Fruit of the Spirit

Fruit of the Spirit – Self-Control

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[dropcap]R[/dropcap]omans 7.18 “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

1 Corinthians 9.27, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

What we say and do has an impact on others and what we think has an impact on ourselves.

I have recognised my propensity to say things that are inflammatory, rude, or just stupid. Ask any of my friends if, when I was younger, I was a controlled person, measured or sensible. I would bet they don’t say yes. Now, I wasn’t off the rails, but I didn’t really apply a whole bunch of forethought to a lot of things that I said. Because of this I ended up hurting a few people. James 3 says,”(4) Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. (5) Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.”

Each of us have moments we wish we’d exerted a little more thought and self-control. The good news is that we can. I will always be improving as I align myself with the Holy Spirit. The other good news is that God is for us, that’s not to say it’s easy, however, God is a good good Father.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?” Matthew 7:9-11

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Fruit of the Spirit

Fruit of the Spirit – Faithfulness

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[dropcap]F[/dropcap]aithfulness can be seen in many different circumstances. The clearest example of faithfulness in my life is my mum. My mum was ill for much of my childhood and yet she each day she displayed such a deep faithfulness to us by giving her energy, time and emotions even at a time when she had very little of herself to give.

Her faithfulness was bound up with sacrifice: the giving of herself regardless of her own interest or benefit. On reflection this resonates so deeply with the faithfulness of God displayed in Jesus’ death and sacrifice on the cross. As a children, my siblings and I were too young to really appreciate her faithfulness, but still we greatly benefited from it. It pointed us towards God because it mirrored his character and actions towards us as people.

Faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit. That means it comes from God and comes as a result of walking with him. This meant that the faithfulness my mum showed to me and my siblings was a way of displaying the presence of God in her life and thus pointing us towards the Saviour.

Her example challenges me to work out ways in which I can be faithful to those around me. For me, and perhaps for you, it starts by stepping out in faith — outside of our comfort zones — and offering ourselves firstly to God, and then to our friends, family and any others in sacrifice.

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Fruit of the Spirit

Fruit of the Spirit – Gentleness

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[dropcap]“A[/dropcap] soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh answer stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15
When I read the Fruits of the Spirit I am always challenged and always challenge myself to go deeper and show the attributes. A particularly difficult one for me is gentleness.

I come from a family where arguing and bickering have always been in the daily order-of-service. Of-course there are the usual family discrepancies, but I’ve always felt that we (and I) could do better. I think Jesus expects us to do better and has indeed enabled us to do so by the Holy Spirit.

I find gentleness a struggle because it can often go against my intuition. I want to be heard. I want to make my point. As an older brother I’ve had my fair share of disagreements with my siblings and parents and regretted the moments I’ve said hurtful things. However, I have also experienced moments where I have showed gentleness just like the proverb quoted above. These moments have required sensitivity and a willingness to listen to others. It comes from a place of humility and in the words of Paul “considering others more important than yourselves”. I have received more gentle words than I have given and testify to the power of it.

The power of gentleness extends beyond the bounds of immediate family scenarios and into all other areas of life. Gentleness is not at first a bold or noticeable fruit, but its ability to diffuse, restore, and heal are evident and to be pursued.

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Fruit of the Spirit

Fruit of the Spirit – Goodness

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[dropcap]M[/dropcap]any fruits of the Spirit become obvious after even a short time of knowing their source. For example, I can attribute much of what I call Love or Self-Control to Jesus’ work in my life. Some of the fruits of the Spirit are more nuanced. They seem to show up in many people’s lives and seem more common. Take Goodness. I have met many good people; some of them far from knowing God in any meaningful way, and yet there they are, being good to those around them. It makes me wonder then, what is different in me? Is my goodness just a positive side of humanity, or is there some real work occurring in my heart, a facet of my soul being remade into God’s likeness? I would like to propose it is the latter.

A while back I had left my home and went to Ireland to join an organisation dedicated to reconciliation in conflict countries. I had saved diligently to carry me through the next few months and pay for accommodation and any bills that might arise. I found out soon enough that other trainees were from other countries and some of them had felt this was the place the should be, regardless of the cost.

After a few months it was time to put our knowledge to work and visit another conflict country. At that point I learned one of the other students was short the funds necessary to complete the trip. I wondered why they would plan so far ahead and yet not prepare adequately? Then, a peculiar feeling came over me. What if I gave my savings to pay for their trip, to help them finish what that felt called to start? I pondered for a moment the sacrifice I would have to make. I had to count the cost of relinquishing my well planned bank account for a cause that was perhaps greater than my own.

I took my concerns to one of the leaders of the course. I said, ”I’m considering giving all of my savings to another student, but in doing so, I may not be able to pay any of my bills or even finish the course myself. How can I know if this is God speaking to me?”

Her answer will always cling to my mind as the most obvious signs of the Spirit at work.

She said, “Do you honestly think you are that good.”

I was startled by the bluntness of the question and it caused me to pause and ponder.

“No,” I said. “I am not.”

A week later, after much internal deliberation, counting the cost of this newfound goodness, I emptied my well planned bank account and gave all I had to one in need. I gave anonymously and I gave abundantly.

Later that month I found the student had received the gift and was overjoyed to tears. She immediately divided up the sum and sent a substantial portion back home to her family who were in desperate need and equally grateful to God. God, who is a good father and who gives good gifts.

Goodness is not simply a mediocre virtue of humanity, it is a goodness that ends in worship. Worship of a good God showing his goodness.

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Fruit of the Spirit

Fruit of the Spirit – Kindness

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he impact that an unexpected act of kindness can have on an individual always surprises me. An example of this that particularly influenced me was a Christian Union event held each month on the university campus. Simply named ‘Tea and Toast,’ we would set up a table outside the Uni club from 10pm through to 2am and as the name suggests serve cups of tea and piles of toast. The responses we had, mostly from tipsy/very drunk students, was pure gratitude. This unexpected act of kindness often led to great conversations about God, faith and the meaning of life. Many of them had never interacted with Christians and we were able to challenge their stereotypes of what faith in Jesus really means.

Even if we don’t think we’re particularly good at being ‘kind,’ as a fruit of the Spirit, kindness is a natural result of the Spirit’s work in an individual’s life. In this case it enabled me to better portray God’s kindness to my fellow students in a simple, cheap but effective way! Often it can be small acts of kindness which have a big impact on those around you. How might kindness be a fruit in your life?

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