The Characteristics that God wants in our lives are seen in Fruits of The Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, Self-control are specific behaviors that are the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in a Christians life (Galatians 5:22)
The Holy Spirit gives us the power we need to respond to our children and others in a loving way regardless of the situation. As we give the Spirit more control of our lives, He begins to do in and through us what only He can do - to shape us and grow us to look like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). Since God’s goal for all His children is for us to be like Jesus (Romans 8:29), the Holy Spirit constantly works to rid our lives of the “acts of the sinful nature” (Gal 5:19) and display His fruit instead. Therefore, the presence of the “Fruit of the Spirit” is evidence that our character is becoming more like Christ’s. And, as we become more like Jesus, we respond to our children and others, in a way that is pleasing to God…The Fruits of the Spirit become evident in our lives.
There is a big difference between the good we do (works) and that which is produced by the Holy Spirit (Fruits). Warren W. Wiersbe explains the difference in his commentary. He describes works as a machine in a factory. It turns out a product, but it could never manufacture fruit. On the other hand, “Fruit must grow out of life, and in the case of the believer, it is the life of the Spirit.” He adds, “When you think of “works” you think of effort, labor, strain, and toil; when you think of “fruit” you think of beauty, quietness, the unfolding of life. The flesh produces “dead works,” but the Spirit produces living fruit.” Jesus is concerned that we produce an abundance of fruit because this is the way we glorify Him. The old nature can not produce fruit; only the new nature can do that. And we gain the new nature when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. And we do this by praying the sinner’s prayer* “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
What a blessing for Christians to know that the Fruits of The Spirit are available. We tend to think of the Fruits applying only to adults, but they apply to children too, even if they have not reached the age of reason. The key to developing these gifts in children is to facilitate their awareness in an age-appropriate way, teach them about Jesus so that they will come to love and seek a relationship with Him; and to let them see you displaying the Fruits of the Spirit as the Holy Spirit leads you.
The Fruits of the Spirit
Love: From the moment I held each of them in my arms, love took on a whole new meaning and left me with an overwhelming sense of love. A love so strong that I knew, if necessary, I would lay down my life for them. As they grew, I witnessed their innocent, unconditional love. God’s love is unconditional but it is also never-failing, and we, their parents had the awesome responsibility to teach them about God’s love. I also knew that as much as I loved them, Jesus loves them more and I must safeguard them, His gifts to us, and teach them about His love…”And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength. This is the first commandment (Mark 12:30).
Love for God and others is the result of God’s perfect love. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:9-11).
Joy: What joy to know that our children are productive citizens and have served their country. But, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4). True joy, is produced by the Holy Spirit and is a Fruit of the Spirit. It is the realization of God’s favor and grace. It is happiness that is not dependent on the circumstances in my life. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:1-2). “Joy is the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.” That something is the Holy Spirit.
Peace: For some, the very definition of having children means the absence of peace. Needless to say, I could not be with our children all the time and certainly could not protect them from all hurt, harm and danger, no matter how hard I tried. Realizing that peace results from allowing the Holy Spirit to work in my heart and mind, gave me a tremendous amount of peace… “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). Allowing the Spirit to govern my mind gave me the peace that surpasses all understanding and allowed me to remember…”Be anxious for nothing , but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4-6-7). My family, like other families, experience struggles. but the words that Jesus used to encourage His followers also encourage me… “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Longsuffering: “Longsuffering is love on trial.” To be longsuffering is to have self-restraint and patience to endure injury and hurt from others. It means that you are slow to avenge wrongs against you. It is associated with mercy and hope and does not surrender to circumstances or trials. When I think of longsuffering, I also think of the words: patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance. Longsuffering is patience, accepting the temper tantrums, the spilled ice cream and the bickering that is part of childhood. Longsuffering reinforces the fact that life is not to be hurried, but enjoyed. Having children gives real meaning to 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud”. Being a wife and mother of 4 brought about special challenges that showed me what it really means to endure. Endurance enabled me to be emotionally strong and to forgive as well as ask forgiveness. Regardless of how tired I was, I could not stop being a mother, I had to continue the race. I had to set the example for them and therefore I could not give up. Now that they are grown, it is a joy to see them endure and get through their various challenges. They learned Paul’s instructions given in 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.”
As a wife and mother, I have had the opportunity to practice longsuffering. Unfortunately, there have been times when my longsuffering has fallen short. But I am thankful that the Holy Spirit empowers believers to withstand challenging situations with perseverance and endurance. In all of His mercy, God allows me to ask for forgiveness, “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Colossians 3:13).
Gentleness: When I think gentleness, I visualize holding babies and gently stroking their hair, as the baby cuddles in loving arms. I visualize a display of gentleness as tears are wiped from the eyes of a crying child, gently whispering that everything would be alright. But the Fruit of the Spirit Gentleness is humility and thankfulness toward God and polite restrained behavior toward others. Gentleness conveys moral goodness and integrity and we are instructed to, “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5) Jesus gave us the perfect picture of gentleness: “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey” (Matthew 21:5) and Jesus describe himself as gentle in (Matthew 11:29), “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” And now He offers us His gentleness as a gift. If we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, we will be filled with the fruit of gentleness.
Gentleness also means giving up the right to judge what is best for ourselves and others. God is not as concerned with our comfort as He is concerned with our spiritual growth, and He knows how to grow us far better than we do. Gentleness means that we accept that the rain falls on the evil and the just and that God may use methods we don’t like to reach our hearts and the hearts of others. Finally, gentleness does not mean going easy on our children when they have done wrong and try to justify their actions. It means being kind and gentle when disciplining her/him. But Paul says, "If anyone is caught in a trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness" (Galatians 6:1). This doesn’t mean to be so soft that your child doesn’t realize he has done wrong. It means to confront him in a manner that is in line with Scripture—to be mild, loving, encouraging, and clear about the holiness that God calls us to.
Goodness: It is not unusual to hear parents tell their children to “be good.” Telling them this is usually expecting it for a short time. The “goodness” described as a fruit of the Spirit is not a one-time special event or merely moral behavior, but an excellence of character. This goodness is only obtained through God’s grace and mercy. This is the goodness that I wanted as a parent and what I wanted for our children. Goodness, like the other Fruits of the Spirit, describes characteristics that we have only because of the Holy Spirit working within us. As the Holy Spirit worked in me, my life changed. This goodness allowed me to be virtuous in my words and actions without a need for acknowledgement. And yes, I fell short more often than not. But, because of God’s love and mercy, I ask for forgiveness and He accepted unconditionally. “Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 106:1). This is the kind of goodness, mercy and forgiveness that I wanted for our children.
Faith: When our children cried at night, they expected us to answer their cry, and meet their immediate need, and we did. If they fell in the park, they knew we were there to pick them up. Our children believed in us. They knew we would take care of their needs. Their unwavering belief, their profound faith in us, served to reinforced my faith in God and emphasize that He will surely take care of my needs…Matthew 7:9-11: You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So, if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.” Each one of our children took us at our word and I took our Father, God at His Word. “Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps His covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes His unfailing love on those who love him and obey His commands” (Deuteronomy 7:9). When Allison was plagued with fevers of unknown cause and Lauren had a growth on her head and the doctors were concerned, it was faith that gave me the courage to know that God was in control. It was that faith, that childlike faith that reminded me God’s love and that He cares about our pain.
To have faith is to defy logic. It takes faith to think positively. It takes faith to believe that there is a loving God who cares deeply about our pain. To believe in life, the universe, or yourself after numerous failures is to have courage. Faith is an act of courage. It is choosing to get up in the morning and face our fears and believe that God will help us. Faith is choosing to believe that even though we may have failed one hundred times before that we can succeed the next time.
Meekness: Baker’s Evangelical Bible Dictionary explains, “Meekness does not identify the weak but more precisely the strong who have been placed in a position of weakness where they persevere without giving up. The use of the Greek word when applied to animals makes this clear, for it means ‘tame’ when applied to wild animals. In other words, such animals have not lost their strength but have learned to control the destructive instincts that prevent them from living in harmony with others.” One of the best definitions of meekness that I have ever read is that it is strength under control. Meekness does not mean weakness and being a doormat so that everyone can walk all over you. The definition of meekness is someone who is humble, teachable, and patient under suffering. The person who has meekness has the absence of any feelings of being better than others. Meekness is the correct use power and authority. Needless to say, it is important that parents use power and authority correctly. Remember, your children are watching and will duplicate your actions.
Self-control: The ability to control one’s body and its appetites and desires – physically and mentally – through the power of the Holy Spirit. Self-control relates to moderation in eating and drinking and other areas of your life. Self-control helps us say “no” to wrong choices. As the Holy Spirit works in a believer’s life, the fruit or the result is that the believer is able to pull away from the sinful nature and make a truly independent choice.
In order to develop self-control, we must first be honest with ourselves about our weaknesses. Some of us are tempted by overeating, others by greed or gossip. By being aware of what tempts us, we can take our struggles to God. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, and we have self-control when we “keep in step” with the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25). He empowers us to overcome temptation and to withstand challenging situations with perseverance and endurance. Through the Holy Spirit we are able to have self-control. Parents help children learn self-control when they do not give in to the child’s demands or temper tantrums. Explaining to the child in an age appropriate way, why limits are set will help instill self-control in your child.
The Holy Spirit is already with Christians but is available to all of us.
If you haven’t done so, I would encourage you to reach out to Jesus and declare Him your Lord and Savior. If this is your desire, please pray this prayer:
* DEAR GOD, I KNOW THAT I AM A SINNER AND I ASK YOU TO PLEASE FORGIVE MY SINS. I BELIEVE IN MY HEART THAT JESUS IS YOUR SON; THAT HE DIED FOR ME ON A CROSS AND YOU RAISED HIM BACK TO LIFE. JESUS, I DECLARE THAT YOU ARE MY LORD AND I OPEN MY HEART TO YOU. CHANGE ME AND HELP ME TO FOLLOW YOU ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE. HELP ME TO BE MORE LIKE YOU AND TO DO YOUR WILL.
IN JESUS’S NAME, I PRAY.
If you prayed this prayer, welcome to the family. The next step is to find a church that teaches God’s Word and does not manipulate His Word just to be politically correct…pray for God to lead you to the right church. As Christians we are to “…Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses. And I charge you before God, who gives life to all, and before Christ Jesus…”
As a Christian, you are armed with the Fruits of the Spirit. He alone can give us freedom from sin and self. He enables us to fulfill the law of love, to overcome the flesh, and to bear fruit. He helps us become more like Jesus and respond to our children in a way that is pleasing to God.