Does Your Spirit look Like this….?
Understanding God’s Love Series
By: Elizabeth L. Creecy
No one ought to be confident in his own strength when he undergoes temptation. For whenever we endure evils courageously, our long-suffering comes from Christ.
The Fruit of the Spirit
Last week, I discussed what the fruit of love is and looks like. The newsletter ended with Galatians 5:22-23, which is the fruit of the Spirit. Today I am going to break down the fruit of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.
I understand that it is easy to read these words, but my goal is to make the fruit of the Spirit come alive in your mind’s eye! I am going to do that by breaking down the fruit of the Spirit.
The first piece of the fruit Paul lists out is love. Now, I have already spoken about what love is, but I will share a quick recap.
God’s love bears little resemblance to the emotional meaning so often given to the world. God’s love is shown by Jesus. I believe love is the foundation for all of the other components of the fruit of the Spirit to gain its richness.
Love is ultimately saying I am going to treat you well because you are a child of God. Think: If God loves you (and He loves all), I will love you too.
God’s love is a choice, and it takes maturity, wisdom, and discernment to walk in. Jesus showed the perfect example of love. I encourage you to create your own Bible Study, where you study how Jesus operates when interacting with people and his disciples. Ultimately Jesus shows love as self-sacrificing and unchanging. The Father demonstrated this kind of love when He sent His only Son for sinners. Can you imagine sacrificing something you love or want so others can be blessed?
Now hope (trust, confidence) does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:5; parenthesis are mine).
This is the kind of love, hope, and desire you will need to practice if you want to participate in God’s love. It’s not ALWAYS doing what is best for you, but what is best for others. Now the Father and Jesus provide plenty of examples where they had healthy boundaries and act on those boundaries. Please do not view love as a place for people to walk all over you. At the end of the day, there will be times when you may not do what is best for another because that other person is a stranger to you. That’s fair enough. However, there are always opportunities to act in love toward strangers. It’s the willingness and sacrificial giving of oneself for the benefit of another without thought of return. How can you make sure people benefit for the better when you are around? What are the things you can do?
For starters, you can hold the door for someone. Or you could allow someone in line behind you who has fewer or more items to go in front of you. Additionally, you could buy someone’s food that is in line behind you. You can always create an opportunity where someone benefits without you gaining any return from them.
Love forms the foundation for all the other fruit identified by Paul. If you do not have love as your foundation, you will misrepresent or misuse the other parts of the fruit of the Spirit.
Joy is an inner sensation that abides rejoicing despite your external circumstances. Joy comes from God’s presence!
You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11 NKJV).
Joy is gladness of the heart. There is always something to be glad about. For instance, God loves you. He chose you. He wants you. God is also good. So be glad about that at the very least!
And as the Bible reminds us: Listen, my son, and be wise, and guide your heart on the right course (Proverbs 23:19 NIV). If you are struggling to create a glad heart, then change your thinking. Remember, as a man thinks, so he is (Proverbs 23:7). There is plenty of things to be joyful over.
Therefore, joy becomes a choice.
Understand joy is not happiness. In fact, happiness is fleeting, but joy is everlasting. Believe it or not, no one wants to be happy all the time, but people do want to feel joy. You can be joyful and unhappy. Joy is not dependent on happiness.
According to Ed Diener (2013), (the world’s leading expert on subjective well-being), happiness contains both an affective (feeling) component and a cognitive (sensation) component. Happiness is more of an experience, you could say. It is best thought of as the total amount of pleasant emotions people feel, plus their cognitive evaluation of how satisfied they are with their life as a whole or with a specific aspect of their life, such as job, marriage, or hobbies (Dean & Biswas-Diener, 2013). Think of happiness as the experience of frequent, mildly to highly pleasant emotions, the relative absence of unpleasant feelings, and a general sense of satisfaction with one’s life.
Joy is having gladness or delighting in the Lord.
….for the joy of the LORD is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
In Psalms 16:9, David says, “No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety (NLT).” David had found the secret to joy. Regardless of what is going on externally in your life, you can feel real joy (God’s joy). Despite your deepest troubles, David understood that his relationship with God determined his outlook in life. Some people base their happiness and joy on external circumstances. Doing so is stupid, reckless, and dangerous! Why would you allow others, events, and other variables you cannot control to dictate your internal joy, peace, or happiness? That seems scary and like a losing battle! That’s like putting a sign in the front of your house, that says, Come on in, and take whatever you want from me! The result of allowing external stimuli to dictate your internal peace is a rollercoaster from hell that you cannot get off of until you change your mindset.
It’s by celebrating God’s daily presence and what He has done for you! This is how you will find contentment and joy. As you walk with God and He unfolds His plans for you, I promise your joy will increase and grow strong. Remember, disciples, are to base their joy and life on God, not circumstances.
In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
Peace is an inner quietness, trust, and stillness in God’s sovereignty and His promises (Word). The fruit of peace in work in your life is the tranquility of your mind, which in turn frees you from worry or fear. It is holding on to what Romans 8:28 declares:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Peace is the profound agreement with the Bible’s word and that God remains in charge of the universe. Allow God’s peace to enter your heart (Colossians 3:15). He has you. He loves you. Let Him have your worries and stay focused on today.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you (1 Peter 5:7 NLT).
Simply put, it’s controlling yourself and how you respond or react when you are exposed to annoying, frustrating, and inconvenient things. It’s being comfortable with being uncomfortable. I promise the Holy Spirit will increase your endurance and help you successfully deal with the things that annoy you. You have to want this too! Free will is real!
Please note longsuffering is more of a marathon or lifestyle change than a race. You have to train for it! In short, patience or longsuffering has restraint or calmness with others. It is the opposite of a short temper. It is quietly and calmly handling or processing disposition and or bearing injury.
Kindness is acting charitably or benevolently towards others, as God does towards you. Kindness is responding to other people’s needs. Think – acts of kindness. Or merely being attentive to the needs of those you love and care for, but also strangers. There are some basic needs that we all have in common. Help people meet those needs.
A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself (Proverbs 11:17)
Goodness is responding to do nice and considerate things to others, REGARDLESS if they deserve it or not. Goodness does not react to evil but absorbs the offense and responds with a positive or loving response/action. Goodness is generosity! What are some ways you can be generous to your loved ones and to strangers?
If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also [for the Lord repays the offender]. And whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you (Matthew 5:40-24).
The last three fruit pieces are more general character traits that need to be valued by Christ’s followers. Values are personally chosen life directions. It’s your moral compass.
Faithfulness is having faith in others and God. Seeing the best-case scenario, not the worst. What Paul also means is being dependable. Keeping your word and doing what you say you are going to do. If you asked everyone in your life if you are reliable and trustworthy, what would they say?
Think of humility. Think of how John the Baptist was. Gentleness is being considerate of others or mindful. One can still get angry as Jesus did in the temple but remain in control of him or herself and respond with love. Please note Jesus was not angry at the people, but at the sin. And, who is the Father of sin?
Self-control (self-discipline, sound mind, temperance) is having discipline or victory over the lusts of the flesh, the ability to harness and control one’s passions and lusts. I do believe this is why the Father encourages fasting. It takes discipline to not buy into those hunger pains or follow the carnal mind’s cravings.
Self-control means having the restraint not to do something even though your flesh desires it. While self-discipline sucks at the moment, in the long run, it feels great. However, not developing self-discipline can cost a person his or her life. Ironically, it is those sinful desires or lust of the flesh that provide an illusion of fulfillment and power but only lead us to slavery and the fruit of the devil.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:16).
The best way to see where you are with the fruit of the Spirit is to rate yourself on a scale of 1-5.
(1) never true of me; (2) rarely true of me; (3) occasionally true of me; (4) frequently true of me; (5) Always true of me.
- I respond from a place of love, regardless of my annoyance or dislike for the individual.
- I am joyful.
- I do not worry or fear many things. Instead, I have peace (calmness/tranquility) inside of me.
- I am a patient person.
- I am a charitable and kind person.
- I am nice and considerate to everyone, not just those I like.
- I am a dependable and trustworthy person.
- I am courteous and considerate in my relationship with others.
- I am a disciplined person. I harness and control my passions and lusts.
The assessment above provides insight into how well you are operating in the fruit of the Spirit. Remember, you do not need to do this alone. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him (Philippians 2:13 NLT). Allow God to work through you. Today I encourage you to take a few minutes to pray to God, asking Him which fruit do you need to consciously work to improve in? He will tell you, and when you start to do what God wants, life gets better!
Prayer: Father, I want to grow spiritually and emotionally. I do not want to be enticed by the world’s ways. I do not wish to adopt worldly behavior but Jesus’ behavior. I want to do Your will and not my own. Help me to use Your strength to grow and operate in the fruit of the Spirit. In moments of weakness, please correct me and show me how to respond – how to represent You and Your glory. Father, Thank You for all You have done in my life. Thank You for helping me grow in the fruit of the Spirit. In Jesus’ name Amen.
Reference: Dean, B., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2013). Positive psychology coaching. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley.