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Gifts of the Cross

I heard an actress, whom I’m not sure is a Christian, say that we need to listen to our inner voice in order to find confidence. Christian or not, she’s right and the inner voice is that of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is one of the perpetual Gifts of the Cross. When Jesus told his disciples that He was going to leave them, He told them “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you (John 14:16-17).” He will be in us, helping us to transform more and more into the likeness of Christ; renewing our minds and turning our hearts into ceaseless fountains of love. We become the new creations that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 5:17.

Oh, the Gift of the Holy Spirit. We think we understand it but I’m really not convinced that we do. If we understood and could put it into practice – living the way the Spirit leads – we wouldn’t struggle so much. Our lives would not be all roses and daisies but the peace we could have would surpass all understanding – even in the midst of our storms. The struggles come because before we were saved, we developed habits and ways to survive and sometimes thrive without God. Good or bad we became familiar and comfortable with our methods. Back then, we were living according to our own wits; living according to the flesh. We no longer have to do that. We can turn responsibility for our existence over to the entire Trinity! In addition to praying, God made provision for us when we must respond in the moment; those times when we have an inkling or an urge that seems to come from nowhere. The issue comes because we have to choose to be led; we must choose to live by the Spirit and not according to the flesh. The conflict within us is real. Paul lays out the machinations manifested when following the flesh and then, the fruit produced when following the Spirit, in Galatians 5:19-23. The fruit of the Spirit make us more like Christ and they aid us in our quest to draw others into the Kingdom of God. Following the flesh will lead to destruction and eternal damnation. It would seem that the choice(s) would be simple but it just isn’t that easy.

Intellectually, we understand Galatians 5:19-23 and we do a decent job of following the Spirit. The thing is we tire of waiting. We are admonished to take our burdens to the Lord and leave them there but we don’t. We pray for what we want and then refuse to follow the leading of the Spirit as we are being prepared for the blessings we have asked for. We start out following but then get frustrated when things don’t happen in our time. So we figure we’ll help God out (LOL). We are impatient or we don’t recognize the preparation as helpful or essential so we fall back in line with our flesh; doing our own thing, trying to make things happen for ourselves. In Galatians 3:3, Paul asked the Galatians if they were foolish; “after beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” Are we foolish? Absolutely we are. But the occasions of our foolishness should be progressively less frequent, as children of God, siblings of Christ, carrying around the indwelling Holy Spirit as guide.

Kevin Ollie is such an inspirational man. After his playing days at the University of Connecticut (UConn) were over, he started paying dues in the CBA and the US Basketball league before making it into the NBA. Thirteen years as a vagabond with 11 teams. Ten-day and one-year contracts were the norm as God prepared him for his most recentachievement – for it is not over. Because of his previous trials and tribulations, Ollie was not shaken when he took over for Jim Calhoun and his job turned into something of a quagmire. From the NCAA sanctions to the initial six-month contract as UConn’s leader to the communication skills he had to employ to keep some of his elite players from jumping ship, Ollie’s commitment and conviction remained firm. The rocking of the waves and the fierceness of the storm has nothing to with who God is!

Ollie says his mission is to help develop young men; to help them access the Spirit within. Hello! God can do marvelous things for us if we acknowledge Him and allow Him to direct our paths (Proverbs 3:6). An acknowledging Kevin Ollie has guided his team to the pinnacle of men’s college basketball after just 18 months as the head coach. His achievement confounded the experts who were unfamiliar with God and His ways! Ollie says that he will always bloom where he is planted, even if it is among weeds. Well he did and he was. We should all have that understanding. Perhaps our trouble has to do with how we see our mission and define our success.

Charles Wesley wrote years ago, that our mission is defined as “A charge to keep I have, a God to glorify, a never-dying soul to save, and fit it for the sky. To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill; O may it all my powers engage to do my Master’s will!” Paul said, in Galatians 2:20-21, that if we don’t live according to the Spirit, Christ died for nothing (He most certainly did not!). Jesus said we could come to him if we are weary and burdened down and He would give us soul-rest (Matthew 11:28-29). So perhaps we can effectively carry-out our mission (our charge) and achieve success when we cease to struggle and just follow the indwelling Spirit into the soul-rest that Jesus promised us. That, my dear brothers and sisters, sounds like a plan worthy of execution. Oh the perpetual Gifts of the Cross!


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