søndag 30. oktober 2016

It is about fruit that gives strength

It is almost 40 years since I received my first farewell-orders from Bergen 1. Corps. I had served there as an assistant, and it was my first appointment after I was commissioned as an officer. 

After the farewell meeting, one of the elderly soldiers, Bjarne, came to me and said: 
“You are strong, Jostein!” 
I was a little puzzled by his greeting and asked: 
“Why do you say that?” 
“Because you are joyful!” Bjarne replied, 
“The Bible says that the joy of the Lord is your strength (1) – don’t let anything rob you for the joy in the Lord!”

May be Bjarne had made correct observations, and that joy was the quality of the fruit of the Spirit, which was most evident in my life when I was young. I can certainly point out quite a few of the other qualities that were more absent than present; but Bjarne had the gift of encouragement, and I knew that he had a vibrant relationship with the Lord.

Love is a very strong power, but in a way, love includes the whole strength-register from weak to strong. For example I cannot love without becoming vulnerable. God’s own love proves this fact.

Joy, which is second on the list of characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit (2), is different; it is a quality that strengthens. The first Christian experienced that joy gave them strength in adversity and persecution:

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.
Acts 5:41 
I believe Paul also received strength in joy. He often faced persecution, imprisonment and flogging before his earthly life was crowned with martyrdom. Still he showed how important joy is through repeating his exhortation to rejoice:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Phil 4:4 
I have never managed to identify with the caricatured and sad picture that is often associated with Christians. My Christian upbringing and my adult life as a believer, has been and is a joyful experience. At the same time, I have visited communities of believers, where there has been little room for expressions of joy and rejoicing. Under such circumstances I try to sense if this represents religion or life. There is no doubt the joy belongs to the life of Christ, to the life of the vine. That should indicate that absence of joy means absence of Christ.

Today 'manna':

Holiness is about the strength of the joy in the Lord.
* A joyful young man in May 1976
(1) Neh 8:10
(2) The fruit of the Spirit is… joy – Gal 5:22

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