Let's dive deeper...
There’s no better way to start this second part of the Fruit of the Spirit discussion than encourage patience as you wait for the next three fruits. Why might you ask? Because we’re starting with, you guessed it, patience.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12 “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.” Proverbs 14:29
If you go back to the definition of love, the first thing love is, is patient. I believe these gifts build on one another. First, we have love, and as we grow in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, we develop and are given additional fruits. If love is patient, we cannot be patient without love. And if God is patient with us, and we are to love others as Jesus loved us (by being patient), we must be patient. It takes work. It takes time. It’s not automatic, but it is possible to become strong in our patience as we love others.
Similar to the section in Hebrews discussing the great examples of people of faith we have seen in the Bible, there are also so many examples of what a life of patience looks like. The two that I would like to focus on appear in Luke 2: Simeon and Anna. Although they are mentioned briefly, it is clear how their lives have grown and developed the gift of patience. Simeon was promised that he would see the Messiah before he died, and Anna spent her life as a widow, patiently staying within the Temple and waited until she met Jesus. And even more impressive is that based on how they were presented in Luke 2, I doubt they saw the fulfillment of all God’s promises that were wrapped up in Jesus. They met Jesus as a child being presented in the Temple. He could not speak promises over them, and they never saw His healings, miracles, death or resurrection. Yet their words in that chapter come from two people whose patience was rewarded. That’s what it looks like to have the fruit of patience from the Holy Spirit.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
Like patience, love is also kind. As Paul mentions to the church in Ephesus, kindness also includes forgiveness that comes from God. Which means kindness includes grace and mercy. God’s grace forgave us when we did not deserve, and His mercy spared us from the punishment we deserve. In that same way, for us to be kind, we must forgive without expecting anything in return.
In that same verse, Paul calls Christians to be compassionate. To be compassionate is to “suffer with.” According to author Henri Nouwen:
“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion and anguish.”
To show kindness is sitting in the tough stuff with others and forgiving them if they need forgiving because we needed forgiving. Paul drives this point home even more in his letter to Titus:
"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit." Titus 3:3-5
The common theme throughout all of this, the journey of the nation of Israel, Jesus’ life, teaching, death and resurrection, and the teachings of the Apostles after that is always pointing out that each of these fruits of the Spirit are the characteristics of God that brought about our salvation. The charge we are given from there is to take on these same qualities in order to continue to be witnesses to Jesus and the salvation He brought to the word. We in no way deserve or earned the salvation we have received, but because of God’s kindness and love, we are saved. All He asks is that we respond by growing in these same characteristics to show that same love to those that haven’t experienced it yet.
“Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me.” Psalm 69:16 "3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love." 2 Peter 1:3-7
There is a connection here, as well as to Paul’s order in the fruit of the spirit. God’s goodness comes from His love, which is who He is. Goodness therefore comes from God, and because of His mercy, He is good to us. For us to have this same goodness, as Peter points out, having the fruit of goodness is the building block to gain knowledge, etc., etc., etc. which eventually brings us to love others. I don’t think Peter and Paul are contradicting when we are able to love, but just like we are always in process, it is an ongoing cycle of development, that as we grow in a specific fruit of the Spirit, naturally we grow in the others. Goodness towards God’s creation is necessary to grow in who God calls us to be. Even David knew this, and he showed us in the psalms he wrote.
"Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Psalm 23:6
The Psalm that we all turn to in the darkest of times, looking and being comforted by the promise that God will get us through it, ends with the comfort and assurance that it is God’s goodness and love that will always be with us. Our foundation is God and our God is good. If we are to be like Him, we can be assured that we are walking in the Spirit when we exhibit goodness. Yes, we can be comforted when we see any of the fruits flow automatically from us, but goodness is what encourages and strengthens David to keep walking through the valley of the shadow of death because he knows he will get to the other side because of God’s goodness and love. How can you show others who God is? By living in goodness, the same goodness that comforted David, and the goodness that comforts us and allows us to comfort those who still haven’t had an encounter with Jesus.
Until next time, keep on being in process. I know I will be.
Check out the podcast below!
Are you searching for a Christian church in Omaha Nebraska? Our hope is that we could be the home you have been looking for! To learn more about our Omaha church services click here.