Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control

Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control

By Pastor Ben Hill (reproduced with permission)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

We have come to the final fruit of the Spirit and it is self-control. As I have been meditating on it, I have asked myself the following questions: “why is self-control the last of the fruit?” “Is there any significance in the order that they are listed?” Well, while I cannot give a definitive answer to these questions, there does seem to be a strong argument at least for the “bookends” (first and last) being in their respective positions.

Love comes first. That is true in every aspect of the Christian experience. In the Gospel, John 3:16 reads, “For God so LOVED the world that He gave…. His Son…” and in the Christian’s interaction with the lost, as found in Luke 10:27, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, (i.e. love God first – spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually) and your neighbor as yourself.” The truth is that without love, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13, I am NOTHING! So, love makes all the other fruits possible, because without love nothing else is genuine.

Likewise, I believe that self-control is the perfect other side of the bank of the fruit of the Spirit “river” that (hopefully) freely flows in our lives as Believers. A river with only one bank (i.e. “love” in this case) is not a river at all but rather just a swamp or marsh. Another bank is required in a river to keep the waters flowing, to keep them contained and effective. Self-control is that “river bank” of the fruits of the Spirit. Without it, the other fruits lose their effectiveness, and even identity. Self-control is required to show true Godly love, necessary to define genuine joy, essential to recognizing peace, a prerequisite for patience, and the absolute boundary that gives kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness credibility. Without self-control, the other fruits, regardless of how much they mean to you, are wasted. Loss of self-control makes the other fruits unbelievable, simply running off into the “swamp” of just another hypocrite.

The truth is that lack of control is what is in the natural man. Take, for instance, a temper tantrum: frustrating but acceptable in a small child, but ridiculous and damaging in a grown adult in the workplace! Paul outlines in painful detail the frightening results of a total lack of self-control in the previous three verses to our passage found in Galatians 5. To navigate the “river” of this life, I submit that if you follow the path that is defined by the “riverbanks” of LOVE and SELF-CONTROL, then the other fruit of the sweet Holy Spirit will be both evident and revealed in our lives!!

 

Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

By Pastor Ben Hill (Reproduced with permission)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.Galatians 5:22-23

Picture, if you will, a beautiful meadow with the wind softly blowing the tall grass and dandelions, a barefoot child in light spring clothing, playing just an arms-length from a laughing and engaged mother, butterflies dancing daintily on the breeze. Or the care with which a mother lifts her newborn from a crib. Perhaps these are the images in your mind when you hear the word “gentleness.”

The word in Galatians that is translated into gentleness is the Greek word, ‘chrēstotēs’. It can also be translated as meekness. This word certainly does not mean “weakness” or “timidity”; rather, it means a humble attitude and appreciation for God, and a polite and restrained demeanor when dealing with our fellow man. The fruit of the Holy Spirit in a maturing and surrendered Christian is manifested as strength and authority, cushioned by humble and respectful (or gentle) dealings with others. Notice it doesn’t mean questioning or turning away from truth or the strength of one’s convictions. It is similar to the way submission to God and His control brings an ability to correct others with ease and patience rather than with an argument in anger and resentment.

As I was preparing my amazing father’s funeral message, God kept directing me to the fact that, looking back, I could clearly see the evidence of all the Fruits of the Spirit in my father’s life! But, the one that seemed most prominent to me was this one, “gentleness.” Daddy was indeed a Spirit-filled and “gentle” gentleman. He had the conviction to boldly and unapologetically preach the Truth of God’s Word, while at the same time treating everyone with kindness, humility, and respect…yes, with gentleness.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in this excerpt from his poem “The Village Blacksmith,” paints a wonderful word-picture of this strength and power, wrapped in soft velvet:

Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate’er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man…

Then he tells of the blacksmith sitting in church listening to his daughter sing:

It sounds to him like her mother’s voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.

Be gentle and show the love of Christ!

 

Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness

Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness

By Pastor Ben Hill (Reproduced with permission)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

In a today’s culture, where opportunism and self-appeasement are so prevalent, it can be discouraging to try to find “faithful” people. The primary word translated to “faith” from the New Testament Greek is pistis, which is the same word used for “faithfulness.” Therefore, it represents both assurance and belief. When we think of faithfulness as in Galatians 5:22, it is generally thought of as “reliability.”

It is interesting, I believe, that in the Greek, ‘pistis’ is used for both faith (a quantitative commodity) and faithfulness (a measurable attribute), as they are different in definition but connected from the same root in meaning. You see, the faith in the Lord that we have is in direct proportion to, and indeed developed by, our exercising of faithfulness. The Bible provides a direct definition of faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (see Heb 11:1). The only way to build the quantifiable substance of faith is to practice faithfulness!

I hate to admit it, but I am repeatedly guilty of waiting on God to miraculously endow me with any faith that is required whenever a crisis hits. But although God does often give me the faith required, the need for a miracle keeps repeating itself. However, if I were to exercise faithfulness daily, hourly or even minute by minute, the things that are considered crises now would be relegated to minor bumps in the road that we all travel!

Paul establishes faithfulness as a bedrock of Christian living when in 2 Timothy 2:2 he says, “And the things that you have heard from me, among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” It is said: “practice makes perfect” but I profoundly disagree! Only perfect practice makes perfect! God gives us all the gifts we need to “practice” perfectly. So keep swinging as life throws curve balls and fastballs down and in…but just keep swinging.

Looking at each one of the “fruits of the Spirit” individually has certainly called to attention to so much that is lacking in my life! What about yours? Just a thought…for the day.

Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness

Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness

By Pastor Ben Hill (reproduced with permission)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

Once I was greeted by a stranger in passing with the standard, “How are you?” And I responded with the equally predictable retort, “I’m good, you?” Now ignoring the fact that we had both just repeated what is a common “greeting” here in the south, and not really an expression of deep concern for each other’s general well-being, the thought came to my mind: “can I really, honestly say that I am good? That, after all, presumes an awful lot!” Let me explain.

God is good. It is His nature. Goodness permeates His very being and that reality never ever waivers. God cannot contradict Himself so there is never a time when, or an action where, God is NOT Good! Me, on the other hand, well…. I’ll let you fill in the blank (and you won’t have to look at me, just look at yourself and the answer will come).

Remember being told by a parent, or telling your own child as a parent, “bye, have fun, and BE GOOD”? If your experience is anything like mine, that advice was followed with varying degrees of adherence, to say the least. But we all knew what it meant: do good, behave right, perhaps even, “don’t embarrass me!” How effective was that? Is that all the fruit of the Spirit “goodness” means? Jesus told the rich young ruler in Mark 10:18, “no one is good except God alone.” The young ruler had tried to earn God’s favor by doing and following all His commandments and by being morally right, but Jesus said it wasn’t enough! Teaching others to simply “do good” can easily become legalism.

The rich, young ruler was trying to earn his way to heaven by doing “good” and “following the rules”, but he lacked the most important thing… a genuine love for the rule-maker.

You see, the “goodness” that is a fruit of the Spirit is not merely self-righteous moral behavior, but rather is an excellence of character. It takes our good faith effort to do good and mixes it with the reality of God being good to produce in us an expression of His goodness. This is only possible through God’s divine work in our hearts. To enjoy the “goodness fruit” of the Spirit, get lost in and follow the great commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your might” and from that you will see the fruit of goodness as you “love others as yourself.”

Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

By Pastor Ben Hill (reproduced with permission)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23


Glen Campbell sang:

If you see your brother standing by the road
With a heavy load from the seeds he’s sowed
And if you see your sister falling by the way
Just stop and say, “You’re going the wrong way”

You got to try a little kindness, yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

Now to those of us who are old enough to the remember the song, and now have it “stuck” in our heads I say, “You’re welcome!”

Kindness…of all the fruits of the Spirit, this one is perhaps the most innately understood. Most everyone we meet has some idea of what kindness is, and can recognize kindness where it exists and where it doesn’t. Kindness doesn’t require any special knowledge; it is free, doesn’t need a program and doesn’t require special permission. No. Kindness is the simple act of being…well, KIND.

To express the love and grace of God necessitates kindness. How willing is someone going to be to listen to the Gospel if the one “preaching” it isn’t first and foremost kind?! The legalist shouts “truths” with condemnation while feeling secure in their self-righteousness. However, the Holy Spirit-led and passionate Christ follower wraps everything in a blanket of kindness and ministers grace and Truth to the community around them.

Another thought: As I typed the word “kind,” I was reminded of my niece, Kylie. She used to work for the KIND Snack company, and stocked us up well with their delicious snack bars. I remember thinking at the time how ironic it was because Kylie is by nature such a lovingly kind person! Well, curiosity kicked in and I did some quick research on the company; and there it is, where the name came from… it is just that, kindness. Their communicated goal is to 1) foster kindness to the body by using all natural ingredients; 2) Be kind to taste buds by making them taste great; and 3) Try to spread kindness through communities, country and the world.

Well, snack bars by themselves won’t get it done, but Jesus can! “Try a little kindness…” today and tomorrow and on and on… watch what the Lord does as we show the world the “kinder, gentler, loving side” of the church.

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