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.
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!
If you are tempted to lose patience with your fellowman; stop and think how patient God has been with you.
– Source Unknown (Allauthor)
In a world obsessed with instant gratification, patience is rather a difficult topic. We are rushed, we don’t want to wait, and we certainly won’t abide anybody standing in the way of our next quick entertainment fix. Sounds scarily familiar if we are totally honest with ourselves, doesn’t it?
patience (noun): the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.
That sounds hard, right? Maybe we can find another word for this μακροθυμία (makrothumia) in the original Greek. The King James Version has a different translation: long-suffering.
long-suffering (noun): long and patient endurance of injury, trouble, or provocation.
So this fruit of the Spirit goes pretty deep. It is not just momentarily being able to not scream at the person that cuts in front of you in traffic, wasting a whole two seconds of your time. This kind of patience endures provocation for a long time, without responding even in irritation.
I confess that I am rarely patient under prolonged provocation…
So how on earth are we supposed to live up to that? The answer, as it is so often, is love.
1 Corinthians 13:4a (WEBBE): 4Love is patient and is kind.
Ephesians 6:12 (WEBBE): 12For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
When we realise that the people that harm us are not the enemy, but rather the spiritual forces behind their actions, then loving people becomes easy. People that are under the hold of evil are prisoners of war, that we should free from their bonds. And we can’t even begin to contemplate helping somebody when we loose patience with them. Causing us to loose patience is a tactic of the enemy to distract us from our mission of being God’s love in this world.
To be effective spiritual warriors, we not only faith need but also patience!
Before we get to today’s fruit, there is a question in my mind that needs answering. Why are these things in Galatians called fruit? Why not flowers, or clothes, or some other metaphor? As it turns out, there is quite a lot to it!
So what are fruit for? When I think of fruit, what comes to mind is something yummy and healthy to eat, that comes in pretty colours too.
Genesis 1:29 (WEBBE): 29God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree, which bears fruit yielding seed. It will be your food.
My idea of eating fruit is after all a pretty important reason for the creation of fruit. Which leads me to the first parallel with the spiritual. A tree is not meant to keep its fruit to itself – the fruit should be eaten by any who is hungry. In the same way, while we certainly have access to the fruit of the Spirit ourselves, we are not meant to keep it all to ourselves. We should in fact be sharing it with the world!
What my memory of this verse did not in fact include is the mention of “fruit yielding seed”. Lets look at what fruit are for in nature.
The principal botanical purpose of the fruit is the protection and dissemination of the seed.
– Encyclopaedia Britannica
So the seeds really are there for a purpose, not just to be those annoying bits that you have to avoid when you eat the fruit. 😉 The seed is the part that makes it possible for a new plant to grow.
Every fruit of the Spirit also contains a seed of the Kingdom of God. Every time we produce one of these fruit, it has an impact on the people around us. Not only does it nourish them, providing the love or peace or joy that they need in that moment. It also contains the seed of a personal relationship between them and God. And if that grows, they can in turn start to carry their own fruit!
Now on to today’s fruit: peace. If we don’t have peace in ourselves, it would be exceedingly hard to share it with the world. Lets see what Paul and Timothy’s advice is.
Philippians 4:4-7 (WEBBE): 4Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, “Rejoice!” 5Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.
Peace, like all the fruit of the Spirit, originates from a personal relationship with God. And what happens when we share that peace?
Matthew 5:9 (WEBBE): 9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
But not everybody got the memo – some people will not want to be at peace with you. What should we do then?
Romans 12:18-20 (WEBBE): 18If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men. 19Don’t seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God’s wrath. For it is written, “Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.” 20Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
This is not easy, but it certainly is worth it. Your peace could be the last little push that somebody needs to accept the Lord as their saviour!
The second fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 is joy. This one, as with love, is not a topic that is new to this blog. I have written about it here and here before. But let us look at it again, because joy is something all of us can do with more of.
Christians should be the happiest people we know. Agree? Yet, I have felt for a while now that doesn’t seem to be the general consensus…and maybe you’ve felt it, too. Why is that? Why is it that the people who claim to have found true joy and abundant life in the person of Jesus Christ don’t reflect it in their faces, attitudes, thoughts, business dealings or home environments? Listen, I get it. I really do. It’s hard, y’all.
– Candace Payne (from Faith Gateway)
Candace captures the situation that most people find themselves in really well. Joy, overflowing, unstoppable joy, should be the natural result of being a child of God. And yet… that is most of the time far from our everyday reality.
Philippians 4:4 (WEBBE): 4Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, “Rejoice!”
Real joy comes from God, and has nothing to do with our circumstances. If we remain in Him, walking in a relationship with God, then joy will flow from that.
So we have all heard that before I am sure. But how do we put this into practice?
Psalm 27:4 (WEBBE): 4One thing I have asked of the LORD, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the LORD’s house all the days of my life, to see the LORD’s beauty, and to enquire in his temple.
King David desired above all else to spend time with God, as we see in his Psalm 27. Back in the old testament times, spending time with God meant going to the temple.
1 Corinthians 3:16 (WEBBE): 16Don’t you know that you are a temple of God, and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
Today the Holy Spirit lives inside us! We can spend time with God whenever we want! So just make time in your day, every day, to spend some time with God. Just be quiet in His presence. And you will experience His JOY!
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
– Martin Luther King, Jr. (from Brainy Quote)
Last week I wrote about how the fruit of the Spirit should be visible in our lives, despite circumstances. And I prompted you to slow down and think about each of the fruit in Galatians 5. But these are so important that I think they deserve their own post each. The first one is love. I have written about that before of course, but here is another post on this important topic!
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (WEBBE): 4Love is patient and is kind. Love doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t brag, is not proud, 5doesn’t behave itself inappropriately, doesn’t seek its own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil; 6doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
In this very well known description of love, Paul describes what the life of a person filled with love should look like. This scripture is often read at weddings, because of course love is of fundamental importance in a marriage. This is what true unconditional love looks like, with the emphasis on unconditional. Now that can be hard, even in marriage. “[Love] takes no account of evil.” The NIV translation says “it keeps no record of wrongs”.
“Will you forgive your husband-to-be for leaving his clothes all over the bathroom floor?”
“Of course I will, I love him!”
“And when he does it for the hundredth time? Will you still forgive him?”
So even with the people that we love, it is sometimes hard to live out that love. But unconditional love, that flows from a relationship with Jesus, is not reserved for the people that are easy to love.
Matthew 5:44-47 (WEBBE): 44But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, 45that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47If you only greet your friends, what more do you do than others? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?
Being a true follower of Jesus means loving like He does – unconditionally.
Our new house has a garden. So for the first time we are now faced with the question of which plants to get. There is one particular spot which we want to fill. We want quite a big bush, with a lot of flowers throughout the year. We want that bush to be a bright spot of colour no matter which season it is.
So as I was walking home today, I was imagining what might happen with this (still theoretical at the moment) plant. Lets suppose that I did some research online, and the found the perfect plant. So we go to the nursery to buy the plant, and there it is all in flower already. This is a good start – it is living up to expectations so far. But then months later one day we look at the plant in our garden and it doesn’t have a single flower. The conversation might go something like this:
“I thought this plant was supposed to flower all year?”
“All my sources said that they are supposed to…”
“Well, despite what your sources claimed, this plant is no good! We will take it out and find a different plant!”
This story of mine sounds a lot like the account of Jesus and the fig tree.
Matthew 21:18-19 (WEBBE): 18Now in the morning, as he returned to the city, he was hungry. 19Seeing a fig tree by the road, he came to it, and found nothing on it but leaves. He said to it, “Let there be no fruit from you forever!”
Immediately the fig tree withered away.
A fruit tree with no fruit is just as disappointing as a flower bush with no flowers.
Mark elaborates on this account a little by saying that it was not the season for figs. So according to human wisdom, there should not have been fruit. But Jesus expected better. In our lives, it is too easy to justify the lack of fruit by pointing to the season. When Jesus said that when we abide in Him we will carry much fruit, there was no mention of anything else influencing the fruit.
John 15:5 (WEBBE): 5I am the vine. You are the branches. He who remains in me and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
It is not “He who remains in Me will bear much fruit during the happy seasons” or “He who remains in Me will bear much fruit while people treat him well in return”. Jesus remains the vine no matter how loud human wisdom might shout that under the circumstances it is almost expected that we stop bearing good fruit.
Luke 6:43-45 (WEBBE): 43For there is no good tree that produces rotten fruit; nor again a rotten tree that produces good fruit. 44For each tree is known by its own fruit. For people don’t gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. 45The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings out that which is good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings out that which is evil, for out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks.
If you stop bearing good fruit, you should ask yourself what has gone wrong. Something has distracted you from Jesus. Something or someone else has become number one in your life. Because if you were walking with Jesus every day, good fruit would be the natural result.
So what does good fruit look like? I am going to quote Galatians 5:22-23 – probably one of the most well known passages in all of the Bible. You might know it off by heart. Please … slow … down … when you read it and actually think about each word – especially if you know it that well!
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.
Which of these good fruits are missing from your life? What caused you to lose them?
… How can you get them back?
Even if it seems impossible to overcome the things that stole your fruit, the answer is easy: walk in daily relationship with Jesus. He is always enough!
I came to the realisation again today how important it is to gather with other believers. We can truly inspire each other, because we each have our own unique story to tell. Sharing online like I am in this blog can potentially reach a large number of people at the same time, and that is great. But it is not the same as walking with somebody through the good times and the bad. It can just not have the same depth of impact on somebody’s life.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (WEBBE): 24Let’s consider how to provoke one another to love and good works, 25not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Getting together with other believers don’t necessarily mean a huge gathering of hundreds or even thousands of people. Jesus himself said when two or three are together in His Name, there He is too.
Matthew 18:19-20 (WEBBE): 19Again, assuredly I tell you, that if two of you will agree on earth concerning anything that they will ask, it will be done for them by my Father who is in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the middle of them.”
Find a community of believers, large or small, where you feel at home. One where you feel free to encourage others just as much as you will be encouraged by them. And then don’t forsake your assembling together, because you have a role that only you can fulfill!
As I was waiting for my lunch order to arrive today, I was looking at the people around me. The place wasn’t crowded but there were enough people to make it interesting. There was a mom with her young son and a trolley filled with groceries. There was a group of friends that looked like this is their regular spot. And then there was an old man, eating by himself but looking perfectly content to do so. I was wondering what his story was, why he was there at that moment in time. Maybe his wife had passed away years ago and he still goes to their favourite spot in her memory?
And then it struck me that each and every person in that room has a story to tell!
Personal stories are easy to relate to. I have learned that one of the good ways to start a speech on just about any topic is with a relevant personal anecdote. In fact, just look again at the start of this blog post – I bet you could relate to my people watching story.
Each of us have journeyed with God to where we are today. Lots of things have happened to us, possibly mostly very down to earth, normal human experiences. It may seem like you have nothing special to tell. But guess what – our audience are made up of normal human beings that are actually interested in the lives of others! And hearing about your everyday experiences of being a child of God might be just what somebody needs!
There are many excuses for not sharing our testimonies with others. One that comes to mind is that we might feel that we cannot explain the theology behind the experience well enough. Well, that didn’t stop the blind man that Jesus healed on a Sabbath. The religious leaders called in the man that was healed to testify in the matter.
John 9:25 (WEBBE): 25He therefore answered, “I don’t know if he is a sinner. One thing I do know: that though I was blind, now I see.”
Nobody can argue that the man had this experience. No theological argument can undo the fact that he now can see. And he just stuck to his testimony.
So don’t be discouraged into silence – your story matters!