REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 65: Goodness.
What God commands and expects of us, He can always be relied upon to enable us to do. This was a fundamental truth of Christian obedience that was taught to me very early on in my journey as a disciple. The fruits of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22-23] remind us of this wonderful dynamic of the believer’s life. It is easily illustrated in this sixth fruit: goodness.
I have in my Bible a note, made years ago, linking together three texts in this regard. They are: For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do [Ephesians 2:10]…so that the man or woman of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work [1 Timothy 3:17] and May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage and strengthen your hearts in every good deed and word [2 Thessalonians 2:16-17].
Goodness will be seen and heard in good actions and good words. They are the necessary fruit and evidence of a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thomas Watson expressed this link: faith is full of good works. It believes as if it did not work, it works as if it did not believe. The pandemic gives us many opportunities to be good in heart toward others, to be good in words that encourage and in works that help others. In this way we will not be overcome with worry, bowed down in self-pity or introversion, but instead, growing in outgoing Christlikeness.
Returning to our three texts, we see how good God has been to us. Not only does our salvation not depend on our works [Eph 2:8-9], with our salvation being described as His workmanship, but he has prepared a whole crop of good works to occupy us. They, as well as we, have been prepared for these. It is our calling. The Scriptures are given to equip us for these works and our Lord and Saviour, by his indwelling Spirit, will strengthen us for them all. We are not alone in being good for God.
The Japanese Christian Toyohiko Kagawa remarked that in the gospels I read about a man called Jesus and then posed the question, why I am content to just go about? The fruits of the Spirit are not a smorgasbord, where we can pick and choose the ones we like, but a fruit salad where each of the nine need to be evident. As they combine, the true flavour of Christlikeness will be savoured by us and seen by all. These fruits, though a challenge, will never go out of fashion. Will we handle the Covid-19 pain and inconveniences, and the many other trials, including unpopularity for being a believer by showing goodness toward others rather than an unhealthy introspection, grumbling and the like? As we age will we suffer and die well? This, of course, is where the rubber hits the road. But a life of practised goodness will mean an ongoing crop of patience, kindness and joy in the challenging last lap[s]. This daily eulogy will speak louder than many spoken at our funeral!
The counter-cultural 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, which sees our growth from the Holy Spirit increasing even while our physical strength is diminishing, brings great assurance and experience that can only be learnt as we rely upon the Holy Spirit in suffering. Personal grace sufficient as described by Paul [2 Cor 12:7-10] gives us the opportunity to share God’s compassion with other sufferers [1:3-7]. Practised goodness gives us ‘street cred’ in building others up.
Goodness to our fellow believers [Matthew 25:31-46] is commended by Jesus and to our enemies by the apostle Paul [Romans 12:17-21]. Fruits of the Spirit never ripen from passive disciples. But from those who consistently sow to the Spirit and who delight to obey the exhortation not to grow weary in doing good…and at every possible opportunity, do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers [Galatians 6:8-10] they flourish. Goodness in the church is the training ground for goodness to the world [1 Peter 2:11-12]. As always, practice makes permanent!
Peter Brain 2nd March, 2021