My scripture today is found in Galatians 5:22-23
For the next two more weeks I am going to be focusing on the Fruits of the Spirit.
Our Vacation Bible School this week has focused on the Fruits of the Spirit and so I thought I would continue with the lesson a bit and discuss a few of the fruits of the Spirit that I need a refresher course on.
In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul lists nine fruits of the spirit that are a result of allowing ourselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The first three fruits of the spirit are: love, joy and peace and I am pretty sure we all know what they mean….nope…. Today I want to talk about patience, kindness and goodness. These fruits have to do with our relationships with other people and three that we need some work on….especially if we find ourselves being short-tempered, unkind or rude.
The first fruit Paul lists in this second cluster of fruit is patience. We sometimes seem to gloat in our own impatience. Have you ever prayed for patience….this way? – Lord Give Me Patience – Now! I know I have. Patience is not one of my strongest virtues.
Phillips Brooks was an outstanding preacher of the late 19th century. Even though he was a great orator, he was well known for his moments of frustration and irritability. One day a friend saw him pacing the floor like a caged lion. “What’s the trouble, Dr. Brooks?” asked the friend. “The trouble is that I’m in a hurry, but God isn’t!” Most of us can empathize with this thought.
We have come to think of patience as the ability to wait for some event or object to come our way in the future. Indeed this is an aspect of patience, but this is not what Paul had in mind here. Paul had in mind being patient with people, not so much as being patient with things. In this text patience refers to tolerance. Here, patience is a gentle tolerance of others, no matter how they may treat us.
Instead of the word patience the old King James Version uses the word LONGSUFFERING. In many ways this word may be more appropriate for what Paul is expressing. In other words, the Spirit enables a Christian to suffer long. As Christians, we realize that God has been patient with us in our shortcomings; therefore as a believer, we are to be patient with others. One who is long-suffering, has his temper under control. Instead of losing our temper when we are wronged, we are patient and full of endurance. In other words, we are slow to take offense and we leave vengeance to God. Do you recall the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount? Jesus said:
You have heard that is was said, “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you in the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
I believe Jesus meant for us to take these words literally, not figuratively. This is patience – having a tolerance for others, no matter how they treat us.
Some years ago, in a manufacturing village in England, a young lady spoke to the Sunday School superintendent about teaching a class. He told her he had no vacant classes, but if she would like to go out into the community and hunt up a class of boys for herself, he would be glad to have her help. She did and gathered a class of poor ragged boys. Among these, the worst and most unpromising boy was named Bob. The superintendent told these boys to come to his house during the week, and he would get them each a new suit of clothes. They came and got their clothes. After two or three Sundays, Bob was missing. The teacher went after him. She found that his new clothes were torn and dirty. She invited him back to school. He came and the superintendent gave him a second suit. After attending once or twice Bob’s place was empty again. Once more the teacher sought him out. She found that the second suit of clothes had gone the same way as the first. She reported the case to the superintendent, saying she was utterly discouraged about Bob, and must give him up. “Please don’t do that,” said the superintendent, “I can’t help but hope that there is something good in Bob. Try him once more. I’ll give him a third suit of clothing if he’ll promise to attend regularly.” Bob did promise. He received his third suit of clothes. He did attend regularly after that. He got interested in the school. He became an earnest and persevering seeker after Jesus and eventually found him. He joined the church and eventually became a teacher. He began to study for the ministry, and the end of the story is that that discouraging boy – that ragged, runaway Bob – became Rev. Robert Morrison, a great missionary to China.
The same Dr. Morrison who translated the Bible into the Chinese language. How did all this come about? Because a couple of Christians were patient. They endured the frustration and let God’s spirit work through them. The fruit of the Spirit is patience.
The second fruit Paul presents in this second cluster is KINDNESS. It has been said that kindness is grace in action. Charles Hembree in this book, FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT perhaps has caught the grim reality of our society. He writes:
“In our age of guided missiles and misguided men there is a desperate need for us to learn how to share gentleness. It seems strange that in an age when we can reach the moon, bounce signals off far planets, and receive pictures from whirling satellites we have great difficulty communicating tenderness to those about us.”
Every direction we turn we are constantly being bombarded with unkindness. Seldom do we hear a kind word, a word of encouragement. The words we often hear are cutting, backstabbing, ugly words. Sadly, this is true in the home. Why do children often say ugly, disrespectful words to parents? Most often it is because of the way parents speak to each other and to the children themselves. And at work ….. it’s even worse. Instead of living by Christ’s words, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”; we live by the rule, “Do unto others before they do it to you!!!”
Paul says that a fruit of the Spirit is kindness. Does this mean you are kind to those who are kind to you and unkind to those who are unkind to you? No!!! In fact the opposite is the greatest truth. As Christians we are to be kind to those who are the meanest of all. I can hear you now … “Preacher, you just don’t know how it is out there. It’s a dog eat dog world and if you are going to get ahead you got to walk on people. There is no room for kindness.” First, let me say I have never figured out why so many people think if you work in the Church life is different. Granted it should be. Yet some of the meanest spirited people I know are in the church. So often a pastor’s time is spent ministering to the causalities of a Christian who comes through whirling a barrage of hurtful words. Friends, if we allow the Spirit to control us, we will respect others, we will seek to be kind to others, if for no other reason than because they are a creation of the most high God.
A story is told of a child who found a turtle and started to examine it, but the turtle closed his shell like a vase. The little boy then tried to pry open the turtle with a stick. Hid uncle nearby said, “No, no, that’s not the way.” He took the creature inside and set him on the hearth. In a few minutes he began to get warm, stick out his head and feet, and calmly crawled toward the boy. “People are sort of like turtles,” his uncle said. “Never try to force a fella into anything. Just warm him with human kindness and more likely he will open up.” The fruit of the Spirit is Kindness.
The third fruit in this cluster is GOODNESS. Simply put, the Spirit controlled person will be a good person. I pray this can be said of every Christian in this Church. That we have the reputation of being a good person. What Paul is speaking of, is moral and spiritual excellence. The idea expressed here is more than just “doing good”. Goodness goes far deeper. Goodness is love in action. It carried with it not only the idea of righteousness, righteousness demonstrated in everyday living. In fact it goes beyond being righteous for righteousness sake.
One author has said: A righteous person could evict a widow for not paying her rent. Righteousness is following the standard. Goodness would pay the bill for her.
In whatever work we do or whatever schedule we keep if we will allow the spirit to be in control we will find the opportunity to do good.
I want to close with this quote from Will Durant, ““A good man who is not great is a hundred times more precious than a great man who is not good.” Amen?