The development of the “Fruits Of The Beatitudes” continued with the February 2016 post of the “Life’s Deep Thoughts” blog. This post talked about how to have a “fruitful” life. The post then ‘transitions’ to presenting what the Bible has to say about “fruitfulness”—and what ‘controls’ it.
The apostle Paul so happened to speak directly about this, calling it the “fruit of the Spirit” [ Galatians 5:22-23 ]. It sums up nine ‘characteristics’ of the Christian, which Jesus perfectly embodied.
I just ‘love’ pears—especially the real juicy ones when they are in season—and I am thinking of planting a pear tree this spring, so I can ‘nurture’ and care for it in a way that will produce the BEST POSSIBLE FRUIT.
The thing is, there’s a lot to do to give oneself the best possible chance of producing ‘good’ fruit.
According to the Michigan State University Department of Horticulture, the best time to plant one in Michigan is April. Bartlett and Bosc grow well, and aren’t bothered by Michigan’s long and chilly winters. The best location is one that will receive full sun, having enough space around it to mature to full size, and the soil has a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. The size of the hole should be twice the size of the tree’s root ball, and at the same depth as it was in the container. Mulch is suggested to hold water more easily and retard evaporation.
Fertilizer is to be added when the tree begins to grow again. It will need some in the springtime for the first three to four years.
Pruning is very important to get a healthy, productive tree. The newly planted tree should be cut back to a height of 24 to 30 inches right after planting, and any side branches should be removed to help it develop the proper shape.
As the tree grows, any ‘suckers’ should be removed off the base of the tree or that grow from the intersection between branches and the trunk, and any competing branches that grow vertically should be eliminated.
WOW!…LOTS OF THINGS TO DO—but after about three years, the experts say I will probably have fruit mature enough to eat, if I constantly care and nurture the tree over that ‘crucial’ period of time. The thing is, all the experts—and friends I know that have done it themselves—say it is WELL WORTH all the effort.
A friend of mine has pear trees in their backyard, but they have not been taken care of for many years, and the fruit isn’t any good. That can also be TRUE OF OUR LIVES—the ‘fruit’ that we produce will not be good unless we ‘nurture’ it daily. Webster’s defines “fruitful” as producing beneficial, profitable and abundant growth (something I WANT for all aspects of my life!).
The Bible uses the metaphor of “fruitfulness” throughout it, too—and it cites that it can be either good or bad, depending on what ‘CONTROLS’ one’s ‘heart’. It also says that it is one’s INNER ‘fruit’ that affects one’s outward behaviors.
It so happens that the apostle Paul spoke directly about this, and how one can have a “fruitful” life. It’s been called the “FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT,” and it sums up the nine ‘visible’ characteristics of the true Christian life. They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
The first thing you might notice about the term is that these are ‘actions’ “of the Spirit.” They are produced by the Spirit of God—the “Holy Spirit”—a necessary precursor to producing this ‘fruit’ in our lives.
So, first one needs to be a Christian—having the Holy Spirit ‘residing inside’ them—before they can expect to have the Spirit help them manifest these interpersonal qualities in their life.
Now granted, unbelievers can be loving, kind, good, and helpful, but deep down, these qualities tend to have a self-interest ‘component’ to them. While an unbeliever’s love many be ‘genuine’, it tends to be ‘conditional’. On the other hand, a ‘true’ Christian’s interest is to glorify God in all their actions, and not seeking to ‘inflate’ or draw attention to themselves—‘unconditional’ actions.
The difference is the Holy Spirit—who, if ‘permitted’ by the Christian to influence and guide them, will totally transform their character, bearing much ‘fruit’—and a life that will look more and more like Jesus each and every day.
However, even though a Christian has the Spirit and a “new divine nature” (2 Peter 1:3-4), it has an ‘antagonist’, the “old nature,” that still has all the ingrained thinking patterns and habits learned before becoming a Christian—which is still under the ‘sway’ of the Devil (1 John 5:19).
The apostle Paul addresses this—in the verses immediately preceding the “Fruit of the Spirit” verse—that there will be much internal conflict:
“I advise you to obey only the Holy Spirit’s instructions. He will tell you where to go and what to do, and then you won’t always be doing the wrong things your evil nature wants you to. For we naturally love to do evil things that are just the opposite from the things that the Holy Spirit tells us to do; and the good things we want to do when the Spirit has His way with us are just the opposite of our natural desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” [ Galatians 5:16-17 ].
Paul goes on to say that unlike the “Fruit of the Spirit,” the deeds of the ‘flesh’ are done by a person’s own efforts: “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God” [ Galatians 5:19-21 ].
So, as the Christian allows the Spirit to ‘dwell’ in them and they keep ‘in step’ with Him, the deeds of the flesh will lessen while the ‘fruit’ of the Spirit will increase. The spiritual behavior of walking by the Spirit causes the believer to put away the habitual ongoing evil deeds of the flesh and causes them to bear the good fruit produced by the Spirit. The Christian will know the Spirit is ‘prompting’ them because their peace will be disturbed and their conscience will ‘bother’ them. But, later they will also feel a sense of joy when they have been ‘delivered’ from it. This also ‘drives’ them to God in heartfelt prayer for the strength only He can provide.
As was mentioned, Paul named nine qualities as part of the “Fruit of the Spirit.” This divides neatly into three general groups, each consisting of three ‘qualities’.
Of course, we can expect some overlapping of application between the groups, but generally, the first group—love, joy, and peace—portrays a Christian’s mind with special emphasis on one’s relationship with God. The second group—patience, kindness, and goodness—contains social virtues relating to our thoughts and actions toward others, and our attitude during trials. The final group—faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—reveals how a Christian should be in their spiritual and moral reliability.
Each of these virtues is a quality every Christian should greatly desire, for without them, them cannot rightly reflect the mind and way of God. The “Fruit of the Spirit” reflects the virtues God wants mankind to manifest. Indeed, when Jesus became a man, it was by His life He glorified God the Father in Heaven. We also can do this by seeking first the ‘Kingdom’ of God and His righteousness—through yielding to His Word—and it will produce these characteristics of God in us. Then, as we become more like Christ, we will, like Him, glorify God with all our hearts!
Let me try—the best I can—to summarize each ‘quality’ mentioned in the “Fruit of the Spirit,” in the order mentioned.
In 1965, Jackie DeShannon sang “What The World Needs Now,” and it became a very popular ballad. The first line in the song ‘answers’ the title by saying that, “love, sweet love” is what the world needs. It expresses a desire that virtually everyone holds—to love and be loved. But what is love?
Judging by the commonly held understanding of “love,” it is clear the ‘world’ has only a foggy notion of what love really is. The prevalent idea is that love is a warm sense of regard, a strong desire to be satisfied by something, or the wonderful ‘feeling’ that one gets in the pit of their stomach when they are with their spouse. Some equate it with caring, benevolent giving, or sheer emotionalism. On occasion, we use the term very casually and loosely. People express their “love” for a certain kinds of food, style of house, color, automobile, fashion, performer, or sports team.
[ Note: There are 12 specific words for love in the Greek language, with four of them used, by far, the most times in the Bible: Agape; Eros; Phileo; and Stergo ].
But the Bible’s definition of love is a bit different. Rather than merely a feeling, an opinion, or a preference, it is something that is ‘unconditional’.
The “love” mentioned in the “Fruit of the Spirit” comes from the Greek word “agape” (pronounced: ah-gah-peh), which means to ‘willfully’ act in the interest of others, no matter who they are, how we feel, or what it costs (the highest ‘level’ of love). It does not depend on the other person’s performance or desirability. It is sacrificial—it costs you something to love in this way. It is not just giving, but ‘giving up’ for the sake of another. It puts another person’s well-being ahead of our own—not because they ‘deserve’ it or we feel like it, because it’s convenient or comfortable, or because of what they have done for us—but because it’s the way Jesus loves. Our greatest goal should be to do all things with this kind of love. This kind of love is only possible in any one of us when it is ‘empowered’ by the Holy Spirit.
The apostle Paul reveals love’s supreme importance to life. He contrasts love’s value to faith, hope, prophecy, sacrifice, and knowledge—and indirectly with all other ‘gifts’ of God mentioned previously. He does this to emphasize love’s importance, completeness, permanence, and supremacy over all other qualities we consider important to life. He in no way denigrates the other gift’s usefulness to life and God’s purpose, but is adamant that none can compare in importance to love. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” [ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 ].
Paul goes on to say that, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” [ 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 ]. Paul continues to emphasize that love is the epitome of all virtues: “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony” [ Colossians 3:14 ].
If we really love another person, we cannot possibly ‘injure’ them. Love would immediately stifle any thought that leads to adultery, murder, theft or any form of covetousness—because love does not harm.
There will be a time coming when love will be ‘perfected’ in us (in Heaven), and we will have it in abundance. However, in the meantime, while we are here on earth, we are to ‘pursue’ love: “Let love be your highest goal!” [ 1 Corinthians 14:1 ].
The apostle John also emphasized how important love is—telling us what Jesus said about it: “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples” [ John 13:34-35 ].
John continues: “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us” [ 1 John 4:8-12 ]. Love is the ‘supreme’ desire!
This command to love others cannot be fulfilled unless a person has the Holy Spirit ‘living’ within them. So, for those who have not yet ‘believed’ in Jesus, let me encourage you to do so right now. (A suggested prayer is below, immediately after the “Summary”).
THE ultimate manifestation of “agape” love was shown when Jesus willingly died upon the cross for the sins of mankind. We didn’t deserve this sacrifice, but Jesus gave His life willingly and God the Father gave up His Son to make it possible that we might be ‘saved’ from our sins. Love is the first quality mentioned in the “Fruit of the Spirit” because of its importance.
Paul then tells us where this love comes from: “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” We receive godly love from God, by means of His Spirit.
All this is possible because God, in His love, initiates a relationship with us, grants us repentance, gives us His Spirit, and then, because of His love, takes the lead in sustaining the relationship. “We love each other because God loved us first” (1 John 4:19). It should behoove us to earnestly show others the love God has showered upon us!
By developing a ‘relationship’ with God, we come to know Him and receive His love—and in experiencing His love, we become like Him and really get to know Him.
Only by knowing God can we have this kind of love; only by loving can we know Him; and only by obedience to God will it ‘prove’ our desire to love—keeping His commandments (1 John 5:3). It is the product of God’s Holy Spirit ‘living’ in our ‘hearts’ and our yielding to His guidance. It does not arise naturally within us and frequently requires us to change our will and make sacrifices.
FYI: This previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post presented a more in-depth discussion about love:
The Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, states that “we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Webster’s notes that “happy” is synonymous with “joy” and adds: “a very glad feeling; great pleasure; and “enjoyment because of your life, particular situation, or event.”
The thing is, happiness has to do with circumstances. Even Webster’s notes that joy is a sense of “great happiness”—something ‘higher’ and deeper than happiness or pleasure.
The Greek word for joy, used in Galatians, is “chara” (pronounced: khar-ah), which adds the nuance of well-being, a calm delight or a profound gladness—making it a deep inner quality. The verb form of “chara” is “rejoice.”
Everyone wants to be “joyful” and most people try to achieve it in varying ways and intensities. Some seek it in athletic endeavors, hobbies, travel, dancing, fashion, home improvements, wealth, status, alcohol, food or drugs. Except for a brief period of satisfaction and sense of well-being, no matter how ‘secure’ the sources of our joy seem, they all fall short long term—failing to fill that empty ‘place’ inside us.
In the Bible, King Solomon conducted a series of ‘experiments’ in his quest to discover, by practical experience and analysis, how to get the most and best out out of his life.
He searched in his heart on how to gratify his flesh with wine, great works, gardens and orchards, all kinds of fruit trees, waterpools, male and female servants, herds and flocks, silver and gold, special treasures, male and female singers, and musical instruments of all kinds. He became very wealthy, very wise, and excelled more than all who were before him in Jerusalem. Whatever his eyes desired he did not keep from acquiring it. He did not withhold himself from any pleasure. But, when he looked at all his works and labors, he came to the conclusion that “all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.”
Solomon admitted that his quest rewarded him with a certain amount of joy, but he still found it unsatisfactory. We might think that with all his wealth, good health, and discerning mind, he would have had joy in abundance. But that was not true. His ultimate conclusion was that only ‘in’ God can we experience ‘real’ joy.
The thing is, today, believers are given something Solomon did not possess all the time—the Holy Spirit—and as a result, our satisfaction comes from Him and not from favorable circumstances.
When we let the Word of God dwell within us richly, we will be filled with the Spirit and the “Fruit of the Spirit” will be manifested in us. Joy will be present in our lives because the quality of our relationships with God and others will be godly and consistently based on love.
Joy is gladness from experiencing a right relationship with God and ‘fellowship’ with others. Joy comes from seeing God ‘work’ in all things—even in our struggles and hardships.
Biblical joy is inseparable from our relationship with God and springs from our knowledge and understanding of the purpose of life and the hope of living with God for eternity when there will be joy forevermore. If God is actually present in our lives, His joy can be in us (Psalm 16:11). Joy is the sign that we have found our purpose, our reason for being! This then allows us to have joy even during hardships. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” [ James 1:2–3 ].
Now, this does not mean we have joy because of the pain and torment of a ‘storm’ of life. It means that we have joy because of our relationship with God, and have faith in His promises, protection, and provision. In ‘tough’ times we are told by the prophet Nehemiah that, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” [ Nehemiah 8:10 ].
We can seek joy all we want, but we will not find ‘true’ joy merely by seeking pleasurable excitement. The greatest of joys, however, are those that arise when we are so absorbed in some creative task that we are set free from self-concern—yielding wholeheartedly to the creative purpose God ‘working’ joy into our lives.
Jesus has great joy when He sees ‘growth’ in us—and wants to share His joy with us. This joy is based on being rightly related to God and to one another; the delight of watching God’s work unfold in one another’s lives; and the satisfaction of helping each other become the Christ-like men and women we were created to be.
This kind of joy just doesn’t happen. It ‘flows’ when we let the Word of Christ dwell richly within us, and we seek to be ‘filled’ with God’s Spirit—when we let Jesus lead us into deep and honest connections with others, and when we begin to delight in God’s continual work in our lives and the lives of others.
“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another…Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ” [ 1 Peter 4:10, 11 ].
It appears that for us to experience biblical joy, the fruit of God’s Spirit, we need godly inner qualities that we do not possess by ‘nature’. As with love—the love that springs from us naturally is but a pale reflection of God’s love—so also is it with joy. Until we come to the point where, by faith, we are supremely confident of God’s presence in our life—of His providence toward us in the past, present and future—we will not experience the enduring fullness of satisfaction God wants us to have.
This joy is a delight of the mind arising from the consideration of a present or assured possession of a future good. When joy is moderate it is called “gladness.” When our desires are limited by our possessions our joy is “contentment.” When joy has so long possessed the mind that it has settled into the deepest part of our being, we call it “cheerfulness.” When it is raised to the highest degree of joy it is “exultation.” This is natural godly joy.
There is a ‘moral’ joy that arises from our good actions or behavior. This kind of joy is called peace, or serenity of conscience. If this godly behavior is honorable and our joy rises higher, it may be called “glorious”—and we credit God for its presence in our life.
Just before Jesus was crucified, He promised the disciples (and us) that He would “pray to the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” [ John 14:16 ]. This is the Holy Spirit—the third ‘person’ of the Trinity (God) that comes to live ‘inside’ you when you are reconciled to God the Father. He is your “advocate,” reminds you all what Jesus taught, guides you to all truth, and assists you in living a joyful life!
Relationship with the Spirit is essential to any ‘real’ joy you will ever have!
FYI: This previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post presented a more in-depth discussion about joy:
Life is difficult, and at times it seems really unfair. Events almost never turn out exactly as planned. Yet, a major reason why we plan ahead is to avoid the disquieting stress of things beyond our control. It is certainly understandable why we all want tranquillity. But the reality of man’s history is that that tranquillity is rare indeed—whether between nations, families, individuals and at times even within ourselves. We may be quite intent on planning and striving for security within the framework of our ‘world’, but people and events, beyond our control, constantly intrude and sometimes seriously disrupt our desired plans.
Even in the intimacy of personal relationships, our control over the attitudes and behavior of others is minimal. How many of us have actually been successful in getting someone to change a behavior or quit an addiction? If an addict is in denial, despite impassioned appeals, they will rarely honestly face the truth of their addiction until they hit ‘rock bottom’.
Webster’s defines peace as freedom from war; harmony; concord; agreement; calm; tranquillity; serenity; quiet; undisturbed state of mind; absence of mental conflict; contentment; acceptance of one’s state; and the absence of anxiety.
The Greek word most often translated as peace is “eirene” (pronounced: eh-rey-ney). It has the sense of “joining what had previously been separated or disturbed.” Thus, it is frequently used to signify quietness and rest. Biblical scholar William Barclay says it “means not just freedom from trouble but everything that makes for a man’s highest good.” This is similar to the Hebrew word “shalom,” which has various meanings of totality, completeness fulfillment, maturity, soundness, wholeness, inner satisfaction, and the contentment and serenity that derive from living a full life—man’s highest good in the widest possible sense with everything being as it ‘should be’. When applied to the tranquillity of a person’s mind, even in the midst of trouble, it suggests that the person is being blessed with fullness or that their character is maturing into the image of God.
Peace is a state of assurance, lack of fear, and a sense of contentment. It is ‘fellowship’, harmony, and unity between individuals and/or God. Certainly, peace is what we all hope to enjoy in our relationships—not just the absence of conflict—but the presence of harmony, order, and vitality.
Distress and anxiety undergird much of the restlessness and disquietude that fills so many lives. They are produced by fear, uncertainty and insecurity—seeming to be at the whim of circumstances and people beyond our control. Our minds become troubled because we fear what is happening, or may happen to us or a loved one. We worry that the consequences will be difficult to overcome, embarrassing, physically painful, damaging to our reputation, or that we will be overwhelmed and suffer great loss.
First off, if one is not in a ‘relationship’ with God, one is in a state of ‘unrest’—because of sin. Their heart, mind, and soul are not peaceful and serene because they are in opposition to the Lord (Romans 8:6) and do not have the Spirit of God, or the God of peace within them (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Once a person repents and accepts Christ as Lord and Savior they are ‘granted’ peace. This peace comes from having their sins forgiven, and the privilege of now having a relationship with their Heavenly Father.
The Bible plainly states that the sinner is the enemy of God, and the state of a sinner’s mind is far from peace—it is at ‘war’. Their sinning proves the warfare, and the rebellion in their mind. They are often agitated, alarmed and trembling—feeling ‘alienated’ from God. God is not in their thoughts (Psalm 10:4). The prophet Isaiah explains:
“But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked’” [ Isaiah 57:20-21 ].
However, after we are reconciled with God, He then ‘gives’ us His peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” [ John 14:27 ]. This peace of which Jesus speaks has a different ‘source’ than the world’s peace.
The peace that Jesus offers comes only as the result of God’s calling, by His Spirit, through which He works in and through us to bring us into loving submission to God. That is the way of daily talking and ‘walking’ with God—coming to know intimately His faithful, loving use of His wisdom and power to complete His glorious purpose in our lives. It produces a “peace that passes all understanding” because then everything is under His perfect control (Romans 8:28-30).
Of course, if a Christian fails to trust in God and obey the Word of God (the Bible), their peace will diminish because they are out of ‘fellowship’ with God. The apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians addresses the conflict that can arise between the Spirit and the ‘flesh’. As long as a Christian lets the Word of God ‘dwell’ in them richly, and lives according to the Word, they will be ‘filled’ with the Spirit—and the fruit of the Spirit will be manifested in their life. Peace from God is part of this fruit.
Fear often enters our life and can cause conflicts within us. When we fear, we are lacking faith in the power and sovereignty of God. Once fear has a foothold we begin to mistrust Scripture, then God, and then we get ‘out of step’ with the Spirit. When we are not living a life filled with the Spirit we will fail to manifest the fruit of the Spirit and a lack of peace will be felt.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” [ Philippians 4:6–7 ].
This passage gives us an intimate description of the deep peace of God one can possess. It is often hard to explain how the peace from God can sustain us when the world is crumbling around us or trials are pressing down upon us. But that is the power of the peace that God can give us. We have the “Fruit of the Spirit” when we are keeping in step with Him, with one aspect of this fruit being God’s peace.
This peace is not a kind of secular contentment that people can find by lowering their standards and expectations. It is both a gift from God to those reconciled to Him through Jesus and a ‘product’ of the Holy Spirit in us as we grow in a continuing, trustful relationship through the daily affairs of our life.
This following verse gives more direct and specific reasons why peace is such a great benefit toward spiritual well being: “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” [ James 3:17-18 ].
If a person is ‘righteous’, then peace tends to follow. First, this occurs because a pure-hearted person is at peace within themselves. They are therefore not self-centeredly and discontentedly seeking to impose their will and way on others to control their lives. Such a person will not induce conflict.
It is very difficult for people to have conflict with others who will not fight. This does not mean that we should make peace at any cost by denying truth. We can remain faithful to truth without going to ‘war’, though it might appear costly at the moment. Jesus, and many others in the Bible did this successfully.
Peace is also unity between people. Followers of Jesus are ‘called’ to live at peace with all people, not just fellow believers. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath” [ Romans 12:18–19 ].
So, seek the peace of God. First by seeking Him through His Son, then by letting the Word of God dwell richly within you, and finally as the Holy Spirit fills your entire being. Through submission, obedience, and humility, the fruit of the Spirit will manifest itself in you and the peace of God will permeate all you are and do. As we let the Spirit ‘rule’ in our lives, in accordance with the Word of God, we can have this deep godly peace.
As a Christian trusts in Jesus, the Holy Spirit that lives within them gives them the power to have more hope and peace. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” [ Romans 15:13 ].
Peace is the proper condition for the fruit of righteousness, and peacemakers are the green-thumbed ‘gardeners’. Growing a good crop demands the right conditions for the good ‘seed’ of peace to flourish.
FYI: This previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post presented a more in-depth discussion about peace:
On the one hand, the quality of patience evokes images of stoicism, tolerance, and passivity in most people’s mind. On the other hand, it brings to mind people who are easily irritated and they “blow up” in red-faced fury, shouting a torrent of invective intended to let everyone within hearing distance know they have been put upon and have “had it.” The great bulk of us are somewhere in between. We may not show this much agitation on the outside, but inwardly we sometimes are ‘churning’ with varying degrees of stress, wishing that people would “just get on with it” so we can do our own thing.
Patience is a quality of wise, controlled restraint that prevents believers from speaking or acting hastily when faced with a situation of disagreement, opposition, or persecution.
The Greek word for patience is “makrothumia” (pronounced: mah-krow-thew-me-ah). It can also be translated “perseverance,” or “longsuffering.” Makrothumia is patience in respect to persons, while another Greek word “hupomone,” meaning “endurance,” relates to ‘putting up’ with things or circumstances. Makrothumia is especially related to “love,” whereas hupomone is especially related to “hope.” The opposite of makrothumia is wrath or revenge, whereas the antonym of hupomone is cowardice or despondency.
Patience almost always involves ‘waiting’ in some form or another. Waiting for circumstances to change for the better; waiting for someone to change their actions and thoughts; waiting for your own attitude and perceptions to accommodate to what is taking place in your life; or waiting for the Spirit to guide you in a situation.
Patience is a major characteristic of God—delaying His wrath upon us for sin, and allowing time for us to ‘come to our senses’. This should ‘fill us’ with gratitude. “So he prayed to the Lord, and said, ‘Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm’” [ Jonah 4:2 ].
Also note the other qualities of patience in the last two references. The qualities of grace, mercy, lovingkindness, goodness, and truth allow God to work with people so they can remain alive and eventually transform into His image. If God struck back at people like short-fused humans frequently do, no one would be alive today!
Since God patiently waits for us, we should be patient with one other in the midst of uncomfortable and stressful situations. We can do this as we let the fruit of the Spirit—of which patience is a part—manifest itself in our lives. While patience can be passive in a sense, it is also purposeful. It could be called “redemptive waiting.” We are waiting for the relationship or the situation to be redeemed by God as we wait upon Him to use us, to change the situation, for the other person to change, or even for us to change ourselves. Patience is allowing God to work in ways that we can’t always foresee or understand. It can be hard, but it is always much easier if we ‘rest’ in the power of the Holy Spirit, and let His fruit manifest itself in our heart, mind, and soul.
We can learn a great deal about why patience is so vital by comparing the process we are going through to an artist sculpting a work from a piece of marble. Chip by chip, over a period of time, an artist uses hammer and chisel to shape his ‘conception’ from a raw slab of rock until the finished figure is revealed. God is doing much the same with us except we are living raw material with mind, emotions, and the liberty to allow or disallow the Artist to continue. If we are impatient, not allowing God to complete His artistry by our constant yielding to His tools, we will never be ‘whole’. “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” [ James 5:7–8 ].
Patience is also not merely a fixed determination to hold our place in the ‘teeth’ of the wind, but to make actual progress in spite of it. A ship may ride out a strong wind with a snug anchor and strong chains, though another may set the sails to take advantage of the wind to bring it closer to its destination. It is this latter attitude that James is bidding us have and use.
Notice that the Spirit does not perceive patience as passive. It works! The fruit of its work can be another virtue it is producing or preserving.
Patience is manifesting wisdom in a heated or tense situation. This takes reliance upon the power of the Holy Spirit, built upon a foundation of God’s Word. We can all muster up a certain amount of patience with our flesh, but it takes spiritually empowered patience from the fruit of the Spirit to deal with most heated confrontations we face in relationships.
Being patient in no way means we are weak, though to some we may at first seem so—nor does it mean that we approve of their conduct. Though we may hate their conduct and suffer keenly when it affects us, Jesus tells us to “bless them”—meaning we should confer favor upon or give benefits to them. We can do this by wishing the person well, speaking kindly of and to them, and seeking to do them good.
Jesus said: “But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away” [ Matthew 5:39-45 ].
Situations like this may be the most difficult test we will ever face. Patiently deferring retaliation and committing the circumstance to God’s judgment is indispensable to the best possible solution. By imitating God’s ‘pattern’, we will resemble Him and take a giant stride toward being ‘formed’ in His image.
Patience is love forbearing. Patience suggests self-restraint under the pressure of provocation, especially undeserved provocation. We are to be “slow to become angry.” It is often described as a gentle resignation to a situation or another person that is not likely to change (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 86:15; Psalm 103:8; Psalm 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3). It highlights God’s ‘natural’ ability to be patient with us—reflecting His great love for us.
Patience is a two-way street. We desire others to be patient and forgiving toward us in our faults, but do we practice the same attitude and conduct toward those whose faults offend us? Well, God clearly demands reciprocity. He expects us to pass His patience and forgiveness toward us on to others—as Jesus did.
Patience shown to others often comes as we become realistically patient with ourselves. We sometimes beat ourselves up because we are not growing spiritually as we think we should. God is the best judge of our spiritual growth and we must understand that spiritual maturity takes time to develop. Francis de Sales a Jesuit theologian stated, “Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself.”
It is interesting that Solomon connects impatience to pride. He observes that the impatient haughtily seize on something before it is finally worked out, while the patient see a thing to its end and are rewarded. This principle also applies to God working with us: “He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly” [ Proverbs 14:29]. Patience grows from a combination of faith, hope, love, and self-control.
It is not difficult to trace the source of biblical patience in God’s children. The apostle Paul states, “Love suffers long and is kind” [ 1 Corinthians 13:4 ]. As noted above, patience is directly associated with love and hope. In the “love chapter,” Paul lists patience first among love’s works. Paul adds that “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” [ Romans 5:5 ].
FYI: This previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post presented a more in-depth discussion about patience:
Kindness could be defined as an attractive temperament that shows mercy, generosity, and charity to others—an action which flows out of a ‘spirit’ that seeks good and not harm.
In most cases, kindness is not beyond any of us because it usually doesn’t cost any money to do. It may take the sacrifice of time, energy, or discipline to be thoughtful of others’ needs and to make the effort to act. But, the ‘consequences’ of kindness are incalculable—for such a spirit can ‘ripple’ out to touch the lives of those far removed from the original act. Kindness sows the ‘seeds’ that can only bear good fruit.
Though the world encourages us to get even with those who hurt us, God has a higher ‘calling’ for those He calls His children. We are to be kind to everyone instead of seeking to “get even.” We are not to seek revenge and payback for evil done to us. We are to be kind and show kindness whenever possible.
The Greek word for kindness is “chrestotes” (pronounced: krey-stah-teys) and is “hesed” in the Hebrew. They can be translated as good, gentle, sweet, and useful. It often is related to philanthropy or forbearance. It is the grace which pervades the person’s whole nature, ‘mellowing’ all which would be harsh and austere. The word is descriptive of one’s disposition—the ‘attitude’ in which an act is done—and does not necessarily entail acts of goodness.
Freedom of decision to give is essential to kindness. The help given by the person showing it should be done freely—without compulsion—not reducing it to be a merely obligatory, mechanical, legal act rather than an act of free-moral agency of the heart.
We know that sometimes doing an act of kindness is difficult in itself, let alone doing it with a concerned, warm and generous spirit. We must always remember, however, that Jesus did it, that our Father God requires it of us if we are to be like Him, and that He has given us His Spirit to enable us to do it. The choice is ours.
We all can show kindness to others. All it requires is a consistent obedience to God’s Word, a ‘filling’ of His Spirit, and a willingness to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit—as we are empowered by the Spirit. Kindness can change this harsh world on a person by person basis, and you will be ‘rewarded’ for doing so!
We know it is easy to show kindness to those who are pleasant, friendly and kind, but God has a higher ‘calling’ for Christians. He wishes us to be kind to all people, even those who are mean, ungrateful and unkind. God is our example again, for He shows kindness at times even to the ungrateful and wicked. “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” [ Luke 6:35 ].
This godly trait and fruit of the Spirit comes from the Holy Spirit empowering our lives. When we think of kindness, we may think it is timid and weak, though often it takes great strength of character and determination to let the Holy Spirit empower us to be kind to others—especially those who have a tendency to wound or do us harm. The world can be an insensitive and brutal place at times, but when we demonstrate the virtue of kindness to others it can soften the harshness of the situation.
Again, God is our ‘model’ of kindness. His gracious gifts to us are more than we deserve. They are unearned and unmerited by us who have willingly sinned against Him, and have either ignored or neglected His awesome purpose for our lives. However, despite this, His gifts of life are nonetheless unforced and an abundant manifestation of His kind nature. He does not return evil for evil, does not bear grudges, or ‘burn’ with resentment to get even (as we may do). Rather, He freely gives even to ‘evil doers’, while He patiently works toward the completion of His ultimate purpose—for all to be ‘saved’ and come to know Him intimately!
God’s kindness ‘saves’ us from harm, and illustrates the immensity of His grace towards us. His kindness also demonstrates His great love for us. This serves as an example for us to follow. As we are ‘filled’ with God’s love, we are to demonstrate this love towards others as we show kindness to them—even in difficult situations. The “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37) did not inquire whether or not the wounded man was “one of his own.” The only criterion was that he needed an act of kindness performed for him in his desperately weakened situation. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” [ Ephesians 4:32 ].
When Paul illustrated how love acts, patience leaped into his mind first: “Love suffers long” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Immediately following that, he writes, “and is kind”—giving the impression that love and kindness belong together to such an extent that we can conclude that without kindness no act is truly done in love!
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” [ Colossians 3:12-14 ].
Being kind and merciful is evidence that we have God’s Spirit in us, and that the love of God is ‘working’ in our hearts—producing good ‘fruit’. For proof of the importance of passing on God’s kindness—expressed in His giving us His Spirit and promising we will receive yet more mercy for being merciful—listen to Jesus’ words:
“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ …And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’” [ Matthew 25:34-36, 40 ].
Kindness is something that we must develop, but we don’t have to do it by ourselves—because God has ‘enabled’ the Christian with His Spirit. This ‘fruit’ is especially sweet tasting, and a major factor in producing “perfect unity.”
[ FYI: My church, Faith Covenant, used the Matthew 25 area of Scripture to help those in their surrounding community with their gifts of time, talent, and treasure. Here’s the summary video of the “Advent Lights” initiative they did during the 2015 Advent season ]:
Commonly, “good” connotes merely more or less admirable motives and deeds, and its use is often no more than unthinking politeness.
“Good” has implications of some degree of excellence. What varies is the precise degree of excellence that lies unexpressed and hidden in the ‘heart’. We sometimes use “good” as a sweeping generality.
It has so many uses that one dictionary, The Reader’s Digest Complete Oxford Word Finder, devotes an entire page in very fine type to list them! Its common usage suggests: a desirable quality; something commendable; favor; reliable; enjoyable; beneficent; kind; noble; admirable; welcomeness; competence; attractiveness; thoroughness; soundness; exemplary; moral excellence; and moral rightness.
In the word “goodness,” the inner qualities of virtue, excellence of character, morality, and attitude that we see in a person’s behavior come to the forefront. Goodness is the unselfish desire to be open-hearted and generous to others. It can also be described as moral excellence and virtuous. It often reflects a great strength of purity of character.
The Greek word for goodness is “agathosune” (pronounced: ah-gah-thow-soo-ney). It can also be defined as “uprightness of heart and life.” While kindness is an ‘inner’ disposition of someone, goodness is a more an ‘outer’ and active term. Goodness is a generous character which is energized, expressing itself in active, outward acts of good towards and for others. Agathosune, at first glance, seems very similar to chrestotes (“kindness”). However, closer examination of its use in the Bible reveals a word indicating ‘zealous’ activity in doing good. Kindness or gentleness (“chrestotes”) is more passive.
It is more than an excellence of character, it is character energized—expressing itself in active good, but it does not spare sharpness and rebuke to produce good in others. Goodness is indicative of a ‘perfect’ balance in the various parts of the personality—one in whom everything that is noble and excellent works harmoniously together. Thus they can be gentle or ‘sharp’, but what they do always has the right balance and is good.
The scriptural concept is immensely deeper and its use much more restricted. This fruit of God’s Spirit is more inward, touching on every thought, word and deed of the godly person. This demands that motives be right before we call any action good. This means our central and all-influencing motive is loving God and regarding His will in all things. It means that the “good” person is one in whom righteousness (right doing) flows from inward devotion and love toward God.
True goodness is inseparable from godliness. Godliness is goodness’ source and foundation, and the sole condition on which ‘real’ goodness is possible.
A good person may have failures, but it is the ‘direction’ of their desires and motivations that gradually determines their character, and not necessarily the degree of perfection they have achieved.
God is the Source of all that can truly be called “good,” describing Himself as “abounding in goodness” (Exodus 34:6). So, if God is the Source of good, how can a person ‘tap’ into that source? Jesus briefly addresses this question in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” [ Matthew 7:7-12 ].
Ask God for goodness, with the right motivation, and He be ‘glad’ to give it to you!
Part of expressing goodness involves giving. We give of our time, talent, and treasure to demonstrate God’s love for others as He works through us to share His love with those who are lost in sin. As we serve others and provide for their needs, God’s goodness is expressed through us.
When goodness and knowledge are combined, it provides for us the best way to “walk the talk” despite the ‘pulls’ of this world. Goodness provides the right disposition, motivation, knowledge, and the correct instruction. One devoid of the necessary knowledge cannot teach, and anyone destitute of goodness will not even try because they lack the impulse to help others with the right spirit.
The apostle Paul links goodness with full knowledge and admonition of each other: “I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another” [ Romans 15:14 ]. Goodness will hold things ‘in check’ while guiding knowledge to build up rather than destroy. Biblical goodness is always, under every circumstance, beneficial.
To be good and express goodness may seem a timid and weak way to confront the challenges in the world, but this fruit of the Spirit has an enormous ‘strength’ to impact the world for good. Goodness expressed through the power of the Spirit can soften the harshness of the world. It can overcome hatred, comfort those who are wounded, and motivate people to see that true goodness comes only from God. Goodness can be, at the same time, kind and strong.
A good person always wants to alleviate suffering and to mitigate wrongs. They consciously look for ways to benefit others. Because they are not out to gratify themselves, their works are not self-centered—they are the benefactor of the weak, helpless, and those in trouble—and even sometimes of the ‘evil’.
How many times have we had an impulse to do some good and stifled it by giving ourselves some “good” reason why we should not? The apostle Paul reminds us “Do not quench the Spirit,” (1 Thessalonians 5:19), but “stir up the gift of God” to even greater intensity (2 Timothy 1:6), and that God “has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Goodness is something we must devote ourselves to. We must cultivate it because, coming out of this present ‘evil’ world, we have not been schooled in doing good. It is not part of our character. We have been schooled in being self-centered, and self-centered people cannot do godly good.
We need to then take every opportunity to yield to the Spirit for this purpose and labor to develop the goodness that is its fruit.
Not too long ago, a person’s word was their bond, and a mere handshake sealed major business agreements. Tales of Abraham Lincoln’s honesty over pennies are an almost legendary part of our nation’s history.
Faithfulness hinges upon what we value as important combined with commitment. Humans have a powerful tendency to be faithful to what they think is truly important, be it a family name, spouse, friendship, employer, school, athletic team or even certain ‘things’ like a make of automobile.
Webster’s defines faithful as: “steadfast adherence; loyalty; constant; staunch; and resolute. Steadfast adherence implies that a person is bound by an ‘oath’ or obligation. Loyalty implies undeviating allegiance to a person, cause, institution, which one feels morally bound to support or defend. Constant suggests freedom from fickleness in affections or loyalties, and staunch implies such a strong allegiance to one’s principles or purposes as not to be turned aside by any cause. Resolute stresses unwavering determination, often in adhering to one’s personal ends or aims. All of these ‘variations’ of faithfulness are marked by a strong sense of duty or responsibility, conscientiousness, reliability, and maintaining a strong allegiance.
The Greek word for faithfulness is “pistis” (pronounced: piss-tiss), is also translated as “faith.” It refers to a moral conviction to do right by relying upon God. Those individuals who are faithful and demonstrate faithfulness are assured in their belief in God’s holy character, and therefore this impacts how they lead their lives and treat others. The Hebrew word for faithfulness is “emunah,” which literally means “firmness,” figuratively means “security,” and morally means “fidelity.”
When we speak of one another as faithful, we mean that we adhere to our word—that we are trustworthy. It is much the same when we think of God’s faithfulness. Usually, the first idea that comes to mind when God is called faithful is that He keeps His promises.
Faithfulness is devotion to God, loyalty to friends, and dependability to carry out responsibilities. It is keeping your word. It is a firm and unchanging attachment to a person or idea. The word “faith” assumes there will be challenges to this loyalty—the passing of time, disappointments, setbacks, or even danger.
The thing is, unfaithfulness is rampant in our world today—even among God’s children—because they fail to use His Word as a guide and therefore quench the Spirit by their thoughts and behavior. We see this manifested in the increase of breakups between business partners and divorce in marriages.
Faithfulness is as much needed in our time as it was in Jesus’ time on the earth. “Faithfulness” turns out to be one of the most common and important words in the New Testament. It’s simply a variation of the word “faith.” To have faith in God is to trust Him, to take Him at His Word, and to put ALL of our confidence in Him. God IS worthy of our trust!
So, what’s the attitude, or what qualities in us should correspond to us being faithful? Well, ‘holding fast’ is the first indication of faithfulness. Being “reliable” and “trustworthy” engenders loyalty and dependability.
God’s faithfulness should awaken faith in us, so we can respond in submissive obedience. If He is worth trusting, we should trust Him. Just as with two tuning forks of the same pitch, when one is struck, the other responds by vibrating also. “For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD” [ Psalm 117:2 ].
God’s very nature and character constitute a solemn obligation that He is ‘bound’ by what He is and that He can never be, even in the smallest degree, contradictory to or less than the ‘perfect’ level of His own consistent and uniform self.
By contrast, a ‘war’ goes on inside us. Contradictory impulses and thoughts flood our minds. “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh” (Galatians 5:17), and we frequently lose the battle because God’s “divine nature” does not completely fill our minds. We are ‘hot and cold’ and don’t ‘rise up’ to our best selves.
Have you ever found yourself seemingly cut loose from all moorings, adrift in a sea of problems from which, as far as you could tell, God has ‘vanished’? Have you ever begun on what seemed like a great adventure only to be swept away in a flood of sorrow, loneliness, perplexity, and disappointment that seems as though it will end only in despair?
Well, God will not lose track of you! His faithfulness promises another great assurance: It guarantees that all your trials will be in proportion to your strength.
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” [ 1 Corinthians 10:13 ]. God will never lay on us anything beyond our power to overcome. He knows how much pressure our ‘hearts’ can stand. He clearly recognizes how to shape the burdens needed to prepare us for His Kingdom.
A vibrant faith is based on our faithfulness to God—and it springs from a joyful hope in God’s promises. Faith in the goodness of God enables us to be patient when we are suffering or experiencing affliction of any sort. Faith is expressed when we pray with confidence in God’s provision for our lives: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” [ Romans 12:12 ]. We are called to pray faithfully demonstrating our faith in God.
The good news is that there are ‘rewards’ for our faithfulness to God in the midst of persecution—spoken of as the “crown of life.” This ‘crown’ is given to those who endure intense persecution for their faith or lose their life because of their dedication to God. “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer…Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” [ Revelation 2:10 ].
God rewards faithfulness. When we have faith in God we can have courage that He is by our side in the storms of life. Our faith in God grows as we continue to be faithful to Him no matter what may come our way.
Jesus wanted Peter to hold Him of greater importance than anything on earth, and He expects the same staunch commitment from us today! We must love Christ supremely, or we do not love Him much if at all. If we are not willing to give up all earthly possessions, forsake all earthly friends, and obey Him above all others—including our own carnal desires, and to be faithful to Him—our attachment to Him is tenuous at best. Is such a proposition too much? Does not marriage require a similar faithfulness from each spouse? Without it, it is no wonder there is so much adultery and divorce.
Perhaps our greatest obligation on earth is for us to imitate Jesus’ faithfulness. It does not become an individual who professes to trust in the faithful God to be shifty and unreliable in word and deed. Since God has been faithful to us, it should become our responsibility to imitate Him in being faithful by being faithful to others.
Because God is faithful, the strength to be faithful is promised to us. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” [ Hebrews 4:16 ]. Forgiveness, access to His throne, the promises of His Spirit, and that no trial will be greater than we can bear—combined with His declaration that He works in us both to will and to do—assure us that this fruit of the Spirit can be produced in us when we yield as faithful servants.
Jesus was and is faithful to the Father. Because Jesus Christ is our Lord and Master, we not only seek to serve Him, we also desire to be more like Him as we grow as His followers. We are ‘called’ but be faithful servants of God. “His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” [ Matthew 25:21 ].
As Christians, we are called to faithfulness to God and to each other as reflected in our lives by keeping our promises and God’s commandments. God grants us ‘access’ to Himself through His Spirit—giving us the ‘means’ to be faithful.
FYI: This previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post presented a more in-depth discussion about faithfulness:
Gentleness is a humble, non-threatening demeanor that makes others feel safe and cared for. It is an attitude that has concern for others and therefore influences how we approach and talk with others. When we express gentleness we are tender with our words, touch, and treatment of those around us.
Gentleness seems to be very much ‘lost’ in our aggressive, self-centered culture. Because people associate it with weakness, most today do not admire others for being “gentle,” but as we shall see, it is not what they assume. It is a quality of character very noticeable in the ‘greatest’ human being ever to grace this earth—and one that all of us sorely need today.
Webster’s makes it clear why gentleness is associated with weakness. Notice its synonyms listed: tame, timid, mild, bland, unambitious, retiring, weak, docile, acquiescent, repressed, suppressed, spiritless, broken, and wimpish.
Such words give us an impression that gentleness is weak or “wimpy.” This could be something that men may have issue with in regards to their masculine nature. But, we must remember that Jesus was a man’s man. He was gentle, but He also confronted the men of power of His day. Not a single one of these words applies to Jesus or even to Moses, who the Bible claims “was very meek [gentle], above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). Charles Swindoll says that “gentleness isn’t weak or soft, but strength under control.”
The Greek word for gentleness comes from two words, “prautes” (pronounced: prah-oo-teys) and “epieikes” (pronounced: e-pē-ā-kā’s). This can also be translated as “consideration,” “humility,” or “meekness.” Prautes means humility, considerateness, meekness, and it describes things or people. It is getting angry at the right time, in the right measure, and for the right reason. It is a condition of mind and heart which demonstrates gentleness, not in weakness, but in ‘power’. It is a balance born in strength of character. Epieikes is a word used to express a balanced, intelligent, decent outlook on life, a good citizen, an admired person, and a trusted individual.
The Hebrew word translated “meekness” is “anav” or “anaw,” meaning “depressed in mind or circumstances (needy; saintly); humble; lowly; meek; and poor.” The translation depends upon the context in which it appears. It also means afflicted, and miserable—commonly with the added notion of a lowly, pious, and modest mind, which prefers to bear injuries rather than return them.
We may still feel that gentleness is a weak character trait, and we do not stand alone in our perception of this word. The ancient Greeks did not rank it as a virtue either, except in a very narrow circumstances. Jesus, however, ‘lifted it’ from its narrow context and made it refer primarily to our relations with God. Bible scholar William Barclay adds that meekness [gentleness] is “the most untranslatable of words in the New Testament.”
The Greeks also defined gentleness as power under control. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit to be gentle in speech at all times, rather than flying off the handle and speaking destructive words. To be gentle and loving often requires great spiritual strength. Jesus is ‘THE’ example of someone who is gentle.
In last month’s post I discussed the “Beatitudes,” and the third one (dealing with inner attitudes, and how a person sees himself before God) is “Blessed are the meek.” [ https://markbesh.wordpress.com/the-blessed-life-v203/ ]. Meekness (gentleness) is so important that Jesus mentions it in His ‘foundational’ teachings. Obviously, the world’s ideal of the perfect man is very different from His. Today, the ‘world’ would probably word it like this: “Blessed are the strong, who can hold their own.” The world favors more conspicuous and so-called heroic virtues. Those who are strongly—almost fiercely—competitive and aggressive are the ones who receive recognition, admiration, and reward. The thing is, the gentle are among those so favored that they will share in Jesus’ inheritance of the earth!
The fruit of gentleness must be seen in your attitude, in your behavior, and in your conversation—especially when things don’t go the way you want them to. This can only happen if you are letting the Spirit ‘lead’ your life. The fruit of gentleness isn’t something that comes naturally. Gentleness comes from a life committed to living as Jesus would, and being under the constant control of the Spirit of God. This comes from life cultivated by the Word, empowered by the Spirit, and an ever deepening relationship with God the Father. Gentle people have been transformed by the message of God’s grace, and they delight in showing that grace to others.
The gentle person has ceased to think or care about themselves. Their pride and self-will have been ‘expunged’. They do not measure the importance of events by their relation to their personal comfort or what they will gain from them. They see everything from God’s perspective, seeking only to serve His purpose in the situations life imposes.
Gentleness is the fruit of God by His Spirit working in us. Godly sorrow softens our ‘stiff-necked’ rebellion and our hearts so that we are made receptive to the workings of God to produce His image in us. Therefore gentleness, along with the qualities already mentioned, also includes our becoming pliable, malleable, submissive, and teachable. A New Testament term for this condition might be “childlike.”
In short, we have to have a forgiving spirit to be gentle. Without it, we will surely promote divisiveness. This does not in any way mean a lowering of the standards of justice or of right and wrong. Gentleness can be accompanied by a war to the death against evil, but the gentle Christian directs this warfare first against the evil in his own heart. He is a repentant sinner, and his recognition of this state radically alters his relations with his fellow man. A sinner forgiven must have a forgiving attitude.
This attitude of forgiveness is emphasized like this: “Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you” [ Luke 6:37-38 ].
A gentle person will feel the wrong done against him and feel it bitterly. But because he is not thinking of himself, his gentleness does not allow his spirit to give vent to a hateful or vindictive anger that seeks to “get even.” He will instead be full of pity for the damaged character, attitudes and ‘blindness’ of the perpetrator. A gentle person understands this more clearly, thus his judgment is tempered, avoiding reacting more harshly than is necessary. Gentleness is what results when one’s spiritual knowledge, understanding, and passions are in proper balance.
No matter what issue we face in life or how difficult a relationship issue we might have to deal with, we are to respond with gentleness. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” [ Proverbs 15:1 ].
This does not mean the gentle will take everything “lying down.” Moses, as I said earlier, was the ‘gentlest’ man of his time, but against evil he was as stern as steel. How a gentle man reacts depends upon what he discerns God’s will is for him within the circumstance. Because the gentle man sets his mind on God’s purpose and not his own comfort, ambition, or reputation, he will offer implacable resistance to evil in defense of God, yet react with patience, kindness and gentleness when others attack him—all, of course, empowered by the Spirit of God.
Relationships are a blessing, but no matter how cordial, loving and pleasant they can be, there comes a time when we encounter stress and conflict. In such situations we are called to be gentle and we must seek to express love. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” [ Ephesians 4:2 ].
Gentleness enables a person to bear patiently insults and injuries they receive at the hand of others. It makes them ready to accept instruction and to endure provocation without being inflamed by it. They remain ‘cool’ when others become heated. Gentle people seek no private revenge—they leave that to God’s sense of justice, while they seek to remain true in their ‘calling’ and meet God’s standards.
The spirit of gentleness enables its possessor to squeeze great enjoyment from his earthly portion, be it small or great. Delivered from a greedy and grasping disposition, he is satisfied with what he has. Contentment of mind is one of the fruits of gentleness.
This is not a virtue to ignore because ‘carnal’ men consider it weakness. It may appear to them as weakness, but the spiritual reality is that it is great strength, an attribute of Almighty God, and a fruit of His Spirit we greatly need.
Gentleness is a virtue God has determined those who will have dominion in His ‘family’ must possess. “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” [ Philippians 4:5 ].
We will never control some things. We cannot stop the tides from going in or out. As much as some would like, we cannot control the weather so that it won’t rain on our ‘parade’. We must admit that there is far more over which we exercise no control than that which we do.
Perhaps the supreme irony is when we realize how little control we exercise over ourselves. We find ourselves enslaved, even addicted, to habits created and engraved on our character over years of ‘practice’. This discovery can be a devastating, humbling blow to the ego. It often occurs after an intense study of God’s ‘standards’ of thinking, speaking and behaving, in contrast to the way of the world we have willingly and, in many cases, thoughtlessly followed. Once, there was no fear of God before our eyes, but when He begins to come into focus in our mind’s eye, and we care what He thinks about us, then we begin to be concerned about ‘controlling’ ourselves.
The thing is, God doesn’t ‘require’ that we try to control what is beyond us or that we fret because they are beyond us. Some things in life we must learn to accept peacefully, yield to and work our way through. Otherwise, we could find ourselves “beating our heads against a wall” and driving ourselves into a psychological ‘tizzy’ of always seeing ourselves as victims.
Webster’s tells us that self-control is the ability to exercise the will so as to restrain one’s desires, emotions, and behavior. The word “restrain” implies that if we don’t control our fleshly desires and emotions, they’ll get away from us and our behavior will be unruly and offensive to God. Much like wild horses, these desires or emotions might take us ‘places’ we don’t want to go or shouldn’t go.
The Greek word for self-control is, “egkrateia” (pronounced: eg-krah-the-ee-ah). It can also be translated as “temperance.” It is also a compound word that begins with the word for “strength” or “power” and attaches the prefix meaning “in” or “within.” In other words, it is God’s strength and power ‘in’ us—in the form of the Holy Spirit—which gives us this ‘fruit’ of self-control. Thus it refers to the mastery of one’s desires and impulses, and does not in itself refer to the control of any specific desire or impulse.
It can also be noted that self-control requires an exercise of the will, but we must realize that our own will has its limits. When we let God’s Word rule our will—and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us—then we make decisions based on what pleases God. This gives us the ‘power’ to exercise self-control in a consistent and godly fashion. We actually are relinquishing our will to God’s will—conforming our will to His will.
Self-control is the ability to say “no” to your self in order to say “yes” to something else. That ‘something else’ is God’s will for our lives. Letting God’s will take place in our lives brings Him great glory.
Self-control is extremely important to any relationship that we have, but especially marriage. When we say “no” to our selfish will in regards to our sexual drive outside of marriage, we are saying “yes” to our spouse—and to God’s will for our lives. When we can’t control our emotions or desires or behavior, we end up hurting one another severely.
Undoubtedly, self-denial, self-sacrifice and self-control are inextricably linked in Christian life—each is part of our ‘duty’ to God. Yet human nature exerts a persistent and sometimes very strong force away from God: “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” [ Romans 8:7 ]. It is this ‘force’ that each Christian must overcome. Controlling ourselves, denying human nature its impulse to satisfy its desire, and even sacrificing ourselves, are necessary if we are to stop sinning as a way of life. When we add the concepts of self-denial and self-sacrifice to our understanding of self-control, we can see more easily how large a role self-control plays in God’s will for our lives.
When we are faced with a stressful situation we can often lose control and are unable to focus on what really needs to be done. Self-control enables us to react with wisdom and restraint in ‘heated’ situations. “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control” [ Proverbs 29:11 ].
Keeping focused requires control—not allowing distractions to interfere with the responsibility at hand. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” says Jesus (Matthew 6:33). Here, the issue is single-mindedness. James writes, “[He] who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind…[He] is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” [ James 1:6, 8 ]. Controlling our focus can go a long way toward making our lives ‘run’ successfully.
The reason it is so difficult to exercise self-control is that we still battle our ‘flesh’. These self-centered desires and tendencies pull us away from God when we give in to them. Paul says we must live by the Spirit—this is the only way we can live without gratifying the desires of our sinful nature. Only the Spirit of God is strong enough to overcome our self-centered fleshly desires. When we say “yes” to the Spirit, we can say “no” to our flesh—and when we say “no” our flesh, we can say “yes” to God and one another. These are not works that we accomplish in our own strength. It’s only by relying upon the Spirit, that we can see this ‘fruit’ being produced in our lives.
We gain control by ‘surrendering’ control. What?! You may feel out of control with your passions and desires today—and you’ll never be able to change this in your own ‘strength’. But if you’re prepared to turn to Jesus and confess your sin and receive His forgiveness, you, too, can receive the Holy Spirit, and the strength to become the person you were created to be. It requires a ‘decision’ that will, from time to time, bring intense pressure upon you to control yourself against strong ‘drives’ and to go in an entirely different direction. But you must control yourself if you are to receive ‘help’ from God.
Our eyes make us the recipients of a multitude of impressions. Many of them can excite us to desire something evil, and if we are complacent, we can be trapped in a sin almost without thinking. That is precisely the problem! We must be thinking to control what we have power and responsibility over, and turn from such things as if a hot ‘poker’ were about to be jabbed into our eyes! When Joseph was about to be lured into sin, he ran, controlling his own part in that unfolding ‘drama’ (Genesis 39:11-12).
The body and mind possess appetites and needs that can easily lead to sinful excesses if not controlled. They can lead any of us away in a hundred different directions from the supreme devotion to God that He desires for our good. Note that our culture is trying to ‘mold’ us to seek ample provision for the flesh and material comforts far beyond our needs, ‘drowning’ our spirit and producing needless anxieties. We have to learn to subordinate the drive to satisfy these insatiable appetites so they do not master us and lead us into sin.
What impressions we allow to be made upon our senses, the indulgences we grant our appetites, the satisfactions we seek for our needs, and the activities we engage in must now be controlled according to God’s standards. Paul writes, “He who sows to his flesh will…reap corruption” (Galatians 6:8). Paul also instructs that we should, “discipline my body and bring it into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Here is a powerful yet simple lesson from the Bible: “The body is a good servant but a bad master. For our own good and God’s glory, we must be its master.”
The solution to all of this lies in our relationship with Jesus: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in My presence only, but now much more in My absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” [ Philippians 2:12-13 ]. This is the only thing that will give us complete self-control, and it will not fail.
When we nourish ourselves spiritually on the Word and stay obedient to Jesus, we are ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit. Out of this relationship and godly lifestyle the fruit of the Spirit will be manifested. We will exercise self-control when we live by the Spirit.
A tree is kind of a ‘metaphor’ for life. In the beginning of a tree’s life it develops roots to gain a foothold in the terra firma, and it relies on the elements as it attempts to grow tall and mighty. As it slowly matures, it must cope with harsh winters, dry summers, lightning strikes, forest fires, floods, high winds, insects and rodents—just to name a few. Eventually, it becomes a strong and lovely species that can endure most any hardship with ease as it lives out its long and fruitful life. So, a tree, just like you and me, will only survive if it is strong, unwavering, and has all of its needs supplied for it.
As a tree bears ‘physical’ fruit, we, with our lives, bear ‘fruit’ by our actions. As a tree is ‘known’ by its fruit, we can show that we are ‘known’ by God—as one of His ‘children’—by our behaviors. A fruit tree may be beautiful, decorative, and offer pleasant shade in the summer, but its primary purpose is to bear fruit, and is therefore judged by what it produces and not by how it looks.
The Bible says: “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit” (Luke 6:43), and that “a thorn bush cannot produce grapes, and a fig tree cannot produce thistles” (Matthew 7:16). Those who truly have the Spirit of God dwelling in them will produce the “Fruit of the Spirit” in their lives and actions.
When you surrender to the ‘control’ of God’s Spirit, you will find Him producing amazing things in you—things that are entirely of His doing. The apostle Paul calls those marvelous blessings the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” [ Galatians 5:22-23 ]. The person who is ‘Spirit-filled’ and who bears the Spirit’s fruit, is the person who ‘belongs’ to Jesus.
Just after the “Fruit of the Spirit” verse, Paul goes on to say: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another” [ Galatians 5:24-26 ]. So, when one is ‘filled’ with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), ‘walks’ with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), and is ‘led’ by the Spirit (Galatians 5:18), you can fulfill your ultimate potential of your life here on earth as one of God’s ‘children’.
As with everything that is godly and righteous, true fruit bearing begins on the inside, in the heart. Paul speaks of our “having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:11). A person who ‘belongs’ to Jesus and who is called by God, will give evidence of good fruit both in their attitudes and their actions.
The apostle John also talked about the ‘fruit’ we can produce, from a little different viewpoint—though still using the agricultural metaphor:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.
Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” [ John 15:1-11 ].
Jesus used the metaphor of a vineyard to picture a fruitful life. He envisioned himself as the “true vine”, the Father as the “gardener”, and believers as “branches.” Jesus is the “true” vine, as opposed to other ‘vines’ we might attach ourselves to in pursuit of a fruitful life. The branches “cut off” for lack of fruit I believe is a prophetic reference to unfruitful Israel, who rejected the “true vine.” The branches in the vine that do bear fruit by believing, God “prunes” so we can bear more ‘fruit’. Pruning involves trimming unproductive little branches and shoots that suck the life out of the branch and keep it from becoming truly fruitful. What is ‘sucking’ the life out of you right now that needs pruning?
So, the key to the fruitful life is to “remain” or “abide” in the true vine. Stay ‘connected’ to Jesus (by being diligent in studying your Bible) and be ‘aware’ of the Spirit working in your life. Those who remain or abide will “produce much fruit”—a life that will ‘glorify’ God, and one that He will be ‘happy’ with and bless you for.
Now that we’re abiding, we are to ‘get busy’ and ‘deepen’ that abiding. So, how do we go about doing that? Well, the apostle Peter tells us: “Apply all diligence in your faith supply moral excellence; in your moral excellence, knowledge; in your knowledge, self-control; in your self-control, perseverance; in your perseverance, godliness; in your godliness, brotherly kindness; in your brotherly kindness, love” [ 2 Peter 1:5-7 ].
So, what is the result of all of this? If we are diligent, “these qualities, are yours and will increase—“more fruit, much fruit,”—they render you neither “useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8). As you look at your life, you will see your behaviors being ‘conformed’ to being ‘Christ-like’, and your actions will show positive changes in people and our world. (See last month’s post on the “Beatitudes” for more on this).
If you have a rich, loving, obedient relationship to the ‘vine’, and if the true life of God courses through your life, your desires will be His desires, your loves will be His loves, your longings will be His longings—and you will hear one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness!” [ Matthew 25:12 ].
Yes, there’s a lot to do to give yourself the best possible chance of producing ‘good’ fruit in your life, but its WELL WORTH THE EFFORT!
I VERY MUCH want to ‘nurture’ the BEST POSSIBLE FRUIT in my life—and I pray you want to do the same!