Galatians 5:22-23 (WEBBE): 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Matthew 11:28-30 (WEBBE): 28“Come to me, all you who labour and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Jesus spoke these words to people that were used to having a large number of rules to follow. The religious leaders had added more and more specific rules over the years, until it really became a burden to follow all of them. But Jesus was changing all of that.
Being a follower of Jesus means finding rest for your soul. There is no need to worry whether you perform all the right rituals or live according to all of the rules or donate the right amount of money to the right cause. The price has been paid in full by Jesus himself, so that we can be restored to a perfect relationship with Him through faith alone. None of our works could possibly improve on what Jesus did!
Ephesians 2:8-9 (WEBBE): 8for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, that no one would boast.
But then how do we then understand James’ words?
James 2:17 (WEBBE): 17Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself.
Lets consider an everyday example. Suppose you eat for the first time at a new restaurant, and you discover there the most amazing thing that you have ever tasted. The perfect combination of textures and flavours and presentation. Would you want to share the news with everybody you know, so that they can experience this too? Would it move you to action?
Living in a relationship with Jesus is way better than any dish that an earthly chef could come up with. When your heart and mind is filled with His presence, it is a natural result that it moves you to action. We should do good works because we are already saved.
Whether we do good works won’t make a difference to our own salvation, but it might very well make all the difference in somebody else’s life!
I have a to-do list that is about a mile long. No, it actually has mile markers, so it is even longer than that… There are lots of small chores that I have to get done today. Some other things that I have been putting off, that I have to get around to. A few huge projects that will take months that I should start with soon. And then there are the things that I would actually like to do, that I haven’t had time for in too long.
Does that sound familiar?
Where can we possibly find peace in all of that frantic activity?
Psalm 46:1 (WEBBE): 1God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Whether our trouble is some big, scary event or simply an overload of daily activities, God is our refuge! We can find peace in the loving arms of our Father God. Rest assured that He loves you just as much whether your house is sparkling from top to bottom, or looks like a tornado hit it. He loves you just as much whether that big project at work is a huge success or a complete failure.
So how do we actually, practically do this? The story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 comes to mind. Martha was running around doing all kinds of things, while Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to what He was saying. The way to experience God’s peace is to stop, for even just a moment, to listen to His voice. To experience His loving presence. Whether it is taking a moment to appreciate the God-created beauty of a flower, or listening to a song, or simply being quiet, we need to decide to make the time. The world won’t understand – it will complain just as loudly as Martha. But trust me, it is worthwhile doing!
A few weeks ago, I came across a short reading plan entitled “Practicing the Presense of God” (read it here). It is based on the book The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, first published in 1693. No, that is not a typo – it was really first published in the 17th century. Brother Lawrence joined a monastery, where he worked in the kitchen. And in his daily life he learned to constantly live in the experience of God’s presence.
Isaiah 26:3 (AKJV): 3You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you: because he trusts in you.
I really enjoyed the reading plan, and I would absolutely recommend reading it. But I will admit that my daily life really didn’t change much at all. The thing with practising the presence of God is, well, you need to actually practise it… And the world shouts so loudly for attention all the time, making it really hard to ignore.
(Side note: When we don’t experience God’s presence, it does NOT mean that He has left – He is always with us. It is us who forget that He is right here…)
But more recently, something has shifted in my life. After writing the post “What do you read?” two weeks ago, this question really stuck in my mind:
Now every time I read social media (and I can tell you I do a lot more than I previously realised), I am reminded that I could be reading God’s Word instead. And then when I do read the Bible, I find that I don’t want to stop reading after a few verses. I want to keep reading to see what I will learn next!
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (WEBBE): 16Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, 17that each person who belongs to God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Right now you are probably thinking “Good for her! But so what?” Well, I want to encourage you to find something that you do regularly that you could use as a reminder to spend a little time in God’s presence. Maybe pray to God on your morning run instead of worrying about the day ahead. Or thank God for every cup of coffee during the day, and then find three more things to thank Him for while you are at it.
Start by doing that one thing where you can fit God into your day most easily. Your relationship with God will grow, and that will spill over into the rest of your day!
My dear child,
I will love you no matter what.
When the world says that you are a failure, I say that you are a child of the Living God and you are loved.
When the world says that your priorities are wrong, I say that you are in the world but not of the world – you are part of an eternal Kingdom.
When the world demands more and more of your time, I will wait patiently for you to return to me.
When the world tells you that you should be afraid, I will be your safe haven in the storm.
You are my child. You are a new creation. And I will love you no matter what!
The kinds of things that we put into our minds are important. What we read and hear and see influence our thoughts. It influences how we see the world, and how we react to it.
Paul listed the kinds of things that we should be thinking about in his letter to the Philippians.
Philippians 4:8 (WEBBE): 8Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honourable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report: if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, think about these things.
Now I have some really hard questions for you. You only have to answer them for yourself in the privacy of your own head, but you have to be honest.
Please don’t leave the page in a huff once you have read the questions, then you will miss out on the exciting conclusion!
- What do you spend more time reading during an average day – the news or the Bible?
- What do you spend more time reading during an average day – social media or the Bible?
- What do you spend more time reading during an average day – fiction or the Bible?
I warned you these are hard questions. You might think that I am being completely unreasonable. And you probably, just like me, came up with several great reasons (excuses?) why the Bible comes in at a distant second. Lets now look at a nice easy general question.
- Do you think that the thing that you spend the most time reading every day has the biggest impact on your thoughts? Why?
I am sure that you will agree that the more time you spend with something, the greater the impact is that it has on you. If you decide to become a chef, and buy some recipe books, and start experimenting with different dishes, I bet you will soon start to notice food at times and places that you would never have imagined before.
John 6:63 (WEBBE): 63It is the spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and are life.
You are probably seeing where I am going with this. Nonetheless, here is the last question. It is also my challenge to you.
- What do you think would happen if you devoted only half of the time that you spend right now reading the news, social media and fiction to reading the Bible?
Self-control is something I have written about many times before. In fact, I have a post category for that with 11 other posts in it already! But since it is the last of the fruit of the Spirit, lets look at it anew.
The Greek word used here is ἐγκράτεια (egkrateia), translated in the King James’ Version as temperance. It is defined by Thayer’s Greek Definitions as:
1) self-control (the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites)
This reminds me of what Peter wrote in his first letter about how we should be holy.
1 Peter 1:13-16 (WEBBE): 13Therefore prepare your minds for action. Be sober, and set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ— 14as children of obedience, not conforming yourselves according to your former lusts as in your ignorance, 15but just as he who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behaviour; 16because it is written, “You shall be holy; for I am holy.”
As with all the other fruit of the Spirit, there is an aspect of this self-control that is beneficial to ourselves. Life certainly is less complicated without the lusts that cause so much conflict. But it is also something that impacts the people around us, the people that we should be reaching out to with God’s love. Having self-control is a practical way of showing the people around us what a profound effect being God’s child has on one’s life. It gives credence to our words if our actions match what we say.
Consider this example. Would you trust a ski instructor who knows everything about skiing, but cannot ski more than five seconds without falling off his own skis?
Being holy all the time is not something that we can accomplish on our own. We are just human. But the Holy Spirit equips us so that we can have self-control at all times, if we let Him!
I will confess that when I started searching for gentleness in the Bible today, I did not have any expectation of what I would find. With many of the other fruit I can immediately come up with a scripture containing the word. Love? John 3:16. Peace? John 14:27. And gentleness? … Nope, nothing comes to mind.
I found a long list of verses about gentleness. And I decided that I will have to look for some pattern, some common theme, amongst these to write about.
I did not see this one coming…
James 3:17 (WEBBE): 17But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
1 Peter 3:15 (AMP®): 15But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy—acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord. Always be ready to give a [logical] defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance [elicited by faith] that is within you, yet [do it] with gentleness and respect.*
2 Timothy 2:24-26 (WEBBE): 24The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but be gentle towards all, able to teach, patient, 25in gentleness correcting those who oppose him: perhaps God may give them repentance leading to a full knowledge of the truth, 26and they may recover themselves out of the devil’s snare, having been taken captive by him to his will.
Galatians 6:1 (WEBBE): 1Brothers, even if a man is caught in some fault, you who are spiritual must restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourself so that you also aren’t tempted.
Gentleness is mentioned in the same breath as teaching, correcting, defending the faith and as a property of wisdom. Jesus even said that we should learn from Him because He is gentle!
Matthew 11:29 (WEBBE): 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls.
I have taught software development for many years in one way or another – as tutor to a class of university students, on the job training of new colleagues, and now even as an instructional designer. And I have learned a lot about how to teach, for example tie the new information into something that the students already know (actually, I still keep learning that one again and again). Gentleness has, however, never even featured on my radar in this context.
Thankfully, gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit. So the Holy Spirit equips us with the one trait (gentleness) that we really need to teach others about spiritual matters.
Note that “the wisdom that is from above is first pure” (James 3:17 WEBBE). So being gentle in our teaching can never mean changing the teaching to no longer be pure, just to avoid offending somebody. Being gentle is all about presenting that pure wisdom in a way that speaks to the hearer’s heart. It is a reflection of God’s nature (love) through how we teach.
So next time when you are teaching or correcting or defending the faith, allow the Holy Spirit to add gentleness. You will be amazed at the results!
One day, a man came to Jesus begging Him to help his son that was possessed by a demon. The man had brought his son to Jesus’ disciples, but they couldn’t help him. Jesus cast out the demon and the son was free from that hour. Later on, Jesus’ disciples came to Him and asked why they were not able to cast out the demon. Jesus’ reply was: “Because of your unbelief.” (Matthew 17:20a WEBBE) And then He described what the opposite would look like:
So we see that faith is essential if we want to walk in the power of God. But what is faith?
Hebrews 11:1 (WEBBE): 1Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, proof of things not seen.
How do we get faith?
Romans 10:17 (WEBBE): 17So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
We believe in God because we heard the Word of God. So then why is faith mentioned as a fruit of the Holy Spirit? Because the Holy Spirit teaches us the same things, and more, that Jesus taught when He was on earth.
John 14:26 (WEBBE): 26But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you.
John 16:12-14 (WEBBE): 12“I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now. 13However when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak from himself; but whatever he hears, he will speak. He will declare to you things that are coming. 14He will glorify me, for he will take from what is mine, and will declare it to you.
If we walk in daily relationship with God, listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, then faith is one of the things that will supernaturally flow from of that relationship.
Goodness looks at first glance like one of the most obvious ones in the list of fruit of the Spirit. It is obvious that Christians should be good, right? So lets look at the original Greek word according to Thayer’s Greek Definitions:
ἀγαθωσύνη (agathōsunē): 1) uprightness of heart and life, goodness, kindness
Goodness is uprightness, not only of heart, but also of life. So goodness is not just how we think about things, it is very much so also how we act.
If we think back to the old testament, the law was given to guide people on how to live in a way that is good. “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13 WEBBE) Yep, breaking that would certainly be the opposite of good. “You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15 WEBBE) Again, a guideline for a good life.
Now if people in the old testament times were already supposed to have goodness, why is it even listed as a fruit of the Spirit?
Romans 8:2-4 (WEBBE): 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death. 3For what the law couldn’t do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God did, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh; 4that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (WEBBE): 8for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, that no one would boast.
Jesus’ redemptive work made all the difference! Now we no longer have to follow the letter of the law to be saved. But rather, we live out the fruit of the Spirit such as goodness because we were already saved. The fruit is the result of the Holy Spirit living in us, not the prerequisite.
The fruit of the Spirit are meant to impact the people around us, as much or even more than ourselves. So what is goodness useful for?
Romans 12:21 (WEBBE): 21Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
As a child of God, you have access to goodness through the Holy Spirit. So use it to overcome evil!
Have you ever noticed how much of Christ’s life was spent in doing kind things?
– Henry Drummond (Christian Quotes)
I am sure that you will agree that Jesus should be our ultimate role model. While he was a man, had full access to the Holy Spirit just like we do today. When we read the gospels it is easy to put ourselves in the shoes of the disciples. But the truth is that they did not yet have that access before the cross. So we should not aspire to be like them, but instead we should model our lives on that of Jesus himself.
What is the definition of kindness?
kindness (noun): The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.
– Oxford Dictionary
It is easy enough to be friendly, generous and considerate to our loved ones. Well, most of the time anyway. But the purpose of our living in the world is to be ambassadors for God.
2 Corinthians 5:20 (WEBBE): 20We are therefore ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
An Earthly ambassador is supposed to accurately represent the country where he or she is from. In the same way, as children of God we are supposed to accurately represent the nature of God to the world. So is kindness part of God’s nature? The answer is a resounding yes!
Luke 6:35 (WEBBE): 35But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back; and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind towards the unthankful and evil.
Ephesians 4:32 (WEBBE): 32And be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other, just as God also in Christ forgave you.
The great thing about kindness is that it often takes very small gestures to make a pretty big difference. Next time when you are shopping for groceries, just be friendly with the lady behind the bakery counter, and see what a difference it makes to her day! Or next time when you are approaching a door just as somebody else is arriving too, let that person go first – with a smile!
If we can learn to be kind to ALL the people around us, it will go a long way towards convincing people that being a child of God is worthwhile. And as with all other things we are not alone in this – we have the Holy Spirit in us to teach us and guide us every moment of every day.
New: Verse Images
Communication today tends to be very visual. People are looking for beautiful images to share, with striking messages that will not take long to read. I totally understand that – I like sharing those too.
But only really recently did I come to realise that I can contribute to sharing the Word in this way! I have plenty of photos of gorgeous scenes in nature that I can use to create images of my own. And so I have started to create and upload images here, on the brand new Verse Images page. There are two sections – one for English and another for Afrikaans.
Feel free to share the images everywhere!