Commentary on "By Their Fruit"
Day 5: Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Today’s lesson deals with the subject of trials being part of our lives as a means of increasing our faith and improving the quality of our “fruit”. The question is asked, “When that [pruning] process ended [in your life], in what ways were you different from before it began?”
Most of the body of the lesson is a quotation from In Heavenly Places by Ellen White. She makes the point that God permits trials to reveal the ways in which “spurious Christians” have their pride and desires to have their own ways revealed as a means of pointing out their “lack of genuine religion, of the meekness and lowliness of Christ,” and of their “need of the work of the Holy Spirit.”
It is true that God not only allows trials but sometimes leads us directly into trials for His purposes and glory. Through these trials we learn that He is faithful and that we can trust Him, as did the disciples in the storm on Galilee.
The underlying assumptions behind this lesson are the real issue. It is the foundational understanding that determines how this lesson is understood.
Once again, “fruit” and “trials” are not about discipline from a normal human perspective. Instead, the reality of trials and fruit-bearing are God’s work in our lives to bring us into spiritual life and into deeper trust.
Most Adventists believe that Satan causes the trials in our lives and that God permits him to do so in order to honor his and our free will. They believe that God can cause these Satan-induced trials to work together for good if we love God.
The biblical reality, however, is that God often directly leads us where He knows we will encounter storms. In the case of the disciples in Mark 13, Jesus told them to cross the lake. The storm arose while they were in the center of God’s will, obediently doing what Jesus commanded them to do. That storm was not Satan’s storm. It was a storm through which Jesus taught them that He was Lord over the elements as well as over their lives. He did not lead them out of or away from the storm; He met them in the storm. He revealed His glory and power in the storm and demonstrated that He would deliver His people not by removing them from danger but by being greater than the danger.
He wanted His disciples to learn to trust Him in the storm, not to beg for relief. The reality of Jesus’ sovereign power is greater than the danger of the storm, and we are to trust Him rather than fear.
Ellen White’s quotation makes the point that secret pride or selfishness or “lack of genuine religion” are the means by which God exposes our facades so we will realize we are in need of the “work of the Holy Spirit”. Her analysis is actually “inside-out”.
The work of the Holy Spirit is not God’s power giving us the ability to be meek and lowly and faith-ful. Rather, the work of the Holy Spirit is His indwelling of true believers, and God Himself does His own work in and through those who are born again.
Trials are not for the purpose of getting us to address our problems and overcome them. Rather, trials are for the purpose of trusting the Lord Jesus with our lives, with the outcome, and with our fear. He reveals Himself in our trials, and He teaches us to rest in Him even when we face death. His power and His provision is almost always different from what we wish or expect. He gives us far more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21), but He does not always remove our struggle. Instead, He gives us Himself.
Jesus asks us to surrender our minds and hearts to Him, accepting Him as Lord and Savior and submitting to His loving discipline of us (as opposed to our own self-discipline) and to His eternal power and love.
The fruit that appears in our lives as the result of trials is not “perfected character”. Rather, it is literally the presence and work of God that is allowed to exhibit itself un and through us increasingly as we surrender our own control and rest in Him, trusting in His love and care and utter faithfulness.
Real fruit is produced as we give up our rights to the Lord Jesus and allow Him to teach us to trust Him.
Copyright 2009 BibleStudiesForAdventists.com. All rights reserved. Revised December 29, 2009. This website is published by Life Assurance Ministries, Glendale, Arizona, USA, the publisher of Proclamation! Magazine. Contact email: BibleStudiesForAdventists@gmail.com.
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