"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law."1
Jesus promised us peace. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”2 Just as Jesus calmed the stormy sea when His disciples thought their ship was sinking and they were about to drown,3 He can calm the storms of life and give you inner peace.
A friend was showing me a photo that he took at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden—a large park in the middle of bustling Tokyo. It showed a brilliant blue sky with green trees framing it. When I complimented him on a beautiful shot, my friend looked amused. “Actually, you’re looking at it upside down. This is the reflection of the sky on the lake.”
I looked closer and saw that he was right. What I had thought was scenery was actually its reflection on the lake’s surface, almost like an optical illusion. I was amazed at how clearly the sky and surroundings were reflected in the still water. It made me think how wonderful it would be if my life could so perfectly reflect heaven’s peace and stillness.
I grew up in a Christian home and have been familiar with the Easter story since childhood, but it wasn't until last year that I discovered what Easter means for me personally.
Last Easter, my thoughts were not on the glory of Jesus’ resurrection, the triumph of good over evil, or even the bright morning dawning outside my window. Just one week earlier, my best friend had phoned me with the sad news that her father had suddenly passed away during the night. My mind was still reeling with shock and grief. How could a life slip away so abruptly, with no time for last words or goodbyes? I thought about the grandchildren who will grow up never knowing their grandfather, my friend who will no longer have a dad’s support and advice, and the widow who would miss her husband’s loving presence.
I have come to realize that God takes His time. Perhaps that comes from being eternal. He has all the time in the world, so why should He hurry?
God is an investor, not a speculator. He doesn’t “buy” something today with the intention of “selling” it tomorrow. Sure, He wants to get high returns on His investments, but He can wait a very long time if need be. He invests in people, and He doesn’t seem to mind the time it takes for that investment to pay off. Knowing the future also comes in handy, no doubt.
I wish you could meet three people who each made a big impression on me. If you could, you’d understand immediately what this issue of Activated is about.
The first was a busboy who cleared my table from his wheelchair with such outgoing charm that I wasn’t a bit surprised when the manager told me on my way out that he considered that busboy his most valuable employee. “More people come back for him than for the food,” the manager confided.
If you think you have troubles, consider My apostle Paul: He was whipped on five occasions and beaten with rods on another. He was stoned and left for dead. He was shipwrecked three times, and spent a night and a day in the deep. He went through perils at sea, perils in the wilderness, and perils in cities. He suffered at the hands of robbers, his own countrymen, strangers, and even those who wrongly thought they were acting for Me. He was imprisoned and deprived of basic needs many times.1
Ben is a white-haired man whose house I pass on my errands route. He always calls out a friendly greeting, and over time we’ve become good friends. His cheerful demeanor and lively personality make him a joy for me to be around, despite our age difference.
Last spring, Ben slipped on a wet bathroom floor, fell backwards, and hit his head hard. The impact brought on a stroke that resulted in recurring dizzy spells and headaches, blurred vision, permanent damage to his left eye, and loss of stamina.
I asked myself recently what keeps me steady in times of crisis. What keeps me from giving up and saying, “I don't want to keep trying,” “I don’t want to give so much,” “I don’t want to care anymore,” “I don’t want my heart broken anymore,” “This burden is too heavy for me to keep carrying.”
What keeps me from doubting God’s promises when all of my faults and failures hang over me like a black cloud and my feelings threaten to overwhelm me? When I don’t know if I can cope, what keeps me from giving in to that feeling?
Eighty thousand spectators in the stands and millions of viewers worldwide watch as he takes his place alongside the other competitors. Years of preparation and countless hours of training have brought him to this place in time, the starting blocks of the Olympic 100-meter dash final. Now it all comes down to less than 10 seconds. He takes slow, deep breaths as he awaits the starting gun. Will he win gold, or will he be just another loser? Those watching may ask this question, but there’s no room in the sprinter’s mind at that moment for doubt or anxiety.
When a friend sent me a short Bible study by email, one verse in particular stood out to me: “A wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”1 That was an interesting thought: open doors and adversaries are biblically and sometimes necessarily connected.