This study calls for objectivity in self-examination. Satan will skew our objectivity because he does not want us to grow and improve as Christians. Be honest with yourself and especially with God. He will bless your efforts to be what he wants us to be! There are over fifty characteristics, attitudes, and responsibilities of our faith written about in the Bible.
Think about the following questions as you study this list. Are these characteristics God’s wish list or expectations? Why does he want me to have and use these? Does he expect me to be able to achieve every one of these? Do they all hold equal value to God? Why are these so important to him?
As you read these characteristics and actions, measure yourself, not your spouse nor anyone else. Do not compare yourself with some else, “Well, I know I’m better than…”. God will not compare your successes or failures to another one of his children. We stand on our own. The following is from NewCREEation Ministries:
“Comparing yourself with others to measure your success is unwise. It can puff you up with pride, lull you into complacency, or lead you into discouragement and depression. Besides, you don't know what's going on in that other person's heart. From God's perspective, they may be doing much better or worse than it appears to you. The only accurate way to measure your success is to use God's standard: faithfulness. Are you doing what you know God told you to do? Your responsibility is to be faithful and obedient. God is the one who provides the increase. So, the results are on Him anyway. Check your focus. Are you looking at those who are way ahead, or way behind you? Instead, fix your eyes on Jesus, the author, and finisher of your faith.”
For we dare not count or compare ourselves with those, who commend themselves. They who measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another are not wise. — 2 Corinthians 10:12 (MEV)
Many of these characteristics are laid out as fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22: “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.”
The fruits of the spirit are the Holy Spirit’s cultivation of character in our heart. He is working to make us more Christ-like. Some of the writers were very adamant that we must CHOOSE to have and demonstrate these characteristics in our lives. To claim we have these in our heart without demonstrating them is of no value to God or ourselves.
Love: Matthew 22:37-39 – Jesus instructs the apostles that love for God is the greatest commandment then love for our neighbor comes right after that. The Greek word used in Matthew and Galatians is agape, which is unconditional love. Many commentators believe it also means a powerful love that calls for action and sacrifice on behalf of others. This love is not just a warm fuzzy feeling in our heart, hoping for the best for others but requires us to take action on someone else’s behalf. That’s easy to do for our family and friends but what about that person that we detest? Some people in our lives are arrogant, selfish, mean spirited, and the list can go on, but there is no list of exceptions that excuses us from loving. The best way to love those you dislike is to pray for them. It’s hard not to have a love for people while praying for them. Then pray for your attitude about love. You still may have a problem liking them, but maybe your prayers will help you both change.
Joy: The word used here is not the joy we receive from earthly pleasures but is the joy we receive from a loving and obedient relationship with God. Psalms 94:19 - “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” If you don’t have joy in your heart from being a Christian, then examine yourself to find out why. Something needs fixing!
Peace: The word means the tranquility of our heart, which comes from knowing that our lives are in the hands of God. This tranquility is not a feeling that sorrow will never come into our lives, but the peace of knowing God cares for us and has a plan for us. If we do not have this peace, then maybe our relationship with God and willingness to accept his will needs our attention with prayer.
Patience: KJV uses the word long-suffering. It comes from the Greek word generally used not for patience regarding things or events but regarding people. We are not to live in agitation biding our time until we can get revenge. William Barclay comments: “If God had been a man, he would have wiped out this world long ago; but he has that patience which bears with all our sinning and will not cast us off.” Some people require a great deal more of our patience than others but then again maybe you do too.
Kindness: This word has the meaning of tender concern, even sweetness. Kindness is the characteristic that God demonstrated when he arranged salvation for us. Christ showed kindness to the sinning woman who anointed his feet. Christ demonstrated the greatest kindness by allowing the sacrifice of his body and blood for our sins.
Goodness: The word means beneficial results. Goodness is virtue and holiness when we act selflessly on someone else’s behalf. Consider the goodness we receive from God every day. If he is good to me, an unworthy sinner, who am I to not “pay it forward”? It also focuses on our morality, which influences others for God.
Faithfulness: The Greek word used here is the characteristic of someone trustworthy, careful with what they have been entrusted with, steadfast, and constant. We are faithful in the knowledge that God is who he says he is and that his word is our guide despite what the world says. I know with all my heart that I can count on God to be faithful to me, but can God count on me? Can others count on me?
Gentleness: There is a difference of opinion among commentators about the meaning of the Greek word here. One writer states that it is not acting in tenderness or a soft way controlling physical strength for the benefit of another. He believes it is submitting to God’s plan with a humble and peaceful heart. Other writers believe it has to do with our restrained behavior towards others.
This following was taken from the website, Got Questions:
“Every person is powerful. We can speak words that influence others; we can act in ways that help or hurt; and we can choose what influences will inform our words and actions. Gentleness constrains and channels that power. To be gentle is to recognize that God's ways and thoughts are high above our own (Isaiah 55:9). It is to humbly realize that our worldviews are shaped by exposure to sin and the misinterpretation of experience. It is to accept God's worldview, reflecting truth about the spiritual and the material worlds.”
Got Questions thinking fits the context of Galatians better for me.
Self-control: The word used in the KJV is temperance, which means the ability to control yourself by using restraint and moderation. William Barclay comments that in secular Greek, the word was used to describe an Emperor who does not allow his personal interest to influence his government of the people. If only all our elected government leaders would practice the same.
We’ve looked at what the Bible has to say about the fruits of the spirit with the interpretations of the meaning of Galatians 5:22. Let’s think about the applications of these verses. For me, knowledge for knowledge sake is not enough; there needs to be an application to my life. I went to Freed-Hardeman for four semesters and each semester in Bible class we had to memorize fifty Bible verses. Not one of the four professors told us why they selected the verses they assigned to the class, nor did they discuss the application. II Timothy 2:15 directs us to study to show ourselves approved. This verse means more than to simply understand the words; we must make an application.
As we look at the application of each spirit, I am borrowing from Max Lucado’s book, When God Whispers Your Name. Max is one of those writers who believes that we must make a conscious choice to display the fruits of the spirit in our life. In my words, “It ain’t going to happen unless you CHOOSE for it to happen!” The Holy Spirit will not shove the fruits down our throats!
Love calls for actions on someone’s behalf. It does not have to be a grandiose action. Offer encouragement by speaking a kind word, send a note, let them know you are praying for them. When others are sick, cook a meal, mow a yard, take someone elderly person grocery shopping. Almost without fail, there are people in retirement and nursing homes that do not see their family for whatever reason. Run by at lunchtime to let them know that they matter and are loved. Max writes, “No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves.”
Joy, in knowing that God desires a relationship with us is a positive influence in our life. Max: “I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God”. If others see this joy in our lives because of a relationship with God, we have become an encouragement for them to have a relationship with God.
Peace – Others can detect whether we are at peace or in distress. It’s difficult to always have peace when challenging times come. Through prayer, our faith can overcome stress and demonstrate to others that our peace is because of our relationship with God. Max relates our peace to God’s forgiveness in our lives: “I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live”. Peace is living with the knowledge of our salvation always in our mind!
Patience with people is often a struggle for me. Because it is a struggle is no excuse, nor can I pass it off it as “God did not grant me much patience.” Max believes patience is to be demonstrated in every situation: “I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place. I’ll invite him to do so. Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clinching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage”.
Kindness – God demonstrates his great kindness to us in many ways every day. His greatest kindness came when he watched as Christ was beaten, spit on, mocked, nailed to the cross, suffered while he hung on the cross, and speared in the side. These would be heartbreaking for a parent to watch but to have then your child ask why you forsook them would be the most grueling of all. How can I choose not to show kindness to others? Max: “I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. Kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me”.
Goodness – As the Holy Spirit works in our heart, our character changes and goodness becomes a way of life. We choose the fruits of the spirit and act in ways that are beneficial to others. We rid ourselves of selfishness, anger, spite, revenge, etc. and become focused on goodness. Max – “I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I boast. I will confess before I accuse”.
Faithfulness – We are entrusted with so much in our lives. Each of us has been given a talent to use to influence others for God. Our children count on us to take care of them in every way, physically and spiritually. Our employers count on us to be faithful in completing our work. Are we faithful to them in such a way to be an influence for God? Max writes: “Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not question my word. My wife will not question my love. And my children will never fear that their father will not come home.”
Gentleness is being able to restrain myself in either action or word. From Got Questions: “Gentleness, also translated “meekness,” does not mean weakness. Rather, it involves humility and thankfulness toward God, and polite, restrained behavior toward others. The opposites of gentleness are anger, a desire for revenge, and self-aggrandizement.”
Galatians 6:1 instructs us to go to someone in sin and restore them in gentleness. Even in difficult times, we are to remain gentle. Max: “Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raised my voice, may it only be in praise. If I clench my fist, may it only be in prayer. If I make a demand, may it only be of myself”. Ok, Max but what about Jesus running the money changers out of the temple? He was not gentle! Agreed! But he is the son of God. I’m not!
Self-control is not the most important fruit but is of great importance. Without self-control, the other fruits are much more difficult to maintain. Satan will use any means to tempt us, and he knows where we are the weakest. He will not waste his time and effort, tempting you with alcohol if it is not a weakness for you. We have to rely on God’s promise that he will provide a way out for us: I Corinthians 10:13 from God’s Word translation: “But when you are tempted, he will also give you the ability to endure the temptation as your way of escape.” Our ability to escape is using our self-control. Max: “I am a spiritual being. After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control”.
In the second paragraph, there were questions to consider as you studied the fruits of the spirit. I believe these are the answers to the questions. The fruits are God’s expectations of us, not merely his wish list. He expects us to have these characteristics to influence others, but he also knows they will make our lives more fulfilling. He understands we may be stronger in some than others, but he expects us to work with the Holy Spirit to mature in them all. I believe they are of equal value to him. They are all interrelated, and each one supports the others. They are all important to God because we are his workman, servants, and we need to lead others to him. He wants us all to be in heaven with him.
Max writes: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To these, I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek his grace. And then, when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest”.
Whether we like to admit it or not people watch us because they know we are Christians. Some are truly interested in us as examples while others are waiting to find blame when we fail. As you can imagine, I do not always demonstrate the fruits in my behavior. Satan gets to me and I fail God. It’s not just failing God in our relationship that bothers me but the fact that I fail those that look for me to set the Christian example. We hold great influence with others in their relationship with God. We should ask God daily to strengthen us to demonstrate each of the fruits in our lives.
Practice Galatians 5:22, and I Corinthians 13. Watch how much better your life and the lives of those around for you become.
Material used by Max Lucado: When God Whispers Your Name
Publisher: Word Publishing - Copyright by,Max Lucado 1994
Used by Permission