PRODUCTIVE FOR GOD OR PRODUCTIVE FOR SATAN
I’ve been studying and writing on this article for some time. It’s going to be long, so I decided the best thing is to publish it in two parts. The following is part one.
FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT
As I look at my life, I’m either productive for God or productive for Satan. It’s impossible to be both at the same time. As you study Paul’s writings in Galatians 5, he outlines our choices as works of the flesh, Satan’s path or God’s path, the fruits of the Spirit. He writes that these are in conflict with each other. There are decisions and choices we must make. There is implied expectation that we use these gifts for God’s glory. God wants us to grow our relationship with Him by having and using the fruits. Our use of the fruits will influence others with their relationship with God as they watch us. If I’m not allowing the Holy Spirit to produce the fruits in me then I’m being unproductive for God and productive for Satan. God knows that we will not be productive for Him every minute of every day. He understands at times we will be productive for Satan. That’s why He brought Jesus into the world.
Galatians 5:22-25 New International Version (NIV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-25 The Message (MSG)
22-25 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Galatians 5:22-25 J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
22-25 The Spirit, however, produces in human life fruits such as these: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity, tolerance and self-control—and no law exists against any of them. Those who belong to Christ have crucified their old nature with all that it loved and lusted for. If our lives are centered in the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit.
I used different translations to get a better understanding of how the fruits enter our lives and what the they are intended to represent. Each of the translations indicates that the fruits belong to the Holy Spirit. Philips uses the expression: “The Spirit produces in human life” and the MSG uses the expression “when we live God’s way”. You’ve heard people use the expression, “that’s his or her nature” when talking about others. It’s only his or her nature as provided by the Spirit. The point here is that the Holy Spirit maintains control of the fruits. In order to have these positive characteristics, we must belong to Christ and invite and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us. Otherwise how can we have use of these positive attitudes and actions in order to be productive for God?
I’m using three commentators primarily in this study: William Barclay, Albert Barnes and Barton Warren Johnson.
Barnes writes: “But the fruit of the Spirit - That which the Holy Spirit produces. It is not without design, evidently, that the apostle uses the word "Spirit" here, as denoting that these things do not flow from our own nature. The vices* above enumerated are the proper "works" or result of the operations of the human heart; the virtues which he enumerates are produced by a foreign influence - the agency of the Holy Spirit. Hence, Paul does not trace them to our own hearts, even when renewed. He says that they are to be regarded as the proper result of the Spirit's operations on the soul.” * In verses 19-21, Paul lists what he refers to works of the flesh or sins.
Johnson writes: “The fruits named are not our fruits, but the Spirit in us. If we bear these fruits, we show that we have the Spirit.”
Barclay does not make a point that the fruits belong to the Spirit but does use the phrase “of the Spirit” as he writes.
Love – There are four different Greek words for love. The word used here is agape which means a strong and deliberate feeling of benevolence for all people. We must love regardless of how a person has treated us. Our love must be unconditional. Do not expect anything in return. A difficult task at times, yes, but attainable through the Holy Spirit.
As a child, this concept of love was difficult to understand. My thoughts were, “I really don’t like that person so how can I love them?” There is one person in your life that comes to mind that you despise but we are directed in both Romans 12 and Luke 6 to pray for them which is deliberate love.
Many people demonstrated love during my strokes and knee surgery by providing food and cards which Kay and I really appreciated. The words I most appreciated were, “I’m praying for you!” To tell someone that you are spending your time with God asking Him to bless you is one of the finest loves I can imagine.
Joy – The word is used as a basis of joy in being a Christian not that life is going your way or joy of having earthly things but the happiness of being a Christian. Even though life is often hard and difficult, you find your joy in knowing God is there with you.
The MSG translation uses “exuberance for life” for joy. If we have exuberance for life because we are Christians, others will notice and be influenced in their relationship with Christ. Others do watch us!
Peace – If you have peace in life, then you have tranquility or serenity. It doesn’t mean the lack of troubles, no disappointments or no heartaches in your life. It does mean you are aware of the presence of God in your life and that He has your back.
The MSG translation uses the word “serenity”. David Young, minister at North Boulevard, has a sermon series entitled Peace of Mind. He says that thirty percent of people have an issue with anxiety. Anxiety is the absence of peace. It is manageable by seeking the peace described in Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The following is an excerpt from Allen Jackson’s book, Standing Firm: “We post a photo of our supper on social media and panic when not when not enough “friends” say they “like” it. Some fears are more serious than others, but it is true that fear- both real and imagined - is very real in our society. Thankfully, there is no fear that cannot be overcome with the peace that Jesus gives us. If Jesus said we don’t have to be afraid, we don’t have to be. If Jesus gives me His peace, that’s good enough for me.”
Allen ends each day’s devotion with a prayer: “Heavenly Father, thank You that in this troubled world You provide peace, security, and abundant life through the cross of Jesus Christ. May Your Holy Spirit counsel me daily in Your peace. When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
Patience – If you refer to a Thesaurus, you’ll find words like endurance, tolerance, persistence, fortitude, forbearance, etc. Some of these words are used in regard to things or events. The MSG translation uses “willingness to stick with things.” Barclay is fully convinced that Paul’s writing is about patience or tolerance for other people. He writes about God’s patience with our sinning and encourages us to demonstrate the same patience to one another as God does to us.
Allen Jackson has a couple of thoughts on patience. He believes that some people use anger as opposed to patience to manipulate people. He illustrates with Proverbs 16:32: “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.”
Allen also writes about our patience with God. He says that waiting on God to deliver him from some situation can be trying. “Sometimes God wants us to wait on Him, and continue to call on Him, so that we will know that our deliverance is from Him alone. He hears us and intends to rescue us. When He does, we will have new reasons to praise Him, and others will be able to see what He has done for us.”
Kindness – Barclay writes that the Greek word can be translated as sweetness. Probably, most macho men don’t see sweetness as a strength. The Bible seems to think it is important: Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Matthew 9:13 “Go and learn what this means, he commands I want kindness more than I want animal sacrifices”. Most translations use the word mercy as opposed to kindness, but the words are interchangeable.
You may have kindness but if you don’t use it, that’s not good enough. I pray daily that God will improve my speech. It’s better than it was five years ago, but it still is frustrating for the person I’m speaking with and me. The Holy Spirit reminds me to express my appreciation for people’s patience with me. When I think to express my appreciation, they often have a look on their face, “somebody noticed my efforts to be kind to them.” They seem to have a sense of accomplishment.
I also pray daily that I will become more aware of my need for the Holy Spirit. He’s always present but I need a “thump on the head” as a reminder to use one of the fruits.
An example of love and kindness: David Young says that he and another member at North Boulevard often have lunch together. As the server delivers their meal, his friend will say, “We are going to give thanks for our food, is there anything you would like us to pray about?” Most often they say, “no thank you” but at one meal the young lady said “yes” and expressed a need. She sat down with them while he prayed with her. A great use of the fruits!
Standing Firm – Finding Courage in the Word Of God written by Allen Jackson – 2018 – Published by Intend Publishing – Used with permission
Quotes from David Young’s sermon series Peace of Mind used with permission