But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another (NASB).
November 19, 1990 issue of Newsweek ran an article titled “Letters in the Sand,” a compilation of letters written by military personnel to family and friends in the United States during the Gulf War.
One was written by Marine Corporal Preston Coffer. He told a friend, “We are talking about Marines, not the Boy Scouts. We all joined the service knowing fully well what might be expected of us.” He signed off with the Marine motto, Semper Fi, Latin for “always faithful”
The Bible says, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2).
Self-control is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands—and then just eat one of the pieces.
A young daughter was learning the fruit of the Spirit, so her mother asked her to recite them to her. The daughter started, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and remote control.”
We all need to surrender to the control of the Holy Spirit in order to be able to bear the fruit of the Spirit.
III. OUR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT AS PEOPLE VV. 22C-23
The third cluster of the fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness. This is different from faith which you and I exercise as Christians. The word faithfulness or fidelity is produced by the Holy Spirit in a yielded Christian life. Faith is a theological term. Faithfulness, however, is an ethical term. Faithfulness is a virtue of God. For example, Romans 3:3 declares that the “unfaithfulness” of God’s people does not call into question God’s faithfulness. There is no fickleness in love. Faithfulness in this context means dependability, reliability, trust, worthiness—a quality that is highly esteemed. When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you will be growing more and more into the kind of person about whom it is said, “He is a faithful guy. He has integrity.” Or “when she says she will do it; she gets it done.” In other words, this is fidelity produced in your life by the Holy Spirit, as you walk with Him and in Him.
Proverbs 20:6 asks a sobering and a probing question: “Who can find a faithful man?” Pastors, leaders, and CEOs of every sort are always looking for faithful people. A faithful person is the one who can be counted on, one who is reliable. This trait of character is highly commended in Scripture. Faithfulness in little things is one of the surest tests of character, as Jesus indicated in the Parable of the Talents: “You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21). Morality is not so much a matter of magnitude, but of quality. Right is right, and wrong is wrong, in small things as well as in big things. Faithfulness has been described as the reliability that never gives up and never lets down. Some of you are faithful to Christ and His church. When we give you responsibility you get it done. There are others too, when they say wait here for me, you better go home because they are not coming. While a pastor of North Dakota was preaching on a Sunday, an elderly woman, Mary fainted and struck her head on the end of the pew. Immediately, an EMT in the congregation called an ambulance. As they strapped her to a stretcher and got ready to head out the door, Mary regained consciousness. She motioned to her daughter to come near, everyone thought she was summoning her strength to convey what could be her final words. The daughter leaned over until her ear was at her mother’s mouth. “My offering is in my purse,” she whispered. This is a woman of faithfulness.
The ancient Israelites could have completed their journey from Egypt to Canaan in a few months. Instead, the journey took forty years and a whole generation died because of their unfaithfulness. Many Christians will regret someday the self-imposed time lag that came between the point when God first showed them His plan for them, and the point when they took action. Lack of faithfulness is actually a sign of spiritual immaturity. One sign of emotional immaturity is the refusal to accept responsibility. A young person may want the privileges of adulthood but refuse to accept the responsibilities. The same thing is true spiritually. God has given us certain responsibilities as mature Christians. When we are disobedient and refuse to accept these responsibilities, we are unfaithful. Over and over again, the Word of God admonishes us to be faithful.
In the day of judgment, you and I will be judged not on the basis of how successful we were in the eyes of the world, but on how faithful we were in the place God put us. Sometimes the greatest test of our faithfulness is how much time we spend reading the Scriptures, praying, and living in accord with the principles of righteousness when we have been blessed with prosperity. This magnificent segment of the cluster of the fruit of the Spirit—faithfulness constitutes faithfulness to our testimony, faithfulness to our commitments and calling, and faithfulness to the commands of Christ. And the ultimate reward for faithfulness is found in Revelation 2:10, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Are you faithful? Are you developing the quality of faithfulness as you walk with the Lord controlled by the Spirit?
The fruit of the Spirit is gentleness. In early versions this word Prautes was translated “meekness.” It derives its Christian meaning from its relationship with Christ. In Matthew 11:25-30, this is one of the two virtues used to describe the character of Jesus Christ. The word, “gentleness” means “mild; mildness in dealing with others.” When you and I hear the word “meek,” we tend to think of “weak.” But meek or meekness is not weak. It does not even come close. Meek is one of the most powerful words in the New Testament. Meek means to have great power always under control. Picture a champion racehorse submitting to the bit. Jesus said, “Blessed are the gentle or meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).
Nowhere in the Bible does this word carry with it the idea of being spiritless and timid. In Biblical times gentleness or meekness meant far more than it does in our modern-day English. It carries the idea of being tamed, like a wild horse that has been brought under control. Until tamed by the Holy Spirit, Peter was a rough and obnoxious character. He always spoke his mind. Sometimes he spoke before he thought of what he said. But when the Day of Pentecost came the roughness of Peter’s character gave way to gentleness. Moses was called the meekest of men, but prior to God’s special call, he was an unbroken high-spirited man who needed forty years in the desert before he was fully brought under God’s control. A river under control can be used to generate power. A fire under control can heat a home. Meekness is power, strength, spirit, and wildness under control. Meekness or gentleness is the antithesis of self-assertion. The meek person does not fight for his/her rights and prerogatives unless a point of principle is involved or the interest of the kingdom is at stake.
In other sense, gentleness can be likened to modesty and that it is the opposite of a flamboyant and self-indulgent spirit. Rather it displays sensitive regard for others and is never to be unfeeling for the rights of others. Gentleness enjoys a quiet strength that confounds those who think of it as a weakness. Jesus is the prime example of a meek person. Was Jesus weak? Go back and read as He cleansed out the temple. Meekness does not get angry with people it ought not to get angry with. A meek or gentle person is the one who feels anger on the right grounds against the right person in the right manner at the right moment for the right length of time. Jesus was meek. He had the greatest possible strength under the greatest possible control. While He was on the cross, He could have called ten legions of angels to come to His aid. But He stayed on that cross and held His power under check out of love for you and me. That is meekness. How do you apply gentleness or meekness to yourself? First, we do not rise up defensively when our feelings are ruffled (Matt. 26:51-52). Second, you do not crave to have the preeminence. Rather you desire that in all things Jesus Christ might have the preeminence (Col. 1:18). Third, you do not seek to be recognized and highly regarded, or to be considered the voice of authority, as Jannes and Jambres did (2 Tim. 3:8). These magicians of Egypt rejected God’s authority through Moses and opposed him just before the exodus. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts makes it possible for meekness to become one of our virtues. Gentleness may be the most tangible sign of greatness displayed in us. You and I may not be respected as the voice of authority; we may never gain the applause of the world; we may never rule or swing the baton of power. But one day, the meek will inherit the earth, for no one can take away our rightful share of God’s divine and delightful bequest to us.
Self-control is the third fruit of this cluster. It comes from a Greek word meaning, strong, having mastery, able to control one’s thoughts and actions. It describes a person who has powerful passions but keeps them under control. A person who is not self-controlled does not deliberately choose the wrong but has no strength to resist temptation. One of the fruit which the Holy Spirit produces in a believer is self-control. Self-control literally means, “To grab hold,” “To take hold of your life.”
John Wesley’s mother once wrote to him while he was a student at Oxford University that “anything which increases the authority of the body over the mind is an evil thing.” Dr. Billy Graham said that this definition has helped him understand “self-control.” Intemperance or lack of self-control has brought about the fall of kings, pastors, and tycoons. History reveals this truth. Someone has said, “There are men who can command armies but cannot command themselves. There are men who by their burning words can sway multitudes who cannot keep silence under provocation or wrong. The highest mark of nobility is self-control. It is more kingly than a regal crown and purple robe. It has also bee said, “Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and praises of the crowd, but in ourselves are triumph and defeat.”
Past history and current public examples illustrate how the excesses of uncontrolled appetite and fleshly indulgence wreak damage in our hearts. The sin of intemperance, lack of self-control springs from two causes: physical appetite, and second, mental habit. Who is your greatest enemy? It is you, isn’t it? Who is the greatest challenge in your life? It is you; it is self. The Spirit of God wants to gain more and more control of your life. It is not really self-control as much as it is Spirit-control through myself.
Listen to Amy Carmichael who has given us many wonderful thoughts of our walk with the Lord. She writes, “God harden me against myself. The coward with a pathetic voice, who craves for ease and rest and joy. Myself arch-traitor to myself, my hollowest friend, my deadliest foe, my clog whatever would I go.”
When I am self-controlled by the power of the Holy Spirit, I don’t allow the things of the world to destroy my walk with God. The Scripture says, “Those who live according to their sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Rom. 8:5). Temperance in our use of food is moderation. The Scripture says that “gluttony is sin” (Prov. 23:21). Temperance with respect to alcohol is soberness. Temperance in sexual matters is abstinence for the unmarried. Temperance in regard to temper is self-control. Temperance in matters of dress is appropriate modesty. Temperance in defeat is hopefulness. Temperance in relation to sinful pleasure is nothing short of complete abstinence. Solomon wrote, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Prov. 16:32). The Living Bible paraphrases the latter part of that verse (32) to read, “It is better to have self-control than to control an army.” Proverbs 25:28 LB reads; “A man without self-control is as defenseless as a city with broken-down walls.” The Apostle Paul teaches us the importance of self-control in 1 Cor. 9:25, 27. When you and I are self-controlled by the power of the Holy Spirit, we do not allow the things of the world to destroy our walk with the Lord. On the contrary, we spend time with God in His Word and in prayer on our knees. We do the things that we have committed to do because God’s Spirit has come literally into our lives and is exhibiting control over us which the Bible calls temperance or self-control. Like the works of the flesh, clusters of the fruit of the Spirit are representative, not exhaustive. A person who is rich in the fruit of the Spirit fulfills the law far better than a person who observes the rituals but has little love in his life. In order to accept Christ as Savior and Lord, you need to turn from your sins and willingly nail your natural evil desires to the cross of Christ.