“Christmas! Christmas! I can hardly wait for Christmas!” Four-year-old Randy Williams clapped his hands and did a tumble to the Christmas tree in the corner of the family room.1
“What’s so special about Christmas?” his dad teased.
“Presents. Lots of presents. And cake and cookies and ice cream and—“
“Christmas is for you?”
“Yes! Yes! Yes! Christmas is for ME!” Mom was calling, and Randy rushed off to his bedroom to sleep and dream about Christmas.
Later that night dad shared with mom what Randy had said. “Where have we failed?” dad wondered aloud. “That little kid is nothing but a bundle of selfishness.”
“As are all little kids,” mom said.
“You think it’s NORMAL? For a kid to think that Christmas is just for him? How selfish can a little boy be?”
“I think it’s a wake-up call for us to show him the joy of giving. Let’s take some Christmas oranges to Mrs. Jensen at the care center. And take Randy with us.”
They did. And Randy’s face lit up when Mrs. Jensen’s did at the sight of the juicy oranges just for her. “That was fun,” he said in the car on the way home.
Later that night dad said to mom, “I think we’ve just learned a lesson.”
“That we need to keep practicing unselfishness and enjoy it so much that our son will learn the joy of giving, too.”
[Thought Questions for Living by the Spirit December 14, 2011]
1. Walking as a metaphor. How much “walking” do we do as Christians? How do we “walk” the Christian life? Why do you think Paul chooses this word as a metaphor for behavior? How would you describe the way you walk with Jesus to a four-year-old? Which is more important in sharing the good news of salvation—walking or talking? Why? Does “walking” as a Christian come with inherent rewards or must we wait for the Second Coming? Are all Christians blessed by their walk with God?
2. Tug-of-war. Do Christians fight battles within themselves even after their conversion and baptism? Why? Have you ever done something you knew you would regret, but you did it anyway? What is there within us that makes us struggle with sin even after we give our hearts to God? Is it possible in this life to be fully inoculated against the onslaughts of sin?
3. The Flesh. Does Paul seem to believe that all things of the flesh are evil, and all things of the Spirit are good? Do you? Why does Paul, in Ephesians 6:12, proclaim that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of evil? Is that a contradiction? Is it possible to “deny the flesh” to an extreme that is not sanctioned by God? Can we reach an extreme as well in indulging the flesh? How do we find God’s path on this walk in a sinful world?
4. Fruit of the Spirit. Would you like to possess all of the variations of the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control)? Can you? Why is “love” at the first of the list? Are the Ten Commandments related in any way to this list? How does obedience prepare us for full possession of these virtues?
5. Victory. Have you ever had a mountain-top experience in your Christian life? A time when you were so absorbed in God’s love that the troubles of your life melted away? Are there ways you can re-live that experience? Can you have such revelations of God’s loving care on a regular basis? How does one obtain victory over sin through Bible study? Can you keep that victory forever?
6. Crucify yourself. What did Paul really mean when he admonished us to crucify our flesh? Are you looking for a cross where you can hang until your death? Do you have a sinful nature? Would you like to kill it? If you shoot it down, is that the end of the battle? Where is the only path to a self that is driven by God’s love and not by selfish sin? How do we reach that path? How can you and I use Scripture to learn and re-learn the message that God’s infinite love is enough to save us from sin? What does the Bible say about walking with God?