IN THE last article we covered the first four of the seven steps that must be taken to walk in the spirit. Let us now consider the final three steps:
E. Spreading the Word of God
We may spread the Truth by word of mouth, distributing literature, arranging for meetings in which the Word may be heard, taking part in these meetings, encouraging others to attend and take part, and by letter writing. The flesh prefers our activity along different lines, it imposes obstacles to our use of opportunities for spreading the Lord’s Word, and it would suppress our zeal. Therefore, our new heart, mind, and will needs to lay hold upon zeal-arousing thoughts in the Word that encourage zeal in spreading the Truth, and subject the affections to their influence until they are full of love and zeal for the spread of the Lord’s Truth. Zeal will thus displace the lack of zeal, which would result in neglecting to spread God’s Word.
These zeal-producing thoughts include God’s zeal manifested in His love for us; Christ’s zeal in His work; the Apostles’ zeal in their activity; the privilege of sharing in the joys and sorrows of the work; and the glorious results of such efforts. Holding these thoughts upon the heart will result in our continuing to spread the Lord’s Word in spite of every opposition and every inducement to pleasure, convenience, and profit.
F. Developing Character in Harmony with the Word
In the development of the Christian graces, let us limit our discussion to some of the graces: faith, hope, love, joy, peace, patience, and humility. The flesh develops qualities opposite to every one of these. It uses against faith, doubt; against hope, despair; against love, selfishness; against joy, sorrow; against peace, worry; against humility, pride; and against patience, inconstancy. The flesh naturally tends to these opposite qualities. It has gained its power in these faults because thoughts conducive to these faults have been allowed to remain upon the heart, put there by the natural will which subjected the heart to their influence. Evil thoughts kept by the natural will on the heart create faults.
For instance, we have doubts because we have doubting thoughts upon our hearts and these modify other thoughts, and these in turn become charged with further doubts, until finally the disposition becomes one of doubt. We may overcome this condition by consciously exerting our new will to hold upon the affections of the heart faith-producing thoughts from God’s Word, until they subject the heart to their influence, and thus the good displaces the opposite evil.
Suppose our besetting fault is despair and we wish to develop the opposite grace, hope. Let us lay hold upon the hope-inspiring thoughts of the Lord’s Word, until finally we shall be changed into a hopeful attitude of heart, and thus displace the evil with the opposite good. Some of these hope-inspiring thoughts are: God is on our side; Jesus’ blood covers all our sins; we are acceptable to the Father in the Beloved; the Father is making all things work together for good to them that love Him; and He is giving us such lessons, experiences, and providences as will fit us for the Kingdom.
Suppose our fault is selfishness. We will need to develop love in its place. Selfishness has been developed by holding selfish thoughts upon the heart. We have been occupied with our conveniences, comforts, hopes, ambitions, and prospects, or with those of our family or relatives, exclusively. We have not been thinking of those who do not have some immediate relation of interest to our well-being, but of ourselves, and of others only from the selfish standpoint. Let us hold love-inspiring thoughts from the Lord’s Word upon the affections until they develop in our affections the same disposition. These thoughts include: the love that God has shown us; the love of Jesus; the needs that others, especially the brethren, have of our help; and the desirability of love.
Suppose that sorrow is our besetting fault. Sorrow has been developed by allowing saddening thoughts to rest upon our hearts and minds. Let us displace this fault with its opposite grace – joy. We do this by holding joy-giving thoughts from God’s Word upon our heart, until it is filled with joy. These thoughts include the Fatherhood of God; our prospective sonship; Jesus, our Elder Brother and Savior, made unto us by God, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and deliverance; our justification by faith, so that our sins cannot condemn us in the sight of God as long as we maintain our faith in the precious merit of Christ; the Father’s love shown to us in inviting us to a place in the earthly phase of His coming Kingdom; in granting us a measure of His holy spirit; and in making everything work together for our good.
Let us consider peace in light of these methods. Peace has its opposite in worry. Worry is developed by permitting worrisome thoughts to rest upon the heart. Worry should be fought against through the cultivation of its opposite, peace. Let us hold peace-giving thoughts upon the affections until peace is developed. The thoughts given in the preceding paragraph as productive of joy will be found helpful in cultivating peace.
The same methods apply to developing patience, and displacing inconstancy. We develop impatience by permitting inconstant thoughts to rest upon the heart. They may be overcome by holding the Lord’s thoughts which work patience upon the heart, until they have received the disposition of these patience-producing thoughts. There are many patience-producing thoughts in the Lord’s Word: God’s marvelous patience; the patience of Jesus; that of the consecrated ones; and the need of patience for our development, both for usefulness now, and in the Age to come.
The opposite of humility is pride. Pride has been developed because proud thoughts have been allowed to have a resting place in our minds and hearts, and these have gradually charged us with their character until we are almost full of pride. We have developed pride by thinking of our advantages, of our supposed or real abilities, mental, physical, moral, and religious, generally contrasting them with others’ real or supposed inferiorities, until we are puffed up in pride. We may overcome this condition by filling our hearts with the thoughts of our mistakes, our sins, our faults, our failings, our littleness, and the many things wherein others are our superiors. Thus, every other feature of the character in harmony with the Word is developed by this first method, and every evil displaceable by the second. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.”
G. Enduring Evil for the Lord’s Word
Enduring evil for the Truth manifests itself in weariness, sickness, sorrow, and persecution. To endure amid these sufferings, we need to hold appropriate thoughts on the heart such as: strength of purpose, of steadfastness and of devotion, God’s appreciation of the value of such suffering, God’s perseverance in seeking His people, and Jesus’ perseverance in developing God’s people. Enduring such sufferings will displace shrinking from suffering when loyalty to the Lord’s cause requires such suffering.
Persecution through boycotting, social ostracism, slander, ridicule, and cruelty are things to be endured by the Lord’s people so that they may be true to His cause. Although the flesh seeks deliverance from such experiences, let us realize the importance of longsuffering and patience, and thus hold pertinent thoughts from the Word upon the heart and learn thereby to suffer long and be kind. And as longsuffering and patience are learned and developed, they will displace the opposite evil – inconstancy and disloyalty amid suffering.
We need to exercise forgiveness due to the wrongs we endure. When we suffer persecution from our enemies, the flesh becomes resentful; hateful thoughts rest upon the heart; and bitterness is increased so that love for enemies is impossible. We may overcome this corrupt tendency by holding forgiving thoughts from the Lord’s Word upon the heart, until the heart develops forgiveness like that of God. Such thoughts include: Our enemies are our friends because they give us the opportunity to develop love for enemies; they are helping us to fulfill our consecration vows, and therefore are carrying forward God’s plan; they unconsciously are proving a blessing to us; they are enabling us to develop other traits of character needful for our future ministry; and the injury they do to their own characters in mistreating us should call forth our pity rather than resentment. When forgiveness is developed, it will displace resentment.
(to be continued)