WHAT is the source of my spirit. Is it good or evil?
Do I have an honest spirit?
Is my spirit a sweet, cooperative spirit?
It is advisable for everyone to stop occasionally and take a good look at his spirit.
Webster says that spirit is "the life principle, especially in man . . . the thinking, feeling part of man ... an individual person or personality . . ."; and in defining spirit, he uses such words as "disposition, mood, courage, enthusiasm, enthusiastic loyalty" and states that it involves "real meaning; true intention: as, to follow the spirit if not the letter of the law."
It is readily observed then, that the spirit emanates from the heart or mind and that one's individuality or personality is to a large degree molded by the spirit. What are some of the desired fruits or characteristics of the spirit? All of us are acquainted with the fruits of the Holy Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22. These include faith, joy, love, meekness, longsuffering, and temperance.
Service With Love
I should like to suggest, how ever, that the real meaning in life is found in the spirit of service and that genuine service cannot be rendered without love. God is love, and He supplies all our needs. In return we should do all we can to supply the needs of our fellow man. Since action is con trolled by the spirit, let us be sure that our spirit is based on love. The longer we live, the more we realize that the man who wants to help himself can only do so by helping others. When a man develops a spirit of service he cannot sit still. He must move from his stationary, static position in life. He must figuratively and some times literally get his feet off the ground!
Yes, action frequently exposes us to many hazards in life, and we must recognize that these hazards cannot be transferred to someone else. We must accept full responsibility for them. Vinegar Joe Stillwell, famous general of the World War II, observed that "the higher a man climbs, the more his rear is exposed." Service demands action, and action frequently demands that we literally get our feet off the ground. Comedian Joe E. Lewis said, "Show me a man with both feet on the ground, and I'll show you a man who can't get his pants on."
No man can accomplish very much until he is able to engage in meaningful action, and in this sophisticated and complex world he must be able to teach others to be productive in their action. Someone has said: "You never get promoted when no one else knows your current job. The best basis for being advanced is to organize yourself out of every job you're put into. Most people are advanced because they're pushed up by the people underneath them rather than pulled up by the top."
Cooperation is also a fruit of the spirit, and a spirit of cooperation or togetherness a team spirit is absolutely essential for the success and survival of any program.
At our last Autumn Council, Dr. Floyd Rittenhouse emphasized the importance of a fundamental, cooperative, loyal spirit. He stated: "Over the years I have observed how often workers who manifest this basic attitude move on and up, whereas those who lack a sweet spirit somehow fall by the way."
Now, a sweet, cooperative spirit does not mean that you have to be a "yes man" and it does not mean that you must be a "no man," either. If one follows either course the end result will surely be a no man a nobody. Objective and constructive disagreement, how ever, has its place when engaged in by mature people, and it may even make our lives more interesting. The spirit of such engagements is, of course, very important.
Ogden Nash referred to dis agreements between husbands and wives and suggested that they may add interest to life. He said: "I hope husbands and wives will continue to debate and combat over everything debatable and combatable, because I believe a little incompatibility is the spice of life, particularly if he has income and she is pattable."
Desire for Excellence
Another fruit of the spirit is a desire for excellence, not only in our individual performance but also in the performance of the group in which we serve. A dairy firm painted on its delivery trucks the words "Our cows are con tented." A nearby competitor painted these words on his milk trucks, "Our cows are not con tented! They're anxious to do better." How can one be a loser with that attitude toward service?
Sometimes we may find it necessary to take a long step backwards and look at our motives and psycho-analize our personal egos. It is human nature to want a piece of the action, but let us be sure that our part of the action contributes to the long-range goal of our church rather than to the satisfaction of our personal ego. Someone has said that we should "stop thinking about self and think about something cheerful," and that "we can accomplish great things in life if we don't care who gets the credit."
Selfishness frequently stifles the life of an otherwise productive individual before experience has had a chance to teach him that selflessness is the only avenue to Christian service.
Abraham Lincoln was taking a walk with his two boys when they got into a heated argument. A friend approached and said, "Mr. Lincoln, what's the trouble with your boys?" Mr. Lincoln replied, "The same thing that's wrong with the rest of the world. I've got three walnuts, and each boy wants two." Booker T. Washington, a black American educator and reformer, said, "We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give."
Honesty is definitely a fruit of the spirit and is essential to the success of a Christian and to the success of any enterprise or endeavor. We must not only be honest with ourselves but we must also be honest and straightforward with others, especially in our association together as workers in the church.
I have always admired the honesty of President Lincoln. The story is told that a man approached Mr. Lincoln and said, "Mr. Lincoln, I have always said that if I ever met a man as ugly as I am, I would shoot him." Mr. Lincoln looked carefully at the man and said, "Sir, if I am as ugly as you are, go ahead and shoot!" Enjoyment and satisfaction in life come not so much from good looks or from the material things of life as from the security that is experienced when we are able to trust one another. How unfortunate it would be if we could not trust our loved ones at home or our fellow workers at the office. We must be able to trust one another, to trust that each will carry his share of the load, because an honest day's work is essential for the finishing of the work of our church.
I have heard Dr. Rittenhouse tell the story of a farmer and his two oxen. One ox was old and the other was young and inexperienced. When the farmer went out into the pasture and called the oxen to work, the old ox left the cool shade of the woods and was yoked to the plow for a hard day's work. The young ox went deeper into the woods and hid from the farmer. Day after day the old ox was yoked to the plow and the young ox went and hid in the woods. At the end of each day the two oxen met in the pasture and talked to each other. The young ox always wanted to know what the farmer had to say about his hiding in the woods, and the old ox normally answered, "Nothing, nothing at all was said about you." Then, one day the young ox became very curious and said, "I can't understand why the farmer doesn't come looking for me. Are you sure he hasn't said any thing about me?" The old ox answered, "Nothing, nothing at all was said about you, but I did see him talking to the butcher."
Dishonesty breeds fear and destroys one's health and peace of mind. It corrodes the spirit and may eventually destroy the soul. A spirit of honesty, on the other hand, breeds confidence and makes us feel worthy of the trust that has been placed in us.
To Quit or Not to Quit
Many years ago I became involved in a situation with my employer that convinced me we could not continue to work together. I spent several hours one night preparing a letter of resignation. The next morning I took the letter to my office and before it could be presented to my employer I found a quotation on my desk. My good wife had perceptively placed it there for me. I picked it up and read the following words: