Candy blogs: You’ve been asking for it! The last characteristic of the Fruit of the Spirit for your set … self-control. Beth Moore says, “Any person without self-control is either an accident waiting for a place to happen or a slave in chains.”
A reminder: this series on the Fruit of the Spirit has been my humble attempt to personally process Beth Moore’s study, Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit. The posts have been based on Beth’s study and are my attempts to get the truths I learned even deeper into my understanding. I created the postcards for a dear family member as a means of encouragement during a difficult time. There has been much reader response to this series, but ultimately, the response is to the Truth of God’s strong and holy word. It has the same effect on me.
Let’s talk about self-control. Ugh … this one is almost as hard as patience.
How does this compound word make you feel? We don’t usually think very positively about this word. But it’s on the list, people, so we have to look at it. The list started with love and ends with self-control. Beth says that “love keeps us afloat, and self-control keep us anchored. Love lends us liberality, and self-control provide the boundaries within which love can be unleashed.” Very insightful. It’s sounding more positive now.
In I Corinthians 6:12 the Apostle Paul says, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything.”
We do have every freedom in Christ; we aren’t bound by the the Law anymore. But according to this verse, freedom doesn’t mean we can disregard God’s principles and do as we please. This verse says our freedom is a choice not to allow ourselves to be controlled by anything that would steer us away from Christ. Allowing anything to control us other than Christ is bondage. We are the ones who make that call. Freedom is always there if we will walk in it.
Why do we need self-control anyway? This is America! Look at Proverbs 25:28: “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a person who lacks self-control.”
What can happen to a city whose walls are broken down? There is no protection. Enemies have free reign in the city to take what they want. Anything of value is vulnerable. In Bible times God demanded walls everywhere He chose to dwell … the Tabernacle had portable walls, the Temple had several layers of walls, Jerusalem had its walls built, destroyed and re-built several times.
Today God dwells in US. What is our wall of protection? Self-control! Because self-control “is the ability to make choices which invite and enhance the authority and filling of the Holy Spirit. Self-control is the decision to remain within the boundaries of victory.”
Beth says, “Self-control is an issue of mastery, of authority, of boundaries.” Ouch … is this “an issue” with you? It certainly is with me. I balk at boundaries and authority. At a recent family reunion I had the opportunity to exercise self-control, to not allow my opinions and emotions to override better judgment and decorum. I didn’t choose well. Like Nehemiah in 2:1-20, I had to set out with a few good men, some close trusted friends, to examine my wall of protection and inspect where it was crumbling. There had to be a section in need of repair since the enemy had entered my city and taken what he wanted.
With their help I found the damaged area and did some work there. We had brutally honest conversations. It took some serious self-examination and letting go and grieving perceived loss. But the wall is going back up. I don’t want to be outside the wall of protection.
Are there other areas in my city that need to be re-built? Yes. One stone at a time. But the phrase ‘love lends us liberality, and self-control provides the boundaries within which love can be unleashed’ needs a practical spin.
If I had exercised self-control at my family reunion, the unleashing of love would have had far more impact than my stomping off to make a point about my opinions and emotions. If I had chosen to restrain and put aside my own opinions and not be mastered by them, I would have enjoyed love unleashed in worship and sharing together as families. We don’t have “freedom” to hurt others or cause undue tension or impose our opinions on others. We’re free to have those opinions; we may even be right but we aren’t free to bully or dismiss others with them. So, for the sake of love, we choose to be mastered by love and not self.
THIS is the exercising of self-control. The choosing. The Holy Spirit doesn’t send it by some magical osmosis. It is offered at every decision point. We make the call.
♪♫♪ I’m forgiven because You were forsaken …
I’m accepted, You were condemned … ♪♫♪
Yet even in our times of lack of self-control the Lord extends mercy and forgiveness because of His great love for us.
This study is changing my life. I pray God’s word is changing yours, too. I’d love to hear how.
Candy blogs: Ah, gentleness. The most difficult quality of the fruit of the Spirit for me. I so dreaded this one as it came up in Beth Moore’s study, Living Beyond Yourself. All my life I read about how women are supposed to be gentle and quiet in spirit. I always greatly admired gracious, graceful, delicate women, mainly because that couldn’t be more opposite than my personality. The opposite of gracious? Perhaps sarcastic, severe, ungiving. The opposite of graceful? Perhaps careless, awkward. The opposite of delicate? Perhaps robust, strong.
But this study helped me realize that gentleness had nothing to do with personality or circumstances. How God hard-wired my personality and spiritual gifts didn’t make gentleness impossible. Here is what the dictionary says:
… clement, peaceful, pacific, soothing; tender, humane, lenient, merciful. Gentle, meek, mild refer to an absence of bad temper or belligerence. Gentle has reference especially to disposition and behavior, and often suggests a deliberate or voluntary kindness or forbearance in dealing with others. Meek implies a submissive spirit, and may even indicate undue submission in the face of insult or injustice: meek and even servile or weak. Mild suggests absence of harshness or severity, rather because of natural character or temperament than conscious choice.
I had always measured spiritual gentleness by this definition. It just isn’t the case. Beth Moore says these things, scattered throughout the study:
… an inward grace of the soul; a calmness toward God in particular. An acceptance of God’s dealings with us, considering them as good. The term basically means to stop fighting God. Gentleness is responsibility with power.”
I now enjoy a certain level of intimacy with Jesus that only comes with time. But I have to say that at times there was a battle to get there. I often fought what God wanted to teach me. I often ignored what I already knew and continued on in my own strength. I resisted being restrained. What I finally learned was that it was in the letting go, releasing control of what was safe, being willing to step into the unknown that led to freedom and intimacy with God. I submitted to and stopped fighting God in my maturing process. THIS was the exercise of gentleness … as Beth Moore says … reponsibility with power.
We often hang on to some level of control over an emotional or difficult issue, our “right” to be mad about something. Not accepting God’s dealings with us will cause us to be bitter. If we allow ourselves to go there, we aren’t exercising gentleness.
Releasing control to our Savior doesn’t mean there won’t be pain involved. On the contrary, pain is one of God’s most effective tools. Not as a punitive tool, but a shaping tool. The stone or wood naturally resist the chisel of the sculptor. But the sculptor sees his creation before any chiseling or shaping begins. If allowed to continue, putting gentleness into action, the result is maturity, a thing of beauty.
We can decide to bow down to God’s purposes and plans for us BEFORE difficulties hit. The quality of the fruit of the Spirit of gentleness can help us THROUGH the storm. Why do we wait until AFTER to look for God’s plan? An inward grace of the soul … to me this says I completely trust my life to a loving God.
God knows what He’s doing.
Candy blogs: Faith is one of a Christian’s pillar words, isn’t it? We’ve all heard the word faith over and over. We think we know what it is; we think we have it. Me, too. But when I sat down to really think it through, it got bigger than my mind could grasp. Beth Moore to the rescue!
Beth makes the distinction between ‘faith’ and ‘faithfulness': Faith being a response to trusting in God’s faithfulness. I’m not talking about the faith through which we’re saved. Hear these words in the definition of faithfulness:
♥ firm persuasion ♥ conviction ♥ belief in truth ♥ veracity ♥ reality ♥ steadiness ♥ sureness ♥ steadfastness ♥ trust ♥ honesty ♥ safety ♥ certainty
Strong words. These words can be ascribed to God Himself. He is all these things. He is real. He is believable. “The faithfulness of the believer is his belief in God’s believability.” This verse describes God’s faithfulness and believability.
3 I will proclaim the name of the LORD. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! 4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. Deuteronomy 32:3-4
He is a Rock … his works are Perfect … his ways are Just … he does no wrong … he is Upright …
1 Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. 2 For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.Praise the LORD. Psalm 117:1-2
… the faithfulness of the Lord endures FOREVER.
One of the most revealing concepts to me in studying this characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit was that we must base our faith on who God is rather than on what He does. God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours; we don’t always understand why God does certain things. But we can always trust that God is always working for our good, for our benefit, and will always lead us toward our purpose and calling. We can’t let ourselves be led by what we see or by results we are expecting. What God does changes but God never changes. His heart never changes toward us. He always acts out of love; He can’t do otherwise.
“Genuine faith walks steadfastly with God for the pleasure of His company not for His results. God does not call upon us to seek His works. He calls upon us to seek His heart.” Isn’t that an amazing thought?! It isn’t faith when we ask things of God, expecting certain results and then being disappointed and question His faithfulness if He didn’t answer us the way we expected. That is based on feeling. Faith requires that we accept God Himself as enough, no matter what He chooses to do. Only this kind of faith will transform our character.
Sometimes keeping the faith requires a fight. In the armor of God, faith is the shield protecting us in battle from the enemy’s flaming arrows. The enemy knows exactly where to aim, straight for our weakest spot. He would try to tempt us into not believing God to keep us from doing battle. When we agree with Satan’s lies, he builds and builds the lies until we are defeated and we stop fighting. Our shield of faith drops and we are open to a full on attack.
No one enjoys doing battle! But when we try to avoid it or go around it instead of through it, we miss the transformation. It’s the battle that builds our spiritual muscles, where we learn how to handle our shield of faith. The battle may be the harder way but it is the shorter way to transformation. We can become mighty and powerful in battle if we keep fighting! We perservere in the things God has taught us to do.
Beth Moore says, “We keep looking for someone mighty to come … we are them! We were meant to have faith to conquer dark kingdoms in our generation.”
13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13
Such an inspiring study, don’t you think? How often in the past I have tried to avoid the hard lessons and floundered around in spiritual limbo when God wanted to build my spiritual muscles and make me a hardened, faithful, CONQUERING soldier.
We will never think, speak or act perfectly but we can live in victory if we keep fighting and choose not to live in sin. I would love to hear your God stories of when He has been a shield about you.
God’s kindness toward us stems from grace. Grace because without Jesus, by His death, paying the penalty of sin for us we could only experience God’s wrath. With the penalty of sin out of the way, grace flows freely. God’s kindness inspires Him to care for and nurture us. These are actions toward us … God’s goodness.
God entrusts and equips us with gifts to do good for others. Our gifts are given to benefit those He loves and to glorify Himself.
BEFORE THE KINDNESS OF GOD … 3 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.
AFTER THE KINDNESS OF GOD …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, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. Titus 3:3-8
Our culture encourages self-absorption, ever increasing extreme activities and entertainment to please ourselves, spending our time and money selfishly. We cling to what is “mine”.
Beth Moore used the following in part of her definition of goodness:
Goodness does not spare sharpness and rebuke to cause good in others. A person may display his goodness, his zeal for goodness and truth, in rebuking, correcting or chastening.” She goes on to say that the purpose of this quality of the Fruit of the Spirit is to do or bring that which is most beneficial, whether or not it is that which is most popular, fun, easy or pleasant. Speaking truth to bring about good can be difficult to say and even harder to receive. But a tenderhearted attitude of kindness provides the spoonful of sugar for those awkward yet necessary times.
Beth asks, “Can you think of a time when you were either the object of kindness and goodness through a loving rebuke or the vessel of such kindness and goodness to another? Did good come from the confrontation?” I remember a wise mentor rebuking me as a young leader and teen Sunday School teacher. My teaching and leadership skills were raw and arrogant and abrasive. She knew this wasn’t my intention and saw the potential in me. In a spirit of kindness, she extended goodness to me by showing me how I appeared to others. It was beneficial to me to see the truth about myself. The change it brought has been beneficial to many others.
God’s word says not to grow weary of doing good. Share with others what you’ve been entrusted with. Spend yourself doing good.
Candy blogs: The Fruit of the Spirit … is kindness. No one can argue with the virtue of kindness. The Greek meaning for this word is a tender concern for others. A desire to treat others gently. I love this one: the grace which pervades the whole nature, mellowing all which would be harsh and austere.
The Father’s tender heart toward us is so evident in this verse:
“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
God quiets and calms our fears out of His loving’kindness’. I don’t know about you, but I have to force myself to picture me as the child being quieted, to lay back at rest to receive the kindness of my Father in Heaven. I relate more to being a parent, the one who does the comforting. But God’s heart knows the intense pain of intense love. His heart hurts when we hurt. He longs to tender kindness; He has a tender concern toward us.
There are so many around us who need to know kindness. I see a lot of angry, selfish, biting, impatient people out there who need a gentle, tender response or touch. You know, Jesus could have healed anyone with his thoughts or his words at any time when he was on this earth but often he chose to heal through a physical touch. Sometimes a gentle touch on a hand or arm or an arm around the shoulders or a double handed, lingering handshake can make all the difference to someone in need of tenderness in the midst of their pain. We don’t know what that impatient grocery clerk is going through when they’re not at work.
But remember kindness is a grace which pervades the whole nature. It starts in our hearts and extends out through our senses in the form of the next attribute of the Fruit of the Spirit … goodness. That’s our next post. Jesus invites us to allow the Holy Spirit to develop kindness in our hearts, to look beyond our own needs and schedules and circles and see into the pain of someone else.
I would remind readers that this series on the Fruit of the Spirit is based on the Beth Moore study, Living Beyond Yourself. These postcards and blog posts are my way of processing this incredible Biblical study into my thought process and the way I interact with others. Re-stating concepts and phrases helps me do that. So these posts are all adapted from Beth’s insights. I wanted to give credit where credit is due.