Holiness sounds scary. It need not be, but to the average American it is. Our tendency is to say that holiness is something for the cloistered halls of a monastery. It needs organ music, long prayers, and religious sounding chants. It hardly seems appropriate for those in the real world of the 20th century. Author James White seems to agree with that as he wrote in “The Flight” the images that came to his mind when he thought about holiness: thinness, hollow-eyed gauntness, beards, scandals, long robes, stone cells, no sex, no jokes, hair shirts, frequent cold baths, fasting, hours of prayer, wild rocky deserts, getting up at 4 AM, clean fingernails, stained glass, and self-humiliation. Is that the mental picture you have when you think of holiness? Most do. It’s almost as though holiness is the private preserve of an austere group of monks, missionaries, mystics, and martyrs. But nothing could be further from the truth.
I couldn’t be in greater agreement with Chuck Colson’s statement in “Loving God”; “Holiness is the everyday business of every Christian. It evidences itself in the decisions we make and things we do, hour by hour, day by day.”
“Think about people who find themselves in religious ruts. They discover a number of things about themselves. They will find that they are getting older but not getting any holier. Time is their enemy, not their friend. They were not any better last year than they had been the year before.” A. W. Tozer
One of God’s intentions for adversity is to cause us to grow in holiness. Hebrews 12:10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. What is the connection between adversity and holiness? Adversity reveals the corruption of our sinful nature. Adversity reveals the depths of sin remaining in our lives. Scripture tells us we must obey and trust in His Word. We have a deep desire to obey and trust God. Who of us does not read the list of Christian virtues called the fruit of the spirit in: Galatians 5:22–23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
We desire: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We want all of these traits in our lives. We think we are making good progress in growing in each characteristic. Then adversity comes and we become aware that we are unable to love from the depth of our hearts the person who has caused the adversity. We don’t want to forgive that person. We realize we are not obeying and trusting God. Then unbelief, anger, and resentment, grows within us. We become discouraged as a result. The growth in Christian character we thought had occurred in our lives seems to have vanished like a vapor.
We may feel that we have lost our faith or become spiritual infants at this point in our life. Been there done that. This adversity has caused us to realize some of the corruption that remains within our hearts. If we trust God and use His discipline in our lives we can be sure that in due time the fruit of the spirit will be produced in each of us.
The Bible tells us to both love our enemies and to lend, expecting nothing in return. Which of these two do you have the hardest time doing? Why?