Love of Friendship

For all who are joined to the living there’s hope (Eccl 9:4).  A man and woman may live many years and rejoice, but let them remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many.  We should therefore enjoy life with reservation (Eccl 11:18).  Build a good foundation by the way we live.  Of such are the gifts of the sweetness of life that come through friendships.  Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer Khalil Gibran (1883–1931) wrote, “In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.  For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”  Much of what passes off as insignificant has meaning beyond our comprehension.  These small deeds may very well be those attributes that shape our lives for years to come.

Gift of Friendship

Friendship is an important gift.  It’s precious and adds to life’s dimensions.  Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC–43 BC), a Roman philosopher, politician, and lawyer said, “What sweetness is left of life, if you take away friendship.  Robbing life of friendship is like robbing the world of the sun.  A true friend is more to be esteemed than kinsfolk.”  The price of friendship is greater than the value of gold.  Companions are valuable and able to sustain us in the unpredictable aspects of our lives.  They can stand by us, assure us, and are always there to help us.  These are true gifts by which some people are blessed.

We may wonder about our friends and say all manner of things about them.  These remarks come alive in the sentiments we express.  A Nigerian novelist, and poet Chinua Achebe (1930–2013) wrote, “When old people speak it is not because of the sweetness of words in our mouths; it is because we see something which you do not see.”  Often it may be difficult to tell who people’s friends really are, but some do express this gift because they are able to recognize them.

Perfection in Friendship

In choosing friends never expect perfection.  This may never come.  When you decide let it be based on the feelings in your heart.  Say a prayer to be guided to loved ones.  Matthew Arnold (1822–1888), an English poet and cultural critic said, “The pursuit of perfection, then, is the pursuit of sweetness and light.”  Inevitably when we make friends we eventually hope that they will become like rays of sunshine in our lives.  Being perfect may be our goal.  But don’t be disappointed if you find yourself working for such a goal to evolve into something beautiful.

One ingredient tops it all when it comes to friendships.  It’s the gift of love.  Listen to what Marie de France (1154–1189), a medieval poet wrote, “For above all things love means sweetness, and truth, and measure; yea, loyalty to the loved one and to your word.  And because of this I dare not meddle with so high a matter.”  Loving friends is a perfect gift.  Still it must be remembered it might be love that isn’t returned the way we expect.  Nevertheless Scripture teaches us to continue to love them.  This is also, loving our enemies.  People must always show they care.  We ought to bless others in a loving manner, and be compassionate.

Spiritual Power

Calvin Coolidge (1872–1933), President of the United States said, “We do not need more intellectual power, we need more spiritual power.  We do not need more of the things that are seen, we need more of the things that are unseen.”  Being good, just, and holy are unseen.  Some are able to tell if we’re gifted in this way by our actions.  But we don’t easily see these qualities.  Coolidge may well be alluding to some longed-for goals also like peace, justice, and equality.

Working for the common good, calls for foresight, honesty, and trust.  These gifts are by nature spiritual.  Billy Graham (b. 1918), an evangelical Christian evangelist and Southern Baptist Minister wrote, “The greatest question of our time is, ‘Will we be motivated by materialistic philosophy or by spiritual power?’”  Often Americans receive in our homes a preponderance of TV ads to buy more goods with promises that they will be happier.  They are never satisfied although it seems there’s an overabundance of goods available.  This may well be the sort of materialistic philosophy Graham was talking about.

Touching Eternal Goodness

Some believers have gained insights in what it means to touch the eternal goodness of things by persevering in goodness.  M. Scott Peck (1936–2005), a psychiatrist and best-selling author said, “Great awareness comes slowly, piece by piece.  The path of spiritual growth is a path of lifelong learning.  The experience of spiritual power is basically a joyful one.”  Having the gift of knowledge and dedication is hard work.  Year after year, some scholars persevere in studying and doing painstaking research to be of service to mankind.  These endeavors have to coincide with the gifts of the Holy Spirit to obtain the best results.  Many of these explorations are ongoing, never end, and will last from generation to generation.

Jane Goodall (b. 1934), a British ethologist, and anthropologist wrote, “I absolutely believe in a greater spiritual power, far greater than I am, from which I have derived strength in moments of sadness or fear.  That’s what I believe, and it was very, very strong in the forest.”  Goodall discovered this force in the forest where she worked with animals.  Believers may be able to find it in sanctuaries at their churches, while others may touch this power in their homes, or work places.

Two Known Powers

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968), a Baptist Minister and leader of the African American Civil Rights Movement said, “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power.  We have guided missiles and misguided men.”  King, Jr. was commenting critically of the affairs in scientific America.  Let’s hope that he was wrong on that score, for much of spiritual power is unseen, still many people believe it’s superior to science.  For, it’s an amazing and indescribable gift.

Amit Ray (b. 1960), an Indian spiritual master and author did a great job in summing up spiritual power at work in the world.  Ray wrote, “There are two types of seeds in the mind: those that create anger, fear, frustration, jealousy, hatred, and those that create love, compassion, equanimity and joy.  Spirituality is germination and sprouting of the second group and transforming the first group.”  So it’s with these spiritual gifts in our world.  Some situations may look grim and hopeless, but spiritual power is able to transform these bad, and worthless elements that taint our lives.  It’s the truth which flows from our good and merciful Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Discovering Our Spirituality

Spiritual gifts come to us from the Holy Spirit.  To know them we’ve to give careful and thoughtful prayers to discern what they really are.  This calls for individuals having knowledge of themselves and their abilities.  For, it’s though the working of the Holy Spirit that people are given special knowledge and wisdom to determine their gift or gifts (1 Cor 12:7).  Many through their baptism will likely receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  These instruct, regenerate, sanctify, and comfort us (Jn 16:13-14).  In Mark 16:17-18, we learn these gifts were first given to the apostles as they were about to preach the Gospel to all nations.  Through them other believers became recipients of these blessings.  As for Christians it must be remembered everyone has at least one gift from God (1 Cor 7:7), but it was only in the apostles these gifts were made perfect.

A New Spirit

When people unconditionally surrender to God they will be blessed with renewed lives, and be led by a discerning Spirit.  Billy Graham (b. 1918), an evangelical Christian said, “Some people have a warped idea of living the Christian life.  Seeing talented, successful Christians, they attempt to imitate them.  For them, the grass on the other side of the fence is always greener.  But when they discover that their own gifts are different or their contributions are more modest (or even invisible), they collapse in discouragement and overlook genuine opportunities that are open to them.”  The essence is that people not only have a gift or gifts from God, but they must be able to recognize, and use them wisely.  They mustn’t be anxious, and envy other Christians who have different gifts than them.

It’s obvious that whether our gifts are great, or small, our missions must never be viewed as part-time activities.  They are to be our source, and must be animated by the Spirit as we proclaim the Word of God.  There will however still be pastoral challenges as believers become involved in social outreach programs.  Nevertheless, people ought to use their gifts wisely to touch the lives of those around them.

God’s Blessing

Russell D. Moore (b. 1944), an evangelical theologian and president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission wrote, “In the New Testament, we don’t find our gift through self-examination and introspection and then find ways to express it.  Instead, we love one another, and in so doing we see how God has equipped us to do so.”  Spiritual gifts bring us to the exact place where we must be.  It’s also true people can’t have these gifts without loving, and serving God, and our neighbors.

To have authority calls for the fulfillment of God’s commandments for service in our churches and communities.  This is all part of having renewed personal encounters with others.  Christians do so when they bring their message of hope to them.  These blessings come to them as they practice a Christ-centered morality.  Believers then experience osmosis with those living on the periphery of their lives.  These gifts become profound blessings when people discover their spirituality.

Gifts of the Spirit

It’s amazing to be blessed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Glossolalia – speaking in tongues are well known and respected in some Christian churches.  Some view these occurrences as the wind of God giving utterance in his people.  It can be considered as a dimension of the breath of life.  However such a gift has to be put into its proper perspective.  Some Christians may be carried away, and view these utterances like having a mountaintop power of experiences.  However it must be remembered that the fruits of God are centered in a life of the Spirit.  These gifts can be ecstatic, emotional, illuminating, moral, transforming, charismatic, miraculous, healing, or a religious awakening.

Ayrton Senna (1960–1994), a Brazilian racing driver said, “Wealthy men can’t live in an island that is encircled by poverty.  We all breathe the same air.  We must give a chance to everyone, at least a basic chance.”  All gifts come from the same source, and are like the air we breathe.  We must never fall into the trap of making distinctions about what gifts are superior, but must promote what’s good in the church.

Prophetic Utterances

 All gifts are through the Spirit of God.  Prophetic utterances may be in the form of speech or writings.  We know these authentic works because they are expressions of enlightenment.  But the goal of each gift is the same.  It’s meant to proclaim the risen Christ’s power, resurrection, and they are known for their spiritual depth.  Christian devotees of such utterances live a life that’s steeped in prayer.

We can usually tell who these Christians are.  It was Confucius (551 BC– 479 BC), a Chinese teacher, politician, and philosopher who wrote, “The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.”  There’s an old saying, “Actions speak louder than words.”  Thus, “Show me how people live and you’ll be sure about the fruits they bear.”

Agents of Salvation

 True agents of God are always guided by the Spirit.  In their walk they are impacting, shaping, and transforming lives in everyday places.  They are able to do these things because they were baptized in the Spirit, have the power of discernment, and see themselves as full-time missionaries.  Such believers are prudent, gifted in wisdom, and know what’s right, or wrong.

This doesn’t stop here.  How are they free?  Ramakrishna (1836–1886), an Indian mystic and yogi said, “A man is truly free, even here in his embodied state, if he knows that God is the true agent and he by himself is powerless to do anything.”  People’s freedom and power are therefore manifested through their Creator.

Believers’ Inheritance

 Believers are blessed with sacred hope.  Their service and help are gifts from a loving God.  They may be in counseling and administration, but through their stewardship they are able to give aid, and mercy to others.  They know that in their duties they are propelled by a Spirit of Benevolence.  Their actions include witnessing, and praying.  In their arsenal these attributes are the most powerful weapons.  Many observers know that their spiritual force is animated by the Holy Spirit.  Through whom they are accomplishing, and will continue to accomplish their heavenly goals.

Donald Miller (b. 1971), a bestselling author wrote, “Sunday morning church service is not an enormous priority; spending time with other believers is.”  The lesson we can take away from Miller’s statement is that Christian outreach is more than being in the church, but on the highways, and byways of life.