Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Kindness and Goodness

  Yesterday we took a look at patience. You can hardly talk about any of the fruit of the Spirit without mentioning one or more of the other eight. These are the characteristics of God’s nature and you just can not separate them. In talking about patience we came across kindness. You really can’t say much about kindness without mentioning goodness. So let’s take a look at kindness and goodness today.

  Certainly there are many reasons and benefits for developing the fruit of the Spirit of God in our lives. To do so we must spend time with God and spend time in His Word. We get to know God that way. We learn what His voice sounds like when He talks to us. We grow in our relationship with Him and feel free to share our hearts with Him. We get answers to those things we are searching for. Getting to know God takes our relationship from His being our “Father”, to walking closely with Him as “Abba”, our Dad. We are meant to be conformed into the image of God's Son, and getting to know God better does just that. Also, the fruit of the Spirit are not just nine little personality traits that if developed will make you a more pleasant person. They are powerful forces that when developed, and used, bring victory to the Christian. Think about it. Love never fails. Joy brings us strength to overcome anything. Patience carries faith to the finish line for what you are believing God for, and kindness gives strength to patience. When we are meek, humble, God exalts us. The list of reasons and benefits for developing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives goes on, and on. What I want to bring out and look at here though is the aspect of glorifying God. 

   When we are disciples that means we are a student of Jesus Christ. Strong's Concordance says, "A disciple is a learner, one who follows both the teaching and the teacher." When we are just that disciple, we bear the fruit of the Spirit we are following. When we do that, we are glorifying, God.

“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” John 15:8

In glorifying God, we are honoring Him, worshipping Him and praising Him. That is what we are created to do. God created us so we could be in an intimate relationship with Him. Having said that let's move on to what we are called to do with that relationship where mankind is concerned. Our primary purpose is to walk with God, not evangelize. God enjoyed His relationship with us before we sinned. God had to go to plan B to reconcile us back, and now we have the opportunity to share that with others.

   In Psalm 34:4, David says, Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. When we are worshipping and praising God we are exalting His name. Since it is not likely that we are ever going to make God any bigger than He already is, we magnify Him like David did ~ by singing so others hear of His goodness and greatness. Magnify means to lift up, to increase, to boast of, to make larger. How do we do that? We show others the kind nature of God by being good to them. Our goodness toward others shows them the kindness of the God we love and serve. 

...for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:20

   You know the old saying, "You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar." It is true. When goodness is developed in us and kindness is shown out of us it often looks like forgiveness.

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 

   Strong's Concordance says that kindness is, "Love for mankind, hospitality, human friendship and taking thought of others. Gentleness in dealing with others, benevolence. The word describes the ability to act for the welfare of those taxing your patience." It defines goodness as, "Beneficence, kindness in actual manifestation, virtue equipped for action, a bountiful propensity both to will and to do what is good, intrinsic goodness producing a generosity and a Godlike state or being." Kindness must be developed in us before goodness is shown out of us. Kindness always puts the welfare of others at an utmost priority, and goodness is the generosity shown that benefits them.

   In 2 Samuel 7:27-29 we read where Samuel is praising God for His goodness to David in the covenant God made with David. "For You, O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, have revealed this to Your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore Your servant has found it in his heart to pray this prayer to You. “And now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your words are true, and You have promised this goodness to Your servant. Now therefore, let it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue before You forever; for You, O Lord God, have spoken it, and with Your blessing let the house of Your servant be blessed forever.” David had done things that you would think would negate the covenant God made with Him, but God's Words are true and established. He continued to be kind and did so through what Samuel calls goodness. This is probably one of the reasons David  said, Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever. Psalm 23:6

   In Isaiah 54:8 we read, "With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,” Says the Lord, your Redeemer.” Kindness is the characteristic, the virtue, the nature of God that produces His goodness.

  1 Thessalonians is the earliest letter we know of that Paul wrote.  Paul with Timothy and Silas, had ministered to the Thessalonians for only three Sundays, (Sabbaths), but planted a church there and grounded them deeply in faith. There was much political unrest and hostility toward Paul at that time and persecution was imminent. Being concerned for this young church he wanted to return to them. That was not possible so Paul sent, Timothy. Timothy did come back with a good report of the church and their faith. They in fact were concerned for Paul. In this letter we see a wonderful message of the time Paul ministered to them and the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. For our purposes here I want to look at three little verses tucked up in chapter 2.

But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9

Remember, Paul is speaking to the church there at Thessalonica and is concerned about the state they may be in given the political climate against believers. In those verses he is referring to the time he spent with them and though it was hard to come up against the evil around them, he was trying to encourage them to be strong in the might of the Lord. For our purposes regarding kindness producing goodness, lets take a closer look at those three verses. In verse seven Paul talks about how he, Timothy and Silas ministered to them with hearts that were tender, some versions say gentle. He was telling them of the kindness they felt toward those at Thessalonica, Jew and Gentile. In verse eight he goes on to talk about the kindness (affection) they had for them and that they wanted to "impart" the gospel to them. That word "impart" there is the same word used in Luke 3:11 where it says, "give".  Strong's Concordance says, to give, share, impart, distribute, grant. The word implies liberality or generosity, to give with cheerful outflow. Paul goes on to say they devoted, gave, imparted their lives to those at Thessalonica. And in verse 9 he shares the cost of laboring for the gospel. So again we see where kindness preempts goodness shown.

 In the fruit of the Spirit kindness comes before goodness. God is a God of order and I think there is some deliberate placement of how the fruit of the Spirit are listed. We will get to that next week.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  
Galatians 5:22-23

   Developing the kindness of God in our life makes way for His goodness to show out through us. Jesus is the Light that lives in us, and His nature is kind. Our good works are the goodness the world sees that draws them to Jesus. In this, we glorify God!

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven”.  Matthew 5:14-16

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