Talk vs. Action

Things probably did not go as planned for Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus.

  • He probably did not intend on having to try and explain to his friends and family why his fiancée was pregnant even though they had not slept together.
  • He probably did not plan on marrying her anyway, but having to put off the honeymoon for a few months.
  • He probably did not plan to pick up his new family and move them to a foreign country for an unknown period of time.
  • He probably did not intend to move to Galilee upon his return from Egypt instead of going back to his old home in Judea.

Yet through all of this, there is no record of Joseph ever complaining. And while he might have had a reason to brag after going through all of those things on behalf of the baby Jesus, there is no record of him bragging either.

Actually, there is no record of Joseph saying anything. At all. Apparently Joseph was a man who demonstrated his faith and his righteousness primarily through actions instead of just words.

These days we have a saying that someone is “all bark and no bite,” or “all talk and no action.” But for Joseph, a better description would have been “all action and no talk.” His words appear to have been few, but his behavior was honorable in every way.

How do we respond when we encounter various unplanned or difficult scenarios? Do we spend our efforts complaining, or do we let our actions do the talking by behaving in a way that is honorable despite the difficulty of the situation?

Consider this passage from James 1:

“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”

Joseph was a prime example of one who was quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. He was also a prompt doer of God’s will as opposed to someone who likes to talk a lot about how things ought to be without actually living how he ought to live.

Whether or not anyone notices, and whether or not the situation is exactly how you have always wanted it to be, will you be a doer of righteousness simply because it is the right thing to do?

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Getting the Fruit of the Spirit

In Acts 2:38, Peter preached the gospel to thousands of people at one time. When many of them wanted to respond, he instructed them all, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 19:2-5, Paul became deeply troubled when he met some men who said that they had been baptized, but that they did not have the Holy Spirit:

“He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said to him, ‘No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ And they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

In John 3:5, Jesus told Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

Notice something about all three of these passages: they emphasize the importance of the Holy Spirit in baptism and spiritual rebirth.

Galatians 5:22-23 gives a beautiful list of positive character traits, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” All of these traits, we are told, are the fruit of the Spirit.

It is no wonder that the Spirit is so important, if these things are the fruit that follows from Him. If these things are the fruit of the Spirit, how can we expect to have them without first having the Spirit? That would be like trying to create an apple without first having an apple tree, or painting a tennis ball orange and claiming it is an orange, or planting soybeans and hoping they sprout into corn. As with any other fruit, if you want the fruit of the Spirit, get the Spirit, and then you can enjoy His fruit. It’s the only way.

This is why producing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives is not simply about “trying harder” or just “being a good person.” Until we are washed in Christ’s blood and filled with His Spirit, we can never hope to be righteous in His sight. As Isaiah 64:6 says, all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.”

 May we spread the good news about Jesus’ blood and God’s Spirit, and the wonderful things they can do, and rather than grieving that Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), may we all make that Spirit welcome in our hearts and lives, that we may enjoy His fruit.

This World is Not Good

The account of creation in the book of Genesis is about the beginning of something good. After each day of creation, God sees that what He has made is good. At the end of the sixth day, God sees that His creation is “very good.”

Yet even though there is still so much that is wonderful and beautiful and inspiring in this world, it is no longer good the way it was. The third chapter of Genesis tells us what happened. It gives an account of man’s first sins. They were motivated in part by Satan’s lies (3:4-5). They resulted in difficulties in human relationships (3:16), difficulties in work (3:17-19), and separation from God (3:23-24).

Romans 8:22-23 says “the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

This whole word has been subjected to futility. Satan’s lies are everywhere. Our relationships are strained or even broken. A part of us wants to dream big dreams, but the weeds choke them out. We try to make progress and we don’t.

The Bible acknowledges the not-goodness of this world in its present state, and we can, too. We do not have to pretend that everything is okay. Everything is not okay. Life is frustrating. It is painful. People hurt each other. It is “not good.” Even for the Christians whose lives seem to be going fairly well, there is a longing for something more than this world can give. Maybe that is why Paul was anxious for the day when he could go to heaven.

I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” (Philippians 1:23-24).

Yet Paul does realize that there is a reason why he is here.

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.” (Philippians 1:25-26)

We, too, can trust God to use our lives, though our relationships and our work continue to be corrupted by life’s difficulties. We can trust God to welcome us into a better place some day.

As 1 Peter 5:10 says, “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

 What a day that will be.