Some have referred to kindness and goodness as the twin fruits. Kindness and goodness are so closely related that sometimes it is not easy to distinguish between them. A kind person is also a good person; a good person is by nature a kind person. Both of these characteristics stem from love. Some have said that patience is suffering love; kindness is compassionate love; and goodness is ministering love.
Kindness is more about our attitude and goodness is more about the things we do for others. Some people are born with a kind, gentle personality. This may come natural to them. But others have to lean on the power of the Holy Spirit to help them be nice.
These characteristics which are produced in us by the Holy Spirit have to do with our relationships to others. We usually think of kindness as an expression of love from one person to another, and of goodness as a quality of being pure. It is striking that parents are forever telling their children to “be good,” but they never need to suggest the opposite to them. Being “bad” seems to come naturally.
Without the Holy Spirit within us, our nature is inclined toward that which is evil and bad. But the Holy Spirit produces in us kindness and goodness, helping us to minister to the world with the love of Jesus. What the world needs is Jesus—that means more love, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and caring generosity.
Patience is translated as forbearance in some translations of the Bible. Forbearance has a deeper meaning. It includes self-control, restraint, and tolerance, implying that we have a choice about how we response to God in our times of waiting. We can, for example, receive patience as a gift that helps us develop restraint or we can become resentful and anxious, bucking against the reality that we have very little control over our circumstances.
While giving in to our impatience can feel good in the moment, it often sends us spiraling downward into frustration—because even if we do send that email to check on the status of a job we applied for or to find out about the grades we’re waiting to be posted, the fact remains that we can’t do much to change the circumstances. We have a choice in moments of impatience: let Jesus cultivate our inner world or escape into destructive behaviors or attitudes.
So what can we do while we’re waiting to embrace the fruits of patience (self-control, restraint, and tolerance)? We can pray while we work. The world doesn’t stop while you’re waiting for something. There are things and people that still need your attention. Your own soul needs your attention too, as does your body. So, while you’re waiting, pray while you wait by focusing your attention on something you actually do have influence over. Make a date to go bowling with friends, clean your bathroom fastidiously, read a novel, or cook a new food from a different country. Patience is a virtue and a virtue can’t hurt you. So keep waiting. Work on what you can.
What is peace? We often define it in terms of what it isn’t—as in, it’s the absence of conflict or distraction or anything that makes us feel uncomfortable or disturbed. A nation is at peace when they’re not involved in any wars; a person is at peace when they feel relaxed and comfortable. But what if I told you that the biblical idea of peace sometimes means diving into conflict, choosing discomfort, and being disturbed?
“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14-16)
According to Ephesians, Jesus is our peace, and Jesus came to reconcile us both to God and to each other. And the biblical idea of peace is much broader than our modern understanding; it is not simply the absence of conflict but also the presence of harmony. It’s not ceasefire; it’s community. Sometimes, we get so caught up in seeking peace for ourselves that we create discord for others. Or we isolate ourselves from the problem, so that we can pretend like it doesn’t exist or isn’t relevant to us. But conflict avoidance is not peace.
We can trust Jesus to provide miracles, because Jesus is our peace. And while pursuing perfect harmony and reconciliation may be hard, it is far from hopeless. In fact the truth is just the opposite: peace is promised to us from God.
Joy is the foundation for a positive life. Our world lacks joy and has way too much fear, worry, discouragement, and depression these days. We need to fully trust God and have joy even in the hard moments and seasons of life. It we are not fully trusting our Father, then we will never be able to experience pure joy.
Biblical joy, the true joy, comes from filling the spiritual void with good relationships, mostly the intimate relationship with the One who is pure joy. Jesus put it this way: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (John 15:5). That fruit includes much joy!
The Bible speaks much more often of joy than of being happy. “Hap” means chance and is the root of several words— happen, happening, haphazard (dependent on mere chance), hapless, happenstance (a chance circumstance) and happy.
Happiness is a glad feeling that depends on something good happening. God wants you to experience happy times (as long as God approves of what is happening). But His greater desire is that you have unconditional joy. Jesus said His joy would “remain in you” and “your joy no one will take from you” (John 15:11; John 16:22).
Think of joy as a strong foundation that supports a variety of healthy emotions, including happiness. The long-range evidence of joy is general gratitude, contentment, optimism, a sense of freedom and other positive attitudes.
The Holy Spirit produces these things in our life. It is important that we know and understand them well, so that we can apply them to our lives. When the fruit of the spirit is at work in our lives, amazing things happen. Your whole life blossoms and bears fruit. One of the most wonderful fruits of all is the giving and receiving of love.
The word love can mean many different things, as you can see from the many different dictionary definitions. We also find different kinds of love throughout the Bible, four of them specifically. Eros is the Greek word for sensual or romantic love. Even though the term is not found in the Old Testament, Song of Solomon vividly portrays the passion of erotic love. Storge is a term for love in the Bible that you may not be familiar with. This Greek word describes family love, the affectionate bond that develops naturally between parents and children, and brothers and sisters. Philia is the type of intimate love in the Bible that most Christians practice toward each other. This Greek term describes the powerful emotional bond seen in deep friendships, this is the most common type of love. Agape is the highest of the four types of love in the Bible. This term defines God’s immeasurable, incomparable love for humankind. It is the divine love that comes from God. Agape love is perfect, unconditional, sacrificial, and pure.
There are so many people who go through life without feeling human love. However, God’s plan is for every person to eventually experience His love flowing through them, so that each person can say “my cup runneth over with love.” The funny thing is that when people are trying to feel love they often forget to read the greatest book ever written about relationships, the Bible. The Bible reveals how we can experience love for God and people that exceeds human capability. The highest and purest form of God’s love is God’s divine and sublime love that He offers to share with us! The perfect example of the ultimate nature of God is, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). God wants to transform us so that our character is also defined by love.
Lois and Eunice show us how God can use people wherever they are at in life to make a big difference. In today’s story, one small boy teaches us to give what we can in service of God, no matter how little we may think it is.
In the story where Jesus feeds the 5,000 (found in all four Gospels) a little boy offers his lunch, five loaves of bread and two fish, for Jesus’ disciples to feed the crowd. I wish we knew more about this boy, who he was, who he grew up to be. All we know is that this boy heard that Jesus needed food. I can’t imagine the disciples ransacking everyone’s bags looking for food. I think they must have been asking around, searching the crowd for anyone with food and this boy heard them. He saw a need, spoke up, and offered what he could. He was willing to do what needed to be done and it’s this willingness I want to focus on today.
In Colossians Paul writes “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (3:23). As we go throughout our day to day lives, we need to be willing to contribute what we can to further God’s kingdom. We already know from Lois and Eunice that seemingly small acts can make a difference. The little boy from today’s story reminds us that we first must be willing to let God use us.
For some of you, dropping everything and going on an adventure like Abram is not possible. You may already be settled in your life, married, with kids. Maybe you’ve got a steady job that you can’t leave. Many of you may feel stuck trapped by your responsibilities. It’s when we get stuck in this rut that we start to believe the lie that we’re useless to God.
Today, we are looking at two important women of the New Testament: Lois and Eunice. We don’t know much about their everyday lives, but what we do know is that they were responsible for introducing Timothy to the word of God. Timothy, the author of 1 and 2 Timothy, is Paul’s young apprentice. From the time Paul met Timothy, he took a special interest in cultivating the church leadership skills within the young man. Paul eventually came to think of Timothy as a son. But, there would be no Timothy if there was no Eunice, and there would be no Eunice if there was no Lois.
Lois first taught the scriptures to her daughter, Eunice. Eunice in turn taught the scriptures to her son, Timothy. Timothy, with Paul’s mentoring, brought many people to Christ and eventually wrote two books of the Bible. Those two books of the Bible have encouraged generations of people in their faith. It’s a domino effect, but it would not have started were it not for Lois and Eunice.
Maybe you can’t move to Africa to be a missionary. Maybe you aren’t called to lead a church. Lois and Eunice may have also been missionaries or great leaders, but that is not why they are remembered. What was important in their story was that they took the time to share their faith with the children in their lives. That is something that you can do today.
Listen, you are not stuck. Wherever you are in life, God wants to use you. Let him.
P.S. Go listen to the song “Dream Small” by Josh Wilson while you get ready for the rest of your day today!