Please allow me to preface this post with an apology to readers for my unaccounted absence. By God's grace, I'm up and running again.
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Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium … stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. However … he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. And … [Paul and Barnabas] returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God."
~ Acts 14:19-22 (NKJV)
Is Paul a madman or a masochist? What provokes a man to return so soon to the same place where he was stoned? And wouldn't his physical condition—so badly pounded that he was believed dead—demand that he rest and recover?
These are the kinds of questions I've been asking myself lately. I've felt clobbered by life during recent seasons and am working to regain my footing. I cringe to think of how my frailty might show up in the posts here (besides reduced quantity). I repeatedly ask myself if it would be better for me to rest and return in a more calm season of life.
But like Paul, I am driven by a Force that defies reason. If I publish this blog in my own strength—in any season—it cannot be fruitful.
"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."
~ John 15:5 (NKJV; emphasis mine)
To be perfectly candid, I don't look at the spiritual fruit in my life at the moment and see the markings of a bumper crop. I don't even feel like exuding love, joy, peace, longsuffering / patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control just now. What's more, an inner voice says I don't want to put on a false face and fake them.
I need to rebuke that voice. I don't have to feel such emotions to genuinely produce them. It's a whole lot easier that way, to be sure. Yet true spiritual fruit is the produce of the Holy Spirit living in me, not my emotions.
Warm fuzzy feelings may help propel my love, but the Source of the love flowing through me is Another. Joy is the blossom which crowns grateful contentment on the inside, not exhilaration expressed in response to circumstance. Peace is not strength of health, empty calendar & full checkbook, and serene relationships, but the shalom of God which brings wholeness of mind and heart, body and soul.
If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.
~ Philippians 1:22 (NIV)
Suffice to say, I ain't dead yet. And if I continue to draw breath, then I shall, by the grace of God and with Paul as my example, continue to work toward "strengthening the souls of the disciples."
"I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness or abilities that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."
~ William Penn
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Copyright 2012, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
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