The Fruits of the Spirit

If, as Jesus said, trees and people are both known by the type of fruit they bear, (Matthew 7:17-20; 12:33; Luke 6:43-45) what “fruits”— evidence of the Holy Spirit at work—should others see in the life of a born-again, Spirit-filled Christian?

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Christians aren’t perfect; we’re all works in progress. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) Only God, through the miracle- working power of His Holy Spirit, can bring out these virtues in you. In each case, however, there are some things you can do to help speed the process along.

The all-encompassing fruit—love

How important is love? When Jesus was asked which was the most important commandment, He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40) In other words, if you can do those two things—love God and love your neighbor—everything else will fall into place. All of the other commandments were given to this end: to teach us to do the right and loving thing.

How does love rank among the fruits of having the Holy Spirit? The apostle Paul concluded his explanation of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12) with an exhortation to put love first. (1 Corinthians 13) “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Love is supposed to be the trademark of a Christian. Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) He intends for every true Christian to be a reflection of His love, so that others can find and experience that love too.

It sounds simple enough, but of course it’s not always easy. Where do you find the kind of love that reaches out, that gives, that sacrifices? Where do you find love that helps you be as concerned about your neighbor’s happiness as you are about your own, or to be loving even to your enemies, or to sacrifice of yourself for others? (Matthew 22:39; 5:44; John 15:13; 1 John 3:16) Certainly not within yourself! Such love is a marvelous fruit of the Holy Spirit working in your life.

How do you get it? If you have received Jesus and the Holy Spirit, you already have a measure of that love, and you can always ask God for more. But the best way to get more is to give what you’ve got. “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38) “The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.” (Proverbs 11:25)

May you always be known by your love!

A central part of Jesus’ last message to His disciples at the Last Supper, before He was arrested, taken to jail, beaten, and killed was: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) He talked about love and how it was the most important thing.

The early Christians turned the world upside down with the love of God that they found in Jesus Christ. Even their Roman rulers marveled at the love of the Christians and said, “Behold, how these Christians love one another!” The way the Christians lived convinced the Romans that their faith was real, and the Romans wondered, Who is this Christ and why does He make you so happy? Even though you have nothing, you’ve got everything! How can I find this kind of happiness that I don’t have?—And within 200 years, when Christianity was still outlawed, one out of every five people in the Roman Empire was a professing Christian and the world had been saturated with the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Just a little love can go a long way—much further than you could ever dream—if you will just be faithful in your love for the Lord and others, and your faithful witnessing to them of the love of Jesus Christ.—D.B.B.

The sunshine fruit—joy

We all know what it’s like to have our lives over- shadowed by serious problems—illness, the loss of a loved one, financial woes, etc. Even trivial problems like inclement weather or rush hour traffic can cast a pall over our spirits. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The Holy Spirit can help us rise above our problems, big or small, and cause us to be happy and cheerful in spite of circumstances.

The secret to having the joy of the Lord is taking the time to fill up on God’s Word, so that you have a reservoir of His Spirit within to draw from in stress-filled times. “These things I have spoken to you,” Jesus told His disciples, “that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)

So if you feel down or discouraged, you probably just need to spend more time with Jesus, reading and studying His Word. You’ll be amazed at the difference it will make!

It also helps greatly to count your blessings, to think about all the good things the Lord has given you and done for you. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, what- ever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”(Philippians 4:8)

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

If there’s anything we Christians are supposed to be, it’s a happy people, because we’ve got more to be happy about than anybody else in the world! We have the happy love of Jesus who takes all our burdens, carries all our cares, even lightens our sorrows; and even of our service for Him, He says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. (Psalm 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7; Isaiah 61:1-3; Matthew 11:30) —D.B.B.

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You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)

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Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance. (Psalm 89:15)

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Happy are the people who are in such a state; happy are the people whose God is the Lord! (Psalm 144:15)

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Whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory. (1 Peter 1:8)

The unshakable fruit—peace

Jesus promises us peace—another working of the Holy Spirit. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Just as Jesus calmed the stormy sea when His disciples thought their ship was sinking and they were about to drown, (Mark 4:35-41) He can calm the storms of life and give you inner peace that passes all understanding. (Philippians 4:7)

He did it for Paul and Silas, when they were persecuted by being beaten and thrown into prison. Instead of despairing, they sang praises to God—and were suddenly and miraculously set free! (Acts 16:22-26)

He did it for the early Christian martyrs, who joyfully sang and praised God victoriously as they were burned at the stake and fed to the lions—and many onlookers so envied the supernatural peace that the Christians possessed that they, too, became believers.

As you learn to trust in the Lord with all your heart, (Proverbs 3:5) you’ll find that He can give you perfect peace—no matter what is going on around you!

The conciliatory fruit—longsuffering

“If my brother offends me, how many times shall I forgive him?” someone once asked Jesus, and then offered a hopeful guess. “Seven times?”

“No, seventy times seven!” was Jesus’ reply. In other words, we should never stop forgiving.

Now that’s love!—And Jesus wasn’t just talking about lovingly and patiently forgiving our siblings, spouses, or close friends, but also overbearing bosses and coworkers, wayward subordinates, cantankerous neighbors—anyone and everyone, in fact.

Why would the Lord expect so much of His followers? How could it be in His best interest, or theirs? Again, this is so contrary to human nature that it sets Christians apart from the rest and makes them a witness to others. Such loving patience could only come from God!

Hasn’t God forgiven you “seventy times seven”? Doesn’t that make you want to extend that same love and mercy and forgiveness to others, so they can also come to know Him and experience His forgiveness?

“Love suffers long, and is [still] kind.” (1 Corinthians 13:4) “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves.” (2 Timothy 2:24-25 KJV)

The irresistible fruit—kindness

Kindness is love in action, love translated into simple everyday terms. It’s being considerate of others. It’s living the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Matthew 7:12) It’s turning a blind eye to the flubs and foibles of others. It’s being as tenderhearted and forgiving toward others as God is with you. (Ephesians 4:32)

Kindness generates goodwill. Your kind words and kind deeds tell others that their happiness and well-being are important to you, and that makes them want to respond in like manner. Kindness is one of the hardest things to give away, because it’s nearly always returned. Kindness costs nothing, but can accomplish so much. A kind smile or a kind word can make all the difference in the world to someone who’s having a hard day. A little bit of love goes such a long way!

Kindness is a language that everyone understands. As a Christian, you are an ambassador of God’s love to others; the kindness you show them also conveys God’s love and care, and helps draw and win them to Him.

The exemplary fruit—goodness

Christians are expected to be good people. In fact, many non-Christians expect more from Christians than they do from themselves or anyone else. It’s not always easy to live up to those expectations, but it is possible, with the Lord’s help.

Jesus told His first followers, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) That doesn’t mean you are to be good in a self-righteous goody-two-shoes type of way. That isn’t the goodness Jesus gives. Rather it is genuine goodness of the heart that is shown in honesty, empathy, helpfulness, and a multitude of other ways.

Sad to say, some Christians have the mistaken idea that they’re supposed to be perfect, which no one is, of course. In their attempts to be so good and righteous—or to appear to be—they end up being self-righteous and having a holier-than-thou air of hypocrisy. That sort of personal example usually alienates others, rather than winning them to Jesus. They’d be far better off just doing the best they can, honestly and humbly admitting their faults and mistakes, and then giving the Lord all the glory for anything good they do. That’s God’s idea of goodness. If you will just do your best, by the grace of God, and trust Him for the rest, God’s goodness will shine through.

The one-day-at-a-time fruit—faithfulness

Faithful people are dependable and true. They’re faithful to Jesus, faithful to the work He has called them to, whatever that may be, and faithful to keep their word and fulfill their obligations to others. All of these things are part of their Christian duty.

Faithful people are so because they are full of faith. Their faith gives them the strength to be responsible, to put their faith into action. They’re full of God’s Word, which is the source of faith, (Romans 10:17) so it comes naturally for them to do what it says. Theirs is a living faith, and it shows. (James 2:18, 21-26) Faithful people keep going for the Lord through thick and thin because they know Him in whom they believe, and are persuaded that He will work everything out for their good in the end. (2 Timothy 1:12; Romans 8:28)

How do you remain faithful? Stay close to Jesus, and take life one day at a time! Fill up on His Word and do your best to be faithful today. Forget the past, and don’t worry about tomorrow. (Philippians 3:13-14; Matthew 6:34) If you stay close to the Lord and read His Word, you’ll stay faithful, and that will be a testimony to others.

Peace in the midst of storm

Once there was an art contest to see who could best illustrate peace. Most of the artists painted tranquil scenes of lazy summer days in the countryside, where all was stillness and harmony. Well, that’s a form of peace, but the picture that won the award illustrated the hardest kind of peace to have. On a branch overhanging a raging, roaring, storm-swollen waterfall was a little nest where a tiny bird sang peacefully away, in spite of the turmoil below.

That kind of peace comes only through the Prince of Peace—Jesus—and the knowledge that whatever happens, He’ll take care of you!—D.B.B.

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The sure winner

How persuasive is kindness? Consider this fable:

The sun and the wind once had a conversation, in which the boisterous and argumentative wind contended that he was the stronger of the two. The wise and kindly sun, sensing an argument in the making that could only result in ill will, tried to let it pass. The wind was unrelenting.

“I’ll prove I am!” said the wind. “Do you see the old man down there? I bet I can get his coat off him quicker than you can!”

So the sun sighed and went behind a cloud, and the wind blew and blew until it was almost a tornado. But the harder it blew, the tighter the old man clutched his coat to him. Finally the wind gave up and calmed down.

Then the sun came out from behind the cloud and smiled kindly on the old man. After only a short while the man mopped his brow and pulled off his coat.

The sun had shown the wind that warmth and kindness were stronger than fury and force.

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Sinning saints

God’s idea of goodness is often quite different from ours. King David plotted the death of another man so he could have his wife. But David knew he was a sinner whose only hope was the love and mercy and forgiveness of God, and because he repented greatly and loved God all the more after what he went through, God called David a man after His own heart. (2 Samuel 11; Psalm 51; 1 Samuel 13:14) God took the apostle Paul, a fanatical persecutor of the early Christians, and made him one of the greatest Christians of all time. (Acts 9:1-16) Jesus took a demon-possessed harlot, Mary Magdalene, and made her one of His favorite followers. (Luke 7:36-50; 8:2-3)

God’s idea of goodness is not sinless perfection. It’s a sinner who knows he has no righteousness of his own, but depends totally on the goodness of God. These are the only saints there are; there are no others! —D.B.B.

The winsome fruit—gentleness

A gentle spirit is one of the keys to success with people. It can make all the difference in how open others are to your wishes, opinions, and ideas.

Gentleness is translated as meekness in the King James Version of the Bible. This kind of meekness is defined as “an attitude of humility toward God and gentleness toward men, springing from a recognition that God is in control.”

Jesus is pictured in the Bible as a lamb, (John 1:29; Isaiah 53:7)  a mother hen, (Luke 13:34) and a gentle, concerned shepherd. (Isaiah 40:11; John 10:14-15) He said of Himself, “I am gentle and lowly in heart.” (Matthew 11:29) He didn’t force anyone to believe in or follow Him; He showed compassion, and gently wooed and won them into His heavenly kingdom by His loving example.

If you want to win friends and win others to the Lord, follow His example. (1 Peter 2:21) “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but be gentle to all.” (2 Timothy 2:24) “Be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility.” (Titus 3:2) “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. … 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.” (James 3:13,17)

If this sounds easier said than done, don’t worry. God can help you to be more like Jesus in this respect, too, if you will let His Holy Spirit work through you.

The liberating fruit—self-control

Paradoxical as it may seem, the secret to self-control is giving up control. It’s in yielding to God and letting His Holy Spirit take control of your thoughts, your actions and your life.

We need to do our part, of course. We need to put up some resistance when temptation comes knocking, and we need to work on strengthening our weak areas. But the fact of the matter is we all sometimes fall prey to temptation, give in to our personal weaknesses, and overindulge in some things that would be fine in moderation. The apostle Paul could have been speaking for us all when he wrote:

I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn I can’t make myself do right. I want to but I can’t.

When I want to do good, I don’t; and when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. Now if I am doing what I don’t want to, it is plain where the trouble is: sin still has me in its evil grasp. It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. … So you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature?

But then Paul hit upon the answer: “Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free.” (Romans 7:18-23 TLB)

“She has done what she could!”

Jesus said about the dear woman who anointed Him before His death, “She has done what she could.” (Mark 14:3-9)

Maybe you feel you can’t do very much, but at least you can do what you can. If you will be faithful to do your best at the job that God has given you to do for Him, however great or small that may be, He will greatly reward you one of these days when you stand before Jesus at the “judgment seat of Christ.” (Romans 14:10)

You’ll reap eternal rewards and everlasting glory, and have a feeling of genuine permanent accomplishment from your investment in His work. “Well done, good and faithful servant,” you will hear Him say. “Because you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Matthew 25:21) —D.B.B.

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You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your gentleness has made me great. (2 Samuel 22:36)

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Gentle words fall lightly, but they have a great weight.

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Holy Spirit, give us
Each a lowly mind;
Make us more like Jesus,
Gentle, pure, and kind.—W. H. Parker

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No matter what the Lord would like people to do or what He would like them to be, He lets them decide, because He wants them to have the faith for it and He wants them to want it. He likes them to freely choose to yield to Him because they love Him. God leaves the choice up to us which way we want to go, but if we’ll make the right choice to go God’s way, then He can step in to help us over- come our weaknesses. When we yield to the Holy Spirit and stay close to the Lord, then He can rule our spirits.

You can have peace and power that you’ve never known before—with Jesus—if you’ll let Him control your life. Have faith in God’s love and yield yourself to Him in submission and humility and let Him empower you.—D.B.B.

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In 1870, during one of his expeditions in the heart of Africa, the British doctor, missionary and explorer, David Livingstone (1813-1873), was not heard from for some time, and his welfare became a matter of international concern. He was eventually found by a search party led by the journalist Henry M. Stanley, who greeted the explorer with the famous remark, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

Later, Stanley wrote:

I went to Africa as prejudiced as the biggest atheist in London. But there came for me a long time for reflection. I saw this solitary old man there and asked myself, “How on earth does he stop here—is he cracked, or what? What is it that inspires him?”

For months after we met I found myself wondering at the old man carrying out all that was said in the Bible: “Leave all things and follow Me.” But little by little his sympathy for others became contagious; my sympathy was aroused; seeing his piety, his gentleness, his zeal, his earnestness, and how he went about his business, I was converted by him, although he had not tried to do it.

 

 

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