We all probably have asked the question, "What's in it for me?" In the environment of teams, we call this the WIIFM factor. People always seem to have an underlying need to know the risks of taking certain steps - but they also want to know the benefits. This is why surgeons go over both the risks and benefits of the surgery being considered. Going under the knife carries the possibility of good outcomes (the disease is removed), but it also comes with some pretty unwelcome risks such as bleeding, infection, and even death! Knowing the "benefits" of certain actions helps us determine if they are best for our lives. I think this is what Paul had in mind when he penned these words:
But what happens when we live God's way?
He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard — things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
(Galations 5:22-23 The Message)
Paul has been reminding us of the lack of wisdom exhibited in using our freedom in Christ as a means to justify our continued sinfulness. He took great pains to lay out the differences between being secure in the one-time sacrifice Christ made at Calvary and the futility of continually trying to do things to justify ourselves through our good works.
Now, he wants us to realize the benefits of letting go of our need to constantly prove ourselves worthy of God's love. He if presenting the "WIFFM" factor. What's in it for us? Good gifts! Changed character! Different focus! Allegiances which really matter! A position of great authority! Wow! In today's vernacular, I think our response would be, "Sign me up!"
Look at the list:
- Affection for others - no longer being so self-focused and independent, but a true desire to "attach" and be "devoted" to others. The benefit of "connected" relationship is being described here.
- Exuberance about life - not just exuberance "for" life, but exuberance "about" life. Abundant and lavish enjoyment of today, not because we are still taking in breath, but because of the promise of profuse growth and awesome enjoyment of each day.
- Serenity - calmness of character is something many strive for, but few actually realize. Instead, we live with continual chaos. God's plan is for us to know the tranquility of his presence each moment of our day.
- A willingness to stick with things - some call this tenacity; others will call this commitment. Either way, it conveys the idea of standing firm. It is the idea of being persistent - getting on course and staying on course.
- A sense of compassion in the heart - there are times we are moved to meet a need, just because of what we see or hear. I cannot watch those ASPCA commercials which show the wounded, underfed dogs and cats for this very reason! The images "move" me! The heart is made up of our mind, will and emotions. The mind takes in the need, the emotions drive our response, and the will moves to meet the need. Christ's Spirit helps to align our heart with the good we need to be doing each and every day.
- A conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people - in other words, we learn to judge less and extend grace more. We don't overlook sin, but we don't judge the sinner, either. We embrace the sinner, extend grace, and await the move of Christ's Spirit in their lives.
- An ability to direct our energies wisely - because of redirected focus, we don't spin our wheels quite as much!
The list of "benefits" are pretty awesome! The enjoyment of freedom in Christ is summed up in the benefits. How do we know if someone is enjoying and living in the freedom Christ brings - we look for the fruit!