ARE YOU a list person? Do you organise yourself with the help of a list? Many of us are, and because we like to plan, we may think about the day ahead and then write a list of jobs to be done, places to visit, people to contact, and so on. If I didn’t have a list I might waste half the day wandering around, wondering what to do and when to do it. It’s just the way some of us are programmed.
In this way, we ‘list writers’ can keep control of our lives and the things we need to do and the things we want to do (which may not always be the same thing). I’m sure, if you take a moment to think about it, we all keep a list of some sort or another. For example, you would not go food shopping without first having thought about what you need to buy, even if you haven’t written the list down.
Now, the Bible is full of lists. It starts off with a list, the order of the days of creation as told in Genesis chapter 1.
The New Testament starts with a list too in Matthew chapter 1, the genealogy of the Lord Jesus. And throughout the Bible are many more lists: more genealogies; materials required for buildings and clothing; musical instruments; foods to be avoided; foods suitable for eating; sacrifices to be offered to God; unacceptable behaviour; acceptable behaviour; names of children; names of disciples; and now there’s another list!
There’s one list in the Bible I’d like us to look at more closely and this is in Galatians chapter 5.
Actually there are two lists in this chapter: the first is in verses 19–21 and is a list of things that are sinful which the Apostle Paul warns us not to develop, as those who do them will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
The Fruit of the Spirit
The second list is in verses 22–23, and Paul calls it ‘the fruit of the Spirit’.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Against all these things ‘there is no law’. In other words, we won’t be doing anything wrong if we can put them into practice.
But how do we do these things?
God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
Believers are loved by God and the Lord Jesus, and must respond to this love by the way they act towards others.
When we have love for God and His Word the Bible, then we will have joy because we know that He is in control of this world and will send His son to make it right.
But rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when his glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy (1 Peter 4:13).
Belief in this future Kingdom of God, ruled over by the Lord Jesus, will give us peace in our hearts, at a time when we don’t see much peace in the world around us. The Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Gentile believers in Rome:
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).
It’s hard to wait for this promised time, but believers need to show patience (that is, longsuffering) and use the time to tell others about the hope they have. Patience is a quality that many of us find hard to achieve at times, but James, the Lord Jesus’ brother, gave this analogy to make his point:
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand (James 5:7–8).
By telling others of the Lord’s second coming, and in many other ways, we can show kindness towards not only our friends, but to all those we come into contact with. This advice also comes from the pen of the Apostle Paul:
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).
To be ‘good’ in the eyes of God, which means we will try to keep His commands rather than follow our own selfish desires. The Psalmist declares:
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments… He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man deals graciously and lends; he will guide his affairs with discretion… His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord (Psalm 112:1–7).
We can try to be faithful by wanting to learn more about God and the Lord Jesus and trusting what is written in the Bible. Hebrews 11 is commonly called ‘the faith chapter’ because it lists many names of men and women whose lives of faithfulness are recorded in the Bible. It concludes with these words:
And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from [without] us (Hebrews 11:39–40).
We can be gentle with people in the way we treat them. A good maxim is to always treat other people as you yourself would like to be treated. There was a young man called Timothy whom the Apostle Paul fondly termed his ‘son in the faith’. In one of his letters to Timothy Paul wrote:
A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient (2 Timothy 2:24).
And finally, disciples must try to control themselves in all that they do, whether that is by keeping control of their temper, their greed, or the things they say and do. Cars have brakes to control their speed; ships have rudders to control their course; horses have bridles and bits to check their speed and direction. James talks about this in his letter, and compares the tongue to a ship’s rudder and a horse’s bridle.
Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things… And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity… (James 3:4–6).
When a believer is baptised they embark on a life in which they try to follow the perfect example of the Lord Jesus. Cultivating the fruit of the Spirit is a crucial part of that new life. And it’s not just a recipe for a good life now—for those who follow Jesus Christ in their lives now there’s the prospect of eternal life in his Kingdom.
And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16).