GALATIANS 5:22, 23
By now we know that physical and spiritual fruit is very important to our well-being. Doctors are discovering more and more that fruit should be part of our diet if the diet is to be a healthy one. The Food Guide Pyramid bears out the importance of fruit. According to this food pyramid, a daily portion of two to four servings of fruit should be in our diet. I think of going into the grocery store. One of the first aisles you go down usually has fruit and vegetables. There we can find all types of fruits.
The same should be true in the life of the believer. All the fruits of the Spirit should be seen in our life because of our relationship with God. The fruits are unlike the gifts of the Spirit. The gifts are given selectively. Not all Christians have the same gifts or use the same gift the same way. God matches the gift to our personality and to our uniqueness. He does this after giving the gift of grace which all Christians have. It is this gift of grace that enables us to use the gifts he gives. The fruits of the Spirit are not like this. All of the fruits should be evident in the Christian's life. We all have the power and ability to produce these various fruits and thereby bring honor and glory to God. By manifesting these fruits, we also give witness and testimony to what he has done and is doing in our life.
We have already looked at the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness and kindness. Today we want to finish by looking at the final three fruits of the Spirit.
I. WE MUST PRODUCE FAITHFULNESS
To be faithful is to be loyal and trustworthy. This does not refer to faith as exercised by the child of God. All Christians have already exercised this faith when they trusted Christ as their Savior. It speaks of faithfulness produced by the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian who is yielded to God. This is one of the surest tests of our character.
Jesus is our great example in faithfulness. The Bible says of him that he “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:7) What greater example of faithfulness could we turn to? Jesus had all the glory of heaven. He was with the Father. Yet he gave this up for a time because God's desire was for him to come to earth and die to show God's love for humanity. There was a great depth in the incarnation. Paul tells us in Ephesians that before Christ could ascend after his resurrection, he had to descend, and this he did to the lower parts of the earth. He left his throne in glory to come and die for sinful mankind. He was faithful to what God the Father wanted him to do.
Jesus taught the necessity of faithfulness in his parable of the talents. He tells of a man traveling to a far country. He calls his servants and entrusts his goods to them. He gives one five talents, another two and another one. The one given the five puts them to good use and makes five more. The one given two did the same thing. But the servant who was given one dug a hold and hid the money in the ground. When the master returned, this servant drew a sharp rebuke from him because of his actions. The master in turn takes the talent and gives it to the one who has ten. Jesus said; “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew 25:29)
Faithfulness also involves adhering to what is right. It means recognizing there is a difference between right and wrong and sticking to the right. If we are not careful, we will find ourselves compromising. It is tempting to compromise our faith in some way if it is to our benefit. In the third epistle of John, John compliments Demetrius because of his faithfulness in word, truth, precept, and practice. Compromise is a dangerous but familiar landmine for the believer.
Faithfulness also entails being faithful to the plan of God for our life. How many times do we know what God wants us to do but do not do it for one reason or another. The full blessings of God can only fall when we are faithful to his plan for our life.
God selected Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage. The journey from Egypt to Canaan could have taken only a few months, but because of unfaithfulness on their part, it took much longer. The majority of the spies sent into the land said they could not take the land. A failure to be faithful to God's plan in this matter led to forty years of wandering in the wilderness.
Being faithful also leads to spiritual growth. Many times a young person when they become a certain age will want all privileges that adults have but not the responsibilities. Sometimes we want all the blessings of God, but we do not want the responsibility of being faithful to him. We cannot grow spiritually when this is the case.
I think of the great patriarch Abraham when I think of faithfulness. God called him from his land to go to a land he had never seen before. He left not knowing where he was going. The Bible says of him; “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would afterward receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8)
We can test our faithfulness in several ways: how much time do I spend in the Word of God, how much time do I spend in prayer with him, how much effort do I put forth to live a righteous lifestyle. Paul was able to say; “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who love His appearing.” (II Timothy 4:7)
The story is told of a judge who had the awful experience of having his son appear before him for a DUI charge. Adorning himself with his robes, he knew that in his capacity he could not let his own feelings affect his decision. He sentenced him with a fine. But then rising, he disrobed himself and went and stood by his son. Then he paid his fine. He was faithful as a judge and as a father. We need such faithfulness to our heavenly Father.
II. WE MUST PRODUCE GENTLENESS
Gentleness is sometimes translated meekness. It is a humble and gentle attitude that pervades us even when offended by others. It carries no desire for revenge or retribution no matter what the offense committed. The New Testament uses it to describe three attitudes: a submission to the will of God, a willingness to be taught, and consideration for other people. The Bible instructs us in this manner; “As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12) It carries the idea of mildness in dealing with others. It does not mean to be weak, timid or spiritless. It is power under control.
God is the source of this as well as all other fruits. Jesus said; “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) Jesus showed such an attitude in his actions. In spite of being accused falsely, mocked, spit on, beaten, and nailed to a cross, he displayed a spirit of gentleness all the way to the end.
There are some guidelines we must follow to have this gentle spirit. We must not rise up defensively when others hurt our feelings. We must not have a craving for preeminence but must be willing for God to receive all the glory from our lives. We must not seek high regard or recognition.
Jesus said of the meek or gentle; “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)
To understand gentleness, we might appeal to the iceberg. No matter how high the iceberg rises above the water, the greater part of it is submerged. The iceberg is formidable and destructive as they drift along the sea lanes. The greatest threat to the iceberg is something that is actually very beneficial. It is the sun. As the sun gently places its rays and heat on the iceberg, it will slowly die. It is the gentleness of God's dealing with us that melts what are sometimes hearts of stone so that he can use us in his ministry.
III. WE MUST PRODUCE SELF-CONTROL
This speaks of our ability to restrain passions and appetites. If we are going to know perfect holiness, we must exercise self control. This comes from a Greek word meaning strong, having mastery, and being able to control one's thoughts and actions. Physical and mental appetites destroy this fruit from many Christian's lives.
Alcohol is one thing that appeals to the physical appetite of many. It causes people to kill themselves and others. Many innocent victims are killed from alcohol-related accidents. It leads to the breakup of families. And then there are the physical diseases that can result from too much drink. The Bible says; “Wine is a mocker, Intoxicating drink arouses brawling, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” (Proverbs 20:1)
We also need self-control in the area of unkindness, gossip, pride and jealousy. Instead we should set our minds on spiritual things. Paul said; “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:5)
We can also speak of the self-control needed in the area of eating. Many bring on physical problems or at least increase their risk because we do not eat right. Self-control must also be used in the area of sexual matters. This too is an area where self-control certainly needs enhancing today. The high number of abortions and out of wedlock births attests to this. Even within the bonds of marriage, there must still be self-control.
In the matter of our tempers, we need self-control. The Bible says; "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” (Proverbs 16:32)
Just as the athlete must condition his body through rigorous training and practice to be ready to compete, so as Christians we must train our bodies through self-control so we can prepare ourselves for the work of God. John Wesley's mother once said that “anything which increases the authority of the body over the mind is an evil thing.”
The Spirit-filled life will produce faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
The story is told of a man who glanced at the obituary column one day and in total surprise saw his name there. It indicated that he had just died. At first, he laughed, but then the phone began to ring with friends and acquaintances expressing their sympathy. He called the newspaper editor and angrily reported that he was alive. The editor was apologetic. In a flash of inspiration, he said; “Do not worry, sir, I will make it all right, for tomorrow I will put your name in the births column.” When we have trusted Christ as our Savior and been born again, our life must produce the fruit of the Spirit.