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Many people whose gifts move them into a place they desire I haven't developed the qualities they need to remain there. Or they may stay for a while at a certain level where their gifts took them but never move beyond it.
Through developing the character qualities of the fruit of the Spirit, already in those of us who are Christians, we are able to move into the blessed, exceptional type of life we truly desire. When we as Christians know what God has available for us and are open to receiving from Him, His Spirit will give us the power we need to develop the fruit and live the type of life God wants for us.
I am grateful that God did not allow my gifts to expand until I let Him work with me for a few years on developing the fruit. When God dropped the teaching gift into me, it was strong. I taught then in just about the same way as I do now - years later. My gift moved me into a place of ministry as I had desired, but my ministry wasn't expanding in the way I wanted because I hadn't developed the fruit.
God gives us various gifts to use, but He gives us the fruit of the Spirit to develop. When the Holy Spirit lives inside us, we have everything He has. His fruit is in us. The seed has been planted. In order to use the gifts in the most powerful way that God desires, we must allow the seed of the fruit to grow up and mature in us by cultivating it.
We can cultivate all the fruit by focusing on love, the first in the list of the nine fruit, and self-control, the last in the list. Love and self-control are like bookends that hold the rest in place. All of the fruit issue from love and actually are a form of love, but they are kept in place by self-control.
If you are concentrating on developing the fruit of love, as you walk through your day you won't become impatient with people. You won't be anything but kind. You will be good to people, supportive and faithful instead of being haughty or trying to appear better than others.
If you aren't motivated by love, you will find that operating in the fruit is very difficult. But even when you are motivated to express God's love as a lifestyle, there will be times (many times when you first begin developing the fruit) when you won't feel like being patient, kind, joyful, peaceful or even nice at all! Those are the times that you need self-control in order to continue to respond with the fruit even though you don't feel like it.
If you need to develop this fruit of self-control, begin with simply making little choices throughout the day to respond with the fruit to situations you encounter, as discussed before. Pretty soon you will have formed a habit. At that stage, the seed of self-control in you will have grown into a little plant.
Once you have formed the habit, you won't be caught off guard as easily as when you first started developing self-control. When you are in that first stage of development, you can be walking along in the grocery store thinking everything is great. You can be in a good mood, thinking about how you don't have any problems right then and everything is wonderful. Then all of a sudden something minor will happen. Somebody will bump into you, step on your toe, roll a cart over your foot or make some other human mistake. And since you don't have mature fruit yet, you will respond in anger or impatience instead of choosing to respond good-naturedly with patience and perhaps even joy by laughing with the person over the incident. But don't despair, the more you practice displaying the fruit, the more mature they will become. At first you have to really try to control yourself, but eventually it will be very natural to respond the way Jesus would in a similar situation.
You may think. Where did that come from? I thought I was nice and sweet. Sometimes we think that we already have the fruit of the Spirit fully developed in us simply because we are Christians. But when we are caught off guard, or our fruit is "squeezed," we find out just how undeveloped the fruit in us is. These incidences are tests that are actually very good for us because they help us know the areas where we are weak and still need to grow.
SEED-SIZED FKUIT EQUALS SMALL-SIZED MINISTRY
When I began ministering in my gift, the fruit in me was definitely still in the seed-stage! And I operated that way for many years.
For five years I taught a weekly Bible study in my living room to a small group of thirty people. When I taught, I wore short shorts, just as short as I could get them. And I smoked - one cigarette after the other. I sat there on my living room floor blowing smoke in everybody's face the whole night while I was teaching the Bible!
I had no concern for the guests' feelings at all. It did not even occur to me that my smoking might make someone else uncomfortable or cause them to judge me adversely. There are many habits that can be detrimental to our Christian witness and I don't suppose that smoking is any worse than many others, but we should choose not to do things that are harmful to our health and the health of others. Wearing short shorts in that type of atmosphere was not a wise choice either but at that time in my life I simply did what I felt like doing without even considering how it might affect others. Love would have made different choices. It would have wisely chosen to do things that could not offend anyone.
You might be wondering how or why God would use me to teach His Word when my behavior was so immature, and I can certainly understand why you would. The only answer I can give is that God not only sees where we are right now, but He also sees where we came from and where we are going to end up. He knew my heart toward Him was right even though my behavior was very unwise. He gave me a space of time to change, and I am grateful for it.
People came to the Bible study because God's anointing was present, not because I was perfected yet. Most of them had the same problems I did, and we were trying to learn together. After a few months went by, I began to recognize that the Holy Spirit was dealing with me to dress differently and to stop smoking, as well as to make many other changes in my lifestyle habits. It was not easy to make the changes, but my love for Jesus helped me to press through the hard times of discipline.
Some people reading this book might say, "Well, hey, then why do I have to change if God used you like that when you had all those problems?"
If I hadn't allowed God to change me by working with Him to develop the fruit of self-control in many areas, I would still be sitting on my living room floor ministering to twenty-five or thirty people - or to only one or two who were sticking with me out of loyalty. If I hadn't allowed God to change me in preparation to fulfill His plan for me, I wouldn't have moved into my present position of ministering. I speak to large groups of people in different teaching conferences on a regular basis, and I am also able to reach people with God's love and His Word through a number of different Life In The Word outreaches all over the world. We are blessed to hear testimonies from people who tell us how God used this ministry to bring healing to them or transform their lives in other ways.
Yes, God will let us do some ministry before we allow Him to begin developing that seed of the fruit of the Spirit in us, but He won't loose us on the world until we mature a little. We won't accurately represent Him until we begin maturing and reflecting His character more and more! And as we develop the fruit, we learn how to draw more on Him to handle the growing responsibilities He gives us on our way to leading a more exceptional life.
Excerpted from Secrets to Exceptional Living by Joyce Meyer Copyright © 2002 by Joyce Meyer . Excerpted by permission.
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