GALATIANS 5:22, 23
Those who study health habits tell us that fruit is a very important part of our diet. They are important mainly for the vitamins and minerals they contain. The acids they contain also help the digestive process. Fruits can be eaten in many ways. We eat some fruits fresh, others canned, some dried and still others frozen. The juice from fruits can be bought frozen or canned.
My grandfather and grandmother have several fruit trees in their yard. He tells of the blooming peach tree he bought, but to his surprise it bore peaches. Then there is the apple tree that bears up to five different kinds of apples.
Fruit is very important to the Christian life. In fact, it is proof positive that we belong to God. If we belong to God, our lives should be bearing the fruit that Paul enumerates in these verses. We have already considered the fruit of love, joy and peace. Now we want to continue looking at things that should characterize God's people.
I. WE SHOULD PRODUCE PATIENCE
Patience carries the idea of being tolerant and longsuffering when we are wronged by others. It is a calm willingness to accept situations in our life that are painful and irritating. It comes from a Greek word that speaks of a person's steadfastness under provocation. It is when we can endure ill-treatment from others without wanting to retaliate or take revenge because of what they have done. It is when we deal with others in a kind and compassionate manner. It is when we judge the faults of others with understanding instead of criticism.
Since God is slow to anger, we as his children should be also. We are told to emulate the patience of our Lord. The Bible says; “As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)
Patience includes perseverance where the Lord's work is concerned. Doing God's work is fulfilling and rewarding, but we cannot take away the reality that many times we grow weary and disgusted in this work. The work itself is not the problem. It is the way many respond to our efforts to do God's work. Many times others are not willing to accept our testimony. Though we want them to respond to the salvation message, they will not. The frustration can also be felt when trying to re-motivate cold and indifferent church members. We hear a million excuses as to why they cannot come to that particular church anymore, yet they do not bother to go anywhere else either. Patience is the ability to withstand all of this while at the same time maintaining a sense of optimism. We must remember that God is in control, not us.
Like the other gifts, God is the source. Paul said; “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 15:5) God proclaimed himself to be patient. He made this statement to Moses. When Moses saw the disobedience of the people while he was on the mountain receiving the commandments of God, Moses threw the tablets down and broke them. God instructed Moses to come up the mountain again and receive new tablets. As the Lord passed before Moses, he proclaimed these words; “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.” (Exodus 34:6)
We see the patience of God as he dealt with the children of Israel. There was a pattern in their life that is much like ours. They were committed to God, but the times would come when they would turn away from him. God would send punishment for their disobedience, and they would repent and stay faithful for a while. It would not be long before the pattern would begin again. God would patiently deal with them through their many failures even as he does us.
We see the virtue of patience in the life of Christ. The majority of people doubted his identity. He was ridiculed and tested on many occasions by those who doubted his authenticity. He was falsely accused and put to death on a cross. He showed patience through the testing, suffering, pain and agony. Isaiah said of the coming Messiah; “He was oppressed and He was afflicted. Yet he opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)
Patience is a result of testing and trials. The Bible says; “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” (James 1:2) We should welcome the troubling times because we know that they will result in patience. We think of the patience of Job. He lost his property, children and health. He was ridiculed and rebuked by his so-called friends. In all of this, he was patient, and God rewarded him greatly for his patience. The Bible also says; “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance.” (Romans 5:3)
Joseph also gives us an example of patience. He was hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, wrongly accused by Potiphar and thrown into prison. His patience was rewarded by God. He was promoted by Pharaoh as ruler over all the land of Egypt.
God is patient with us today. He is patient with sinners as he calls them to repentance. He is patient with his children who often fail him. Because of his patience with us, we need to extend the same patience to others even when they treat us wrongly. We need patience in suffering wrongs and with others.
One has stated; “In the full face of afflictions it is hard to see any sense to things that befall us and we want to question the fairness of a faithful God. However, these moments can be the most meaningful of our lives.”
Paul Little was killed in an automobile accident in 1975. He was an outstanding Bible teacher, theology professor, leader of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and former member of the Billy Graham team. Though Billy Graham tells of asking God why, he tells how Paul's wife, Maria, came to a team retreat a few months after his death. There she manifested a marvelous spirit, sharing with the wives of the team members her victory. She comforted when it would seem she would need the comfort. We need patience in suffering and with others.
II. WE MUST PRODUCE KINDNESS
To show kindness is to show a tender compassion and concern for other people. It is the genuine desire to treat others as the Lord Jesus treats us. Sometimes we need to ask ourselves whether or not we are treating others as Jesus treats us. Our example is the kindness of Jesus. When his disciples tried to forbid the people from bringing the children to Jesus, he rebuked them and allowed the children to come. Jesus invited the weary and heavy-laden to come to him and he would give them rest. The Bible says; “And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone.” (II Timothy 2:24) Like the other fruits, this one also finds its source in God.
This word comes from a Greek word that refers to a kindness that pervades and penetrates the whole nature of a person. It involves showing kindness even when others are not showing us kindness. It involves having a heart that weeps over sin and sinners. It involves a concern for all people and then demonstrates that kindness through actions.
Nehemiah speaks of the kindness of God toward the people of Israel. God brought them out of Egyptian bondage, parted the Red Sea before them, swallowed Pharaoh's army in the Red Sea, led them by day and night, supplied them with manna, quail and water, made a covenant with them, and after all this, they still rebelled against him. In spite of this, Nehemiah says of God; “But you are God, Ready to pardon, Gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, Abundant in kindness, And did not forsake them.” (9:17)
Jesus also showed kindness. During his time, there were few institutions of mercy. It was a world of few hospitals or mental institutions. There were few homes for the orphans and few havens for the forsaken. In this world, Jesus brought kindness. He healed the sick, lame, blind and deaf.
The great king David showed kindness to Saul when he was king. Though Saul admired David at first, that admiration soon turned to jealousy and hate when the people began to pay more attention to David than Saul. He tried to kill David on several occasions, and David had to flee for his life. David had the opportunity to kill Saul on one occasion, but he showed kindness by sparing his life.
The greatest act of kindness was shown by God in sending his Son to demonstrate his love for fallen humanity. The Bible says; "But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.'” (Titus 3:4)
We need to tap the source of kindness that is found in Jesus Christ. Charles Hembree, in his book Fruits of the Spirit, says; “In our age of guided missiles and misguided men there is desperate need for us to learn how to share gentleness. It seems strange that in an age when we can reach the moon, bounce signals off far planets, and receive pictures from whirling satellites we have great difficulty communicating tenderness to those about us.”
III. WE MUST PRODUCE GOODNESS
Goodness speaks of moral and spiritual excellence. It is shown by sweetness and active kindness. The key word in the definition is active. It is possible for us to be morally upright and yet not show the grace of goodness. It carries the idea of self-sacrifice. It refers to the quality found in a person who is ruled by and aims at what is good. It is trying our best to be like God. Again the true source of goodness is found in God. It involves doing good because we have a good heart not because we are expecting some medal or reward.
Joseph is an example of a good man. While he was betrothed to Mary, the mother of Jesus, he discovered that she was pregnant. Since he was a righteous man, he could not marry her, assuming she had been unfaithful to him. Since he was a good man also, he could not bear the thought of disgracing her, so he decided to put her away secretly. This is an example of goodness.
Jesus himself said; “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.” (Luke 6:27)
Tony Campolo tells of going to the wrong parlor of the funeral home to pay his respects to the family of an acquaintance. He saw the body of an elderly man, and his widow was the only mourner present. He decided to stay for the funeral and even drove her to the cemetery. At the graveside service, he confessed to her his mistake. She replied; “I thought as much. I didn't recognize you. But it doesn't really matter. You'll never, ever, know what this means to me.”
Believers are commanded to show goodness. The Bible says; “So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)
Can you say today that you are showing patience, kindness and goodness to others in the name of Jesus?
The Jewish people practice a custom called shiva after there is a death in the community. Friends, neighbors and relatives practically take over the house of the bereaved for a week. They bring their own crates to sit on. They provide food and clean the place up. They in reality force their presence on the mourner. In a highly symbolic meal, the visitors feed the bereaved like a baby with forks and spoons. Wisdom has taught that the mourner needs the presence of others whether the person wants to acknowledge it or not. The message is: “We will not leave you alone. We will bear this pain with you.”