are controlled by God's love. The goodness of these persons is distinctive and attractive because, just as fruit grows by abiding on the vine, so the goodness of these persons is the effortless product of abiding in the Holy Spirit. The Psalmist said, "I delight to do Thy will, O my God." (Psalms 40:8) The believer, whose goodness is Spirit-induced, is "impelled by love, glad to serve, happy to do His will". He is "on the path (of righteousness) because he loves it. He comes along at a swinging gait. There is a spring in his step. He barely notices the paths that lead aside. His whole bearing suggests a joyous adventure and not a perilous pilgrimage". (Ibid, p. 254)

Thus, the goodness of the love-filled, Spirit-controlled believer is the goodness of delight, not the goodness of mere duty, or the goodness motivated by fear or convention or custom.

Mere human goodness–i. e., good deeds performed in the name of mere human compassion–is tainted with pride. Those who seek to work their way to heaven by keeping a moral code or by performing enough 'good turns' or by taking pride in ethical achievements, are working in vain. How easy it is for pride to take a hold on even 'good people'! Isaiah wrote, "All our righteous acts are like filthy rags". (Isaiah 64:6) We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ–to do good works (Ephesians 2:8-10) . But the good works of moral goodness are not meritorious; they are appropriate manifestations of a son's love for a Good Father." …if the path of ethical achievement is deliberately chosen, and a man comes to have pride in his achievement, we are back at the sin of Pharasaism again." (Ibid, p. 235)

"Heavenly Father, fill me with so much love for you that I will become unselfconscious in my concerns for others, and uncalculating in my work for you. Let my labors be the labors of love, not the labors of duty."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my all!"

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Matthew 21:12-17

Attitude In Christian Goodness

Goodness, as we have noted, is not anemic sentimentality. Goodness is moral sensitivity, a holy anger channeled into moral action and reform. The fruit of Christian goodness is wrought with moral strength. Christian goodness is the goodness which can love the sinner tenderly and, at the same time, hate his sin intensely. While destroying the instruments of sin, the man of moral goodness must not destroy the sinner himself. Men of goodness are concerned in moral righteousness. Therefore, they never lose their ability to be indignant with holy love. Good men must be able to whip their will into a holy campaign against sin when the occasion demands it! There are still times when love must be expressed in forms of discipline, as when Jesus drove out the moneychangers with a whip! Those priests who were shamelessly exploiting the poor and humble pilgrims raised the temperature of Jesus' wrath!

The goodness of Jesus was the goodness of both moral righteousness and tender compassion. Let us always remember that Jesus' goodness was not only morally strong, as shown by His act of driving out those who were turning the Temple into a bazaar, but that Jesus' goodness was also tender and kind, as shown by His act of healing the blind and the lame who came to the Temple (Matthew 21:14). Notes Barclay about this incident: "Only those with guilty consciences fled before the eyes of his wrath. Those who needed him stayed. Need is never sent empty away by Jesus Christ. Jesus' anger was never merely negative; it never stopped with the attack on that which was wrong; it always went on to the positive helping of those who were in need. In the truly great man anger and love go hand in hand. There is anger at those who exploit the simple and bar the seeker; there is love for those whose need is great. The destructive force of anger must always go hand in hand with the healing power of love." (Daily Study Bible, Matthew, vol. 2, p. 248) In the midst of His moral toughness, Jesus. never lost tenderness for the morally weak and the spiritually degenerate.

It is possible to be morally good and yet lack loveliness, attractiveness, and graciousness in the expression of moral righteousness. It is possible to speak out prophetically against adultery or drunkenness, for instance, and yet in the process lack tenderness and love for the fallen one. It is possible to be practically and morally good and yet not be aesthetically good. To be aesthetically good is to be attractive, winsome, and lovely in one's actions of good. The goodness of justice and righteousness seeks to destroy personal and institutional evils. The goodness of kindness and mercy, on the other hand, attracts the sinner away from his sin to the loveliness of Christ. The man of Christian goodness needs both kinds of goodness in his life.

"Father, never allow your warm love in my heart to be chilled by the rigour and coldness of my moral codes. While upholding strict moral principles, keep me tender and responsive to people who are morally broken by sin."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: It is my desire to shed a sympathizing tear for sinners without holding any sympathy in my heart for sin!

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145


1 Peter 3:8-17

Agenda For Christian Goodness

We have said that the performance of good deeds without the sweetness of holy love is not acceptable to God! Let us be actively involved in the good deeds of morality and work to right social wrongs and destroy the evil works of evil men. But, while we campaign for social righteousness, let us be motivated by love. In championing moral good, let us be good in our tempers– loving, attractive, winsome. The toughness of moral pronouncements always must be tempered by the sweetness of a holy temper. We must be both morally good and aesthetically good.

It is a strong moral sense of right and wrong which motivates the man of goodness to work tirelessly to right wrongs and to champion social righteousness. Truth, motivated by God's love, must find expression, as it encounters falsehood and deception and corruption. This brings us to a brief discussion of the agenda for Christian Goodness.

What determines the moral agenda of goodness? The answer to that question obviously depends upon the person and the age in which the person lives. The agenda for moral goodness changes with the temper and climate and condition of the ages, but there will always be a need for a strong expression of moral goodness. Each believer must discover where he is to express his moral goodness within the moral arena of his day. The moral issues which good men must be involved in today are many and complex. Each one must become sensitive to those issues and become involved as God leads.

Take one of many moral issues that could be discussed–that of Poverty. Notes David McKenna: "At the national level, the priority question is created by the evidence that the rising gross national product will make it possible to alleviate the conditions of poverty if we choose. As the non-violent black protesters have illustrated, the twenty-four billion dollars that was spent to put a man on the moon could also have tipped the scale in the relief of the poor during the same decade, if poverty had been the national priority.

"Actually, Christians should be leaders in the war on poverty. They have the motive of Christ who made the poor His people. They have the cultural ethic which protects against give-away programs that destroy human initiative. They have the Biblical perspective for sharing their wealth with a brother in need.

"Even skeptics would listen to the gospel according to affluent Christians who set their standard of living at the level of basic needs and gave the difference to the poor. . .Simplicity is the key. In the midst of shortages, simple needs, simple trust, and a simple life will fill our horn of plenty." (Awake, My Conscience, p. 94-95; David McKenna)

"Father, show me where you want me to become involved in applying the healing salve of the Gospel to the gaping wounds of social hurts. Give me knowledge to know, courage to fight, patience to endure, and love to suffer–all for the purpose of fulfilling your redemptive purposes for your world. In Jesus' name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will allow the Holy Spirit to awaken my conscience to the needs of suffering persons around me today.

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Matthew 24:45-51

The High Call To Faithfulness

The fruit of the Spirit is love. What is Love? Love is joy. Love is peace. Love is patience. Love is kindness. Love is goodness. We must now look at another dimension of love. Love is faithfulness or fidelity.

That faithfulness is a description of love should come as no surprise to us. Look at the groom and bride at the marriage altar. The groom is deeply in love with the bride. But love is more than a temporary feeling. Love is a lifetime commitment to fidelity! "Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep your self only unto her, so long as you both shall live?" Faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty–these are inseparably connected with true love. The person who is Spirit-controlled is the one who is faithful in his relationship and responsibilities. Faithful in obeying his Master. Faithful in serving his world. Faithful in fulfilling his personal ideals. He who loves truly is he who serves faithfully.

There are perils in life which threaten fidelity. The Spirit-controlled Christian must remain faithful to God's call regardless of apparent success, regardless of the changes and the chances of life, regardless of persecution in its many forms.

Success, or lack of success, can cause us to become unfaithful to our high call in Christ Jesus. Lack of apparent success causes some to despair, and too much success causes others to become smug and complacent and proud. Failure or success must not be our main consideration in confronting a task. Faithfulness to God's call must be our sole concern. We are not called to be successful, as the world records success; we are called to be faithful to Jesus Christ! The one who is faithful to Christ Jesus, mayor may not be considered successful in the eyes of the world, but such a person, from God's perspective, is truly successful.

By the world's standards Jesus was a failure–rejected by His own people and crucified on a shameful cross! And yet Jesus was faithful to His God- given call. Said Jesus: "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work." (John 9:4)

From God's perspective, Jesus was the most successful person who ever lived! Why? Because He fulfilled His God-given mission in life. He was faithful in obedience to God, faithful in service to His world, and faithful in reaching His God-given goals. Faithful to God, to others, and to Himself! He learned obedience and faithfulness by the things which He suffered, and He has forever been declared the greatest success in history!

In our success-oriented society, let's follow Jesus' example!

"O God, don't allow me to prostitute my divinely-given call on the altar of worldly success. Close my ears to the world's call to power, prestige, wealth, and fame, and open my ears to the voice of the Spirit who is calling me to follow in the footsteps of the Master, whose glory followed His suffering."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will repudiate the world's standards of success and accept God's. standards for success–faithfulness and obedience!

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2 Timothy 4:6-8, Philippians 4:11-13

Being 'Successful' Or Being Faithful?

In our success-oriented society, if certain tangible results are not achieved within a prescribed time, then one is pronounced as a failure. From God's perspective, tangible results are not to be despised. But if a Christian labors diligently and prays fervently, and yet there are no tangible results forthcoming, he is not to abandon His God-given task. He is to remain faithful to His Lord, with or without tangible results!

How easy it is to become discouraged and eventually 'throw in the towel' if we don't see results from our spiritual labors! On the other hand, how easy it is to grow smug, complacent, or self-sufficient if we see many tangible results from our spiritual labors! The Spirit-filled man is faithful, regardless of man's applause or man's scorn. He is faithful, regardless of his temptation to despair when seeming to fail, and regardless of his temptation to pride, when seeming to succeed.

Notes E. Stanley Jones: "A great many people go through life in bondage to success. They are in mortal dread of failure. Why should they be? Jesus cared little about success or failure .A faith that has a cross at its center cannot be a faith that worships success. I do not have to succeed; I have only to be true to the highest I know–success and failure are in the hands of God. On my way to India, I once said in England: 'The romance of missions has gone for me. I know what I'm up against. If you should say to me that I go back to India to see nothing but frustration and failure and that I would see no more fruit whatever, I would reply: "That is an incident. I have the call of God to India, and to be true to that call is my one business; success and failure are not my business–to be true is"'." (Abundant Living, p. 82)

Paul the apostle had a high sense of divine call in his life. Faithfulness to that call was all-important to Paul. He focused his attention on God, not on man's praise or on man's persecution. Both in happy times and in hard times, Paul was faithful to his divine commission to preach the Gospel regardless of life's changing circumstances. Faithful when he appeared to be successful and when he didn't appear to be successful. Faithfulness to God was the ruling motive of his life–not success! Said Paul, "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ." (Philippians 3:8, RSV) Many missionaries have labored hard and long with little numerical or 'worldly' success, but they were faithful to God's call. They are on God's honor roll, for their faithfulness constituted their success. Love never fails, even if the one you are loving rejects you. To love, in spite of rejection, is to be truly successful!

"Father, help me not to grow weary in my labors of love, not to lose heart when my little world of achievement around me begins to crumble. Help me to keep running the race of life and fighting the fight of faith, even when my efforts seem fruitless of results. Keep my eyes on the 'finished line' and let me see the prize of God that awaits the faithful of all ages. In Jesus' name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: To 'keep on keeping on' for Jesus when circumstances tell me to 'throw in the towel' is a great evidence of loyalty and a great demonstration of love!

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148


2 Timothy 4:1-5

Faithful Amidst Changing Circumstances

William Barclay notes that fidelity "is the virtue of the man who, through all the changes and the chances of life, down even to the gates of death, is loyal to God". (Daily Study Bible, Timothy, Titus, Philemon, p. 134)

God is faithful (2 Thessalonians 3:3, 2 Timothy 2:13, 1 Corinthians 10:13). God is the same yesterday, today and forever. God is the "Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning". (James 1:17)

The Conquering Christ, pictured in Revelation 19:11 is described as He who is mounted on a white horse who "is called Faithful and True". "Christ is the person on whose utter fidelity a man may literally stake his life." (Daily Study Bible, Revelation, vol. 2, p. 229; Barclay)

In the same way that God is faithful, His followers also are to be faithful. Faithful amidst the change and the flux of time and circumstances. 2 Timothy 4:2 tells us that we are to herald forth the word of God with urgency and persistency. We are to communicate the Word of God "in season and out of season", when it is popular and when it is not popular, when there is response and when there is no response. We are to take or make our opportunity to speak for God. No change in times or circumstances or localities should cause us to change our message of God's love.

The changes of time must not change the changeless Message! Both God's Word of Truth and our works of love are to be expressed faithfully and persistently. We are not to grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap if we do not faint (Galatians 6:9). Paul exhorts Christians to "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Faithfulness to Christ throughout life's changes and chances–this is the call of every Christian! Till death us do part! The believer's faithfulness to Christ is to stand the test of time!

"The years can be cruel. They can take away our ideals and our enthusiasms and our dreams and our loyalties. They can leave us with a life that has grown smaller and not bigger. They can leave us with a heart that is shriveled instead of one expanded in the love of Christ. There can be a lost loveliness in life–God save us from that." (Daily Study Bible, John, vol. 1, p. 230; Barclay)

"In the last analysis Christianity is not a philosophy which we accept, nor a theory to which we give allegiance. It is a personal response to Jesus Christ. It is the allegiance and the love which a man gives because his heart will not allow him to do anything else." (Ibid, p. 230) Whether it means popularity or persecution, prosperity or poverty, our loyalty and faithfulness to Christ must never waver. Changing circumstances must never change our loyalty to Jesus Christ!

"With the increase of years, let my love for you grow, dear Lord. Don't allow me to grow bitter when bitter circumstances descend upon me, but let me grow sweeter in my spirit. Don't allow me to abandon my walk of faith when people become faithless to me, but let me become ever more loyal to you."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: When the storms of life assail, I will tighten my squeeze on God's strong hand!

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149


Revelation 2:9-11

Fair-Weather Followers?

During Jesus' earthly ministry there were those who were merely fair- weather followers! They were faithless to Jesus when times and circumstances got rough. "From this time many of the disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 'You do not want to leave too, do you?' Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God'." (John 6:66-69)

"Some saw quite clearly where Jesus was heading. It was not possible to challenge the authorities as he was doing and get away with it. He was heading for disaster and they were getting out in time. They were fair- weather followers. It has been said that the test of an army is how it fights when it is tired. Those who drifted away would have stuck by Jesus so long as his career was on the upward way, but at the first shadow of the Cross they left him.

"Some shirked the challenge of Jesus. Fundamentally their point of view was that they had come to Jesus to get something from him; when it came to suffering for him and giving to him they quit. No one can give so much as Jesus, but if we come to him solely to get and never to give we will certainly turn back. The man who would follow Jesus must remember that in following him there is always a Cross." (Daily Study Bible, John, vol. 1, p. 229; Barclay)

Life is very changeable, but our loyalty to Christ must be steadfast and unmovable. Job, who suffered unspeakably, remained faithful to God even when his suffering defied reason. When others told Job to curse God and die, Job remained faithful and true to his God. His fidelity was never questioned! Even when he wished to curse the day he was born, he never cursed God. His faithfulness to God not only stood the test of time, but it also stood the test of unexplainable sorrow and loss! Job's faithfulness is capitalized in these memorable words: "Though He slay me, yet shall I serve Him". Job was no 'fair-weather' follower of God. In both prosperity and poverty, in both health and suffering, Job remained faithful to his God. The change of circumstances did not change his loyalty and his faithfulness.

The Bible tells us that it is he who endures unto the end that shall be saved. "Loyalty. . . means that fidelity which will never waver in its utter devotion to its Master and its Lord. . The Christian must win his battle with the world by presenting to all men the steadfastness and the loyalty which will not be moved by the fear or the favour of men." (Daily Study Bible, Revelation, vol. 2, p. 127; Barclay) Amidst change, remain changeless in your devotion, loyalty and faithfulness. Said one, "There is nothing in this world which can take the place of loyalty. If all the other noble qualities of life were placed in the balance against loyalty, loyalty would outweigh them all." (Daily Study Bible, Revelation, vol. 1, p. 101; Barclay)

"Father, search my motives today. Have I followed you to see how much I can receive from you or to see how much I can give to you? Do I follow you as closely when you call me to suffer as when you promote me to success in the eyes of my fellowmen? In sunshine and in darkness alike, I want to follow you! I commit myself to be a stormy-weather follower of you!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Steadfastness and loyalty always have their rewards, if not immediately in life, always and ultimately in eternity!

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150


2 Timothy 1:3-7

Reviewing a Heritage Of Faithfulness

Faithfulness to God and faithfulness to God's Church is something I was taught all throughout my childhood and youth. Al though I have a humble ancestry, I am rich with a heritage of godly forefathers who were faithful to Christ and to His Church.

There is much which I value in my heritage, but nothing more than the many lessons I have learned in loyalty and faithfulness. I only pray for God's grace to help me to pass on such a heritage to my children.

As a child, I regularly went with my mother to Wednesday night prayer meetings in a little white-framed Free Methodist Church in Fountain, Colorado. My mother rarely missed attending those prayer meetings, even though she was often weary and many times plagued with headaches. She believed in faithfulness and she practiced it throughout my childhood. She was faithful to teach me the Bible and to pray with me daily in my home. My grandmother, before her, was equally faithful to her Lord and to her Church. It was her godly life, along with that of my mother, that strongly influenced me to become a Christian. My great grandmother, who died in 1950, was a faithful godly woman, seldom missing the Church services, held in the same little Church where I received my childhood training.

My great grandfather was a humble, but faithful man, I am told. I recently found his obituary in an old family album. "Joseph E. Benedict, was born at Brownville, Nebraska, May 12, 1857, and departed this life at his home at Fountain, Colorado, October 8, 1928. . .Early in life he united with the Free Methodist Church and was a very active, faithful member and sacrificed greatly for the work of God. Though for many years a cripple he was always faithful . He would hobble to Church or prayer meeting even when others thought the weather too bad or they were too weary" (written October 1928).

My great, great grandfather was born in 1821 and died in Fountain, Colorado, in 1909. His pastor, who wrote his obituary, notes, "When the Free Methodist Church was organized in Fountain he and his wife became charter members. He loved the means of grace and often, even in the last months of his life, walked with trembling steps to the house of God" (quote appeared in the Fountain Newspaper, May 1909).

My children are sixth generation Free Methodists, a fact that is important to me, but not nearly as important as the fact that they are learning to be faithful to God and to His Church.

Will you allow weather or weariness or worry to keep you from being faithful? Can you say with the little chorus, "Though no one follow, still I will follow"? Follow whom? Follow the one who declared, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24, NIV)

"Father, help me to so live every day of my life that it can someday be said of me, 'He was a very active, faithful member and sacrificed greatly for the work of God. He loved the means of grace and often, even in the last months of his life, walked with trembling steps to the house of God'."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The best gift I can give my grandchildren is a godly heritage of faithfulness and fidelity to my God and my Church.

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2 Timothy 3:10-13, Daniel 3:16-18

Faithful In The Midst Of Persecution

In His parable of the Four Soils, Jesus describes four different kinds of response to the Word of God. Says Jesus in the parable, "What was sown on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away." (Matthew 13:20-21, NIV) Persecution takes its toll, causing the shallow believer to fall away. No faithfulness! No steadfastness!

Paul says that persecution will be experienced by all true believers. "Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of." (2 Timothy 3:12-14, NIV) Notes Edith Schaeffer in her book 'Affliction': "The warning is to each of us. We are not to be surprised when persecution comes in the form of nasty remarks by neighbors. We are to be forewarned that persecution might come in the form of our Ph.D thesis being turned down. We are not to be flattened by the announcement that our expected promotion fell through. We are to be prepared for the possible scorn of unbelievers, the withdrawal of family members who are not Christians, the snubbing of friends, and unfair news reports or criticisms. We are not to forget that Satan can and will also attack us directly in areas of our health, a deluge of disasters, car accidents, our house burning down, higher-than- expected taxes, a baby born with a handicap, loss of a job, or a crippling disease. Satan will persecute us directly, as will people persecute us because they hate what we stand for despite what we believe. Yes, all who will live a 'godly life' will suffer persecution." (p. 198-199)

In spite of persecution, we are to be faithful to the Lord. The three Hebrew children who were cast into the fiery furnace were faithful to their God, regardless of the consequences. "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, 'a, Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, a king. but even if he does not, we want you to know, a king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up'." (Daniel 3:16-18, NIV)

II Corinthians 11 records many of Paul's sufferings and persecutions– being whipped, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, enduring sleepless nights, hunger, thirst, etc. and yet it was Paul who could say at the end of his life: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith". (2 Timothy 4:7)

"Father, when trouble or persecution arises, help me to be faithful and loyal to you. When the world 'kicks' me, let it kick me forward into a closer walk with you. May the fire of persecution result in consuming the dross and refining the gold of my life. My problems are your opportunities of grace. Thank you."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: When it is hardest to follow Jesus, I will follow hard after Him!

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Discussion Questions:

Cultivating The Fruit of Goodness and Faithfulness

  1. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "In an age of moral relativism, where moral distinctives are blurred, there is a need for a declaration of moral absolutes". On what basis do you personally determine in your life what is absolutely 'right' and what is absolutely 'wrong' and what is morally permissible (the 'gray' areas of personal conviction)? As you are forming your 'personal convictions', and are faced with a confusing and questionable moral dilemma, study Romans 14, and then ask yourself the following questions:

    • Is my own mind clear? (Romans 14:5, Romans 14:23)
    • Can I do this for the Lord? (Romans 14:8)
    • When I consider this matter in the light of my coming appearance at the judgment seat of Christ, how do I feel about it? (Romans 14:10, Romans 14:12)
    • Will this be an offense to others? (Romans 14:21)
  2. Where does one's moral sense of 'Oughtness' originate? Is it true to say that what is 'morally wrong' for one person is always 'morally wrong' for all people? How reliable is one's conscience in guiding one in making moral judgments and decisions? When should one contend that a moral 'course of action' is right for everyone to follow, and when should one contend that a moral 'course of action' is 'right' for him personally to follow as 'a personal conviction only–a 'conviction' that one does not seek to impose upon anyone else?

  3. Why is it necessary for a Christian person to cultivate both the fruit of Kindness and the fruit of Moral Goodness in his life, and seek to practice both Kindness and Moral Goodness simultaneously in his daily human relationships? Do you agree with the following statement?–"The balanced cultivation of moral goodness with tender kindness will enable me to champion holy causes with a charitable spirit".

  4. Does the following statement accurately describe 'kindness' and 'goodness' as complementary traits?–"The goodness of kindness tempers justice with mercy and does not allow the goodness of righteousness, which seeks to destroy sinful practices, to destroy sinful men in the process."

  5. List and describe the various motivations for the performance of 'moral good' in the lives of people. What is the highest of all motivations for doing 'good works'? What is the 'sin of Pharasaism'?

  6. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Goodness is moral sensitivity, a holy anger channeled into moral action and reform". How can you tell the difference between 'righteous indignation' and 'carnal anger'?

  7. Is there evidence, from a study of the Gospels, that Jesus perfectly possessed all the complimentary Christian virtues and that he exercised them in a most balanced way in his treatment of people? After reading Matthew 21:12-17, can you conclude that the following statement is accurate?–"The goodness of Jesus was the goodness of both moral righteousness and tender compassion.

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    Discussion Questions:

    Cultivating The Fruit of Goodness and Faithfulness (Continued)

  8. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statements: "It is possible to be morally good and yet lack loveliness, attractiveness, and graciousness in the expression of moral righteousness. It is possible to be practically and morally good and yet not be aesthetically good."

  9. Do you identify with the following statement (as a personal goal in your spiritual development)?–"It is my desire to shed a sympathizing tear for sinners without holding any sympathy in my heart for sin!"

  10. Is it possible for a person to be 'tough' in the pronouncement of moral righteousness in his campaign for social reform, and at the same time to be 'tender' and courteous in his personal mannerism while he is making such pronouncements? Does not the Bible command Christians to 'speak the truth in love'?

  11. What determines the 'moral agenda' of goodness? List some of the areas of moral concern in our modern-day in which conscientious believers ought to be deeply involved.

  12. Tell why you agree or disagree with David McKenna's guidelines for meeting the challenge of worldwide poverty: "Even skeptics would listen to the gospel according to affluent Christians who set their standards of living at the level of basic needs and gave the difference to the poor … Simplicity is the key. In the midst of shortages, simple needs, simple trust, and a simple life will fill our horn of plenty."

  13. Illustrate from your personal life or from your observations of others, the truth of the following statement: "He who loves truly is he who serves faithfully."

  14. Do you believe the following statement reflects a realistic view of life?–"Lack of apparent success causes some to despair, and too much success causes others to become smug and complacent and proud."

  15. Contrast the world's conception of 'success' with the Christian conception of 'success'. Why, from the Biblical and Christian perspective, is Jesus considered to be the most successful person who ever lived?

  16. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The Spirit-filled man is faithful, regardless of man's applause or man's scorn. He is faithful, regardless of his temptation to despair when seeming to fail, and regardless of his temptation to pride, when seeming to succeed."

  17. Do you agree with E. Stanley Jones' following statement?–"A faith that has a cross at its center cannot be a faith that worships success." Is it possible, even within the 'Christian world', to adopt and to use the world's standards for success in striving to 'build the Church', or striving to 'become known as a speaker on TV and radio', or seeking to 'raise money for Christian causes', etc., etc.?

  18. Are you, as a Christian, personally in bondage to the world's conception of 'success', or do you personally identify with the following statement by E. Stanley Jones?–" I do not have to succeed; I have only to be true to the highest I know–success and failure are in the hands of God."

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    Discussion Questions:

    Cultivating The Fruit of Goodness and Faithfulness (Continued)

  19. In seeking to be faithful to Christ, regardless of circumstances, do you identify with the following statement?–"To 'keep on keeping on' for Jesus when circumstances tell me to 'throw in the towel' is a great evidence of loyalty and a great demonstration of love!"

  20. Cite Scriptures that show the absolute faithfulness and fidelity of Almighty God.

  21. Tell what William Barclay means when, in his discussion of Faithfulness, he states: "The years can be cruel".

  22. What is meant by the statement that some people are only 'fair-weather followers' of Jesus Christ? (Note John 6:66-69)

  23. Do you agree with the following statement?–"No one can give so much as Jesus, but if we come to him solely to get and never to give we will certainly turn back. The man who would follow Jesus must remember that in following him there is always a Cross."

  24. Why is the study of the life of Job (in the Old Testament) such a helpful study in one's attempt to understand the Biblical meaning of 'Faithfulness'?

  25. Do you agree with the following evaluation of the greatness of the virtue of 'Faithfulness' ?–" If all other noble qualities of life were placed in the balance against loyalty, loyalty would outweigh them all."

  26. Can you share from your personal experience your joy in intimately knowing a truly faithful servant of God–one who remained true to God, through all the 'changes and chances' of life until God called him 'home' to heaven?

  27. What does the Parable of the Four Soils (Matthew 13:20-21) teach us regarding one of the major causes for some Christians becoming faithless and 'barren' in their lives and in their relationship to God?

  28. What lessons in 'Faithfulness' can you learn from a study of Daniel 3:16-18?

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