Focus: How to behave in the face of a ‘stress test’
Galatians 5:25 (NKJV) If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Some circumstances can be a cause of stress—such as your workplace or your finances—but what about people who seem to thrive on causing stress? What about people you may have to face periodically—or constantly?
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You may have the best of intentions when you wake up in the morning, but then you have to speak to that person who just makes your insides churn. For instance, you may be completely satisfied with your doctor—but his office staff is unnecessarily rude and condescending. Making a simple appointment is an ordeal—for no reason. When you get to the office, you realize it isn’t just ‘you’—as the same treatment is given to everyone at the sliding glass office window. Why is that?
You are there because of a problem and you probably don’t feel your best or you wouldn’t be there—then you have to endure the treatment of people who are just ‘not nice’.
Welcome to life.
This is where we meet the true test of our faith. Are we filled with the Spirit—or not? Do we give into temptation? Or do we choose to exercise the proof of what we have become, because of the testing we have been through in the past?
Is our ability to pass a ‘stress test’ achieved only because of our willingness to be humble? Or are we so filled with the Spirit that it doesn’t phase us when we’re faced with people who try to make life difficult?
Galatians 5:22-23 lists nine character attributes that define a person who walks in the Spirit to the degree that their growth has produced ‘fruit’. Here’s the list: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
The person who possesses the ability to display these spiritual traits is usually not a beginner—they’ve been practicing their faith for a while. In the same sense that a young tree doesn’t produce fruit until maturity—the noticeable fruit of the Spirit in a person’s life is a ‘spiritual mark of maturity’.
Just like a young person looks forward to the day they will be allowed to drive a car or be old enough to vote—the act of reaching a point in our spiritual walk when the fruit of the Spirit will be in full operation—should be something we are actively pursuing, too. God knows we are presented with plenty of opportunities to practice.
If you haven’t been a Christian for very long—don’t think you are automatically excused from having to try. Showing the fruit of the Spirit under stress doesn’t have to do with age, either. Being young is no excuse—and on the other hand—neither is being older.
The interesting thing about the fruit of the Spirit is that there are nine fruits in all—but actually, if we were perfect at the ‘first’ fruit in the list, we wouldn’t really have to worry about mastering the other eight.
The number one ‘fruit’ in the list is, ‘love’. 1 Corinthians 13 gives a very good description of what perfect love should be and how real love actually behaves in verses four through eight. Here is how the definition of ‘love’ reads in the Complete Jewish Bible: “Love is patient and kind, not jealous, not boastful, not proud, rude or selfish, not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not gloat over other people’s sins but takes its delight in the truth. Love always bears up, always trusts, always hopes, always endures. Love never ends…”
In John 13:35, Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” In Matthew 7:16 He said, “By their fruit you will recognize them.”
Living in the Spirit and walking in the Spirit should mean we display the love of God under stress…without excuses. We have confirmed that the first fruit of the Spirit is love. If we are filled with the Spirit, then we should behave lovingly under stress.
Declaration: I will find new strength by focusing my attention on developing the fruit of the Spirit in my life. I will begin with love…knowing that love leads to joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
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