Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his second letter to remind them that what ever ministry he had it was because of the mercy of God at work in his life. Mercy is what God had shown him, but for Paul he recognized his responsibility to, "...renounce the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness not handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." For Paul it was all about the preservation of the Gospel message, and never forgetting the importance of reliance on the mercy and grace of God. I really believe this is the reason Paul never lost heart in his pursuit of God and his proclamation of the word of God.
In John chapter fifteen Jesus has a wonderful conversation with His disciples about the "Vine & the Branches." There comes a point in this conversation where Jesus indicates to His disciples that, "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in my love." It is that last part that hit me as being so vital in my relationship, not only with Christ, but also with others. "...abiding in His love" becomes the launching pad for other commandments given in this chapter. Jesus begins talking about the "keeping of commandments." How important is it for us to be listening to the Lord? Jesus has given commandments for a number of reasons, but He seems to indicate to His disciples that this is the greatest expressing of our love for Him and the Father. This leads to a self denial that would allow us to, "...lay down one's life for his friend." I have always understood this to mean that I am willing to lay aside my "life" aspirations and goals for the sake of promoting those of another, especially a friend. Is it important to listen to God and obey what He commands in His word? The answer is found in John 15:14 "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you." I know this; I want to be His friend, His obedient friend.
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In a recent study of 1Corinthians 12, I was reminded of the awesome work of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer. Consider what Paul says on the matter, "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all." It is easy to think that my spiritual gifts or gifts are some how exclusive to me and my personal faith, but in reality God; from the very beginning has intended that those gifts be used for the unity of the Body of Christ. These "spirituals" (charismata) or grace gifts are the result of my immersion into the fulness of Christ. They are not to be confused with physical or natural talents that come at birth, but rather they are super-natural endowments that result from the new birth in Christ. Once again as Paul reminded the Corinthians, "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills." So, in the vast diversity of the Body of Christ there is this singular work of the Holy Spirit to supply each local church with exactly those spiritual gifts that are necessary for it to function and fulfill God's wonderful plan of redemption and sanctification. How wonderful is our God, and how thorough is His preparation of His church to meet the biblical mandate that He has set before us. Matthew 28:18-20 "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:11
No doubt the most effective changes that take place in my life are those that began with a trial, tribulation or personal crisis. It is in those situations I have the option of doing one of two things, relying on my own ingenuity or totally trusting in God's Word and the Holy Spirit to direct me through the mind field of difficulty.
The idea of getting out of personal difficulty without first learning what God wants to teach me is, as Paul says, to miss out on the "...harvest of righteousness and peace." The deepest times of growth and maturity for me have not been in times of prosperity and blessing, but rather in the valley's of darkness and dispair, which has caused me to rely on God's presence.
We never want to miss out on training afforded us by the ever present work of the Holy spirit as He instills in us a reliance on the power and presence of Almighty God. Let God be all that He has determined to be in your daily life and there will be a new found degree of faith and trust in his ability to speak into your daily circumstance.