Today’s guest post is from Brock Paulk.
I’ve always thought I was short.
I was typically the shortest kid in my class throughout grade school. I was so short that eventually my mom started pointing out successful and well-adjusted, short adults just in case I was starting to panic.
In high school, my growth spurt finally hit and, by the time I finished high school, I had grown over a foot and reached the height I am today – which is about 5 feet 9.5 inches.
Even so, I still considered myself short.So I did what we all do when we want to compare ourselves to the rest of the world: I searched the internet. And do you know what I found out?
The average height for men in the United States is 5 feet 9.3 inches! That means I’m not short. I’m actually 0.2 inches above average.
So, as it turns out, I’m tall!
But even with those stats in mind, I can’t help but still feel short.
I think that’s in part because of the narrative that shaped my childhood.
We all have narratives like that–ways that we view the world, assumptions we make about others.
In fact, none of us became who we are, or came to believe what we believe, all on our own. We picked up our worldview from our environment.
And when something happens or someone comes along that doesn’t fit our narrative, we have to make adjustments. And that can be difficult to do.
When Paul spent time in Galatia, planting churches in places like Lystra and Derbe, a lot of people came to faith in Jesus because of Paul’s teachings. He was changing their worldview.
But, eventually he left to go plant churches in other regions and the Galatians were left to try to figure out their new faith without his guidance. There was a lot of confusion and uncertainty so they went back to their old, comfy narrative.
They were trying to relate to this new god, but their default was to figure out this god’s rules and try to keep it happy! They tried to take their old narrative, the way they understood how to be religious, and adapt it to their new faith.
But the Spirit of God doesn’t dovetail onto our old narrative. God’s Spirit gives us a whole new narrative!
Paul wrote in Galatians 5:
16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires.
Paul knew that following rules doesn’t change your nature. It doesn’t give you a new story. Rule-following is not going to re-write your narrative.
But imagine what that’s like for the Holy Spirit to just give you new desires. It’s like telling a smoker to just stop liking cigarettes or telling a toddler to start liking vegetables–it doesn’t sound like it will work! But Paul says that’s exactly how the Holy Spirit works. The Holy Spirit gives you new cravings. You don’t want the same things you used to. He says:
19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.
These things aren’t against the law because there’s not even a reason to have a law against them.
Everything on the vice list that Paul made–jealousy, impurity, drunkenness–all of that can get out of hand.
How incredible would it be if peace got out of hand? What if joy was just out of control and running rampant?
I think Paul believes that can happen, and here’s why. He says:
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
There’s no other way to avoid your sinful nature but to kill it, or it’ll get you into trouble.
So we have to adopt a different narrative.
25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
It’s the Holy Spirit that gives us a new narrative.
Paul is teaching us that the only way to thrive is with the Holy Spirit as your Guide.
What if we started by listening for the Spirit’s guidance in our relationships?
When you study the list of vices that Paul wrote in verses 19-21, eight of them are related to personal conflict that rises up when we fight for our own preferences and rights.
And so I challenge you to ask yourself:
Do you have relationships in your life where you feel hostility?
What are you jealous of?
Have you lashed out in anger and failed to make it right?
Are you in a role where you’re selfishly pursuing your own agenda?
Who are you currently in conflict with?
I suspect every one of us can come up with an answer for some of those questions.
But the final question is this:
What is the Holy Spirit leading you to do to make peace?
We can’t just trust our instincts. Our natural inclinations are why relationships get to this point.
I’m asking you to prayerfully consider this:
What will you do to promote peace…in your heart, in your home, in your church and in our community?
One of my great dreams for the church is that we would be a people who amaze each other and our neighbors with the way we deal with conflict and hurt feelings by the power of the Holy Spirit.
If we’ll let the Holy Spirit be our guide, I believe we can be known for that and more. I believe we could see peace get a little out of hand and see kindness given and reciprocated where it was once absent. I believe all the fruits of the Holy Spirit can grow beautiful and healthy right here among us–if we’ll let the Holy Spirit show us the way.