Wishing you a very Happy New Year as we begin 2021. It’s the start of a clean slate and with that comes the exciting prospect of betterment. It’s a time when people are most motivated to create resolutions which will contribute to the attainment of their goals. For this reason, the Lord has put it on my heart to address the subject of temperance which is a Fruit of the Spirit. This is the ongoing practice of disciplining our nature in order that we may produce healthy restraint. It’s a lifelong quest and the Holy Spirit is always ready to indwell us so that we can be strengthened.
As time goes on, I hope to write about each element of the Fruit because they are all justly influential if we want to live our best life.
In the Bible, the Apostle Paul introduces us to the Fruit of the Holy Spirit which total 9. He wrote an Epistle to the Galatians which is a letter to the early believers who were living in Galatia. Paul was a prolific Jewish contributor to the New Testament although he was not one of Jesus’ 12 original Apostles. He wrote multiple epistles to the churches as they encountered controversy in the midst of their growth.
It’s worthy to note that prior to His conversion and calling, Paul (previously named Saul) had a deep-seated hatred for Jesus’ followers. He came from a devout family lineage that was linked to the Pharisaic observances and traditions for generations. As you may recall, it was the Pharisees that consistently condemned Jesus while He was with us. But everything changed on the road to Damascus when he was struck by a blinding light.
Acts 9:3-9. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
After this monumental event, Paul would go on to proclaim the Good News but it was not without hardships. Unquestionably, he confronted many fiery trials and tribulations during his appointed mission. In a letter to the Corinthians, Paul boasts about his afflictions and sufferings which was contrary to the flaunting of achievements of the “super-apostles”. In the church of Corinth, these people took pride in themselves and regarded Paul as a fool. Rather than try to one-up them, he unabashedly bares what would be deemed as failures.
2 Corinthians 11:22-28. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
Eventually, his labour of love ended in martyrdom which rightly established him as St. Paul. He is an exemplary role model of what it means to be a true and humble servant of God. For this, Paul deserves recognition and sainthood.
The Fruit of the Spirit is comprised of 9 characteristics which collectively form one Fruit and not many fruits. They are produced by the Spirit and grow within us as we walk with God. The Fruit does not appear all at once because it takes time to become spiritually ripe. Ultimately, the Father’s goal is to refine us in the likeness of His Son.
Galatians 5:16-25. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
A quick note regarding the use of the word self-control as there is a thought that using self is not the correct way to identify this Fruit. The rationale is that it’s not you in control but more accurately it should be Spirit-control. This was new to me because the vast majority of the time it is specified as self-control. For the sake of this post, I will use temperance, discipline, restraint and Spirit-control which are intended to represent the same idea.
The human heart is a natural enemy of God and at enmity with His will. We fall short in many parts of life such as health and relationships due to a lack of restraint. This conflict is attributed to an unrelenting war between the flesh and spirit. As sinners, our inclination is to indulge in temporary pleasures with reckless abandon. Inevitably, the object(s) of our desire take God’s place and we end up yielding to idolatry. This is really easy to do as anything can be put on a pedestal like a person (concrete) or an ambition (abstract). It’s a big slap in the Lord’s face when we choose to worship anything but the Creator because it says that He is insufficient.
2 Timothy 1:7. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
Temperance aids us to resist temptations and to avoid conforming to the patterns of this world. It puts the brakes on our emotions, thoughts and behaviours so that the Spirit can take over. We need to acknowledge the limitations of our humanity as we relinquish control and become sensitive to the leading of the Spirit. There is an undeniable fortitude that is birthed when this becomes the truth from which we function.
The ability to defer gratification delivers us from plummeting into darkness because we choose to stand in the light. We always reap a far greater reward with Spirit-control rather than when we cave in to our appetites. This can be applied universally to every aspect of life such as money, sex, food, pride, etc. Without exception, an absence of discipline will leave us vulnerable to the assault of the enemy. Furthermore, an unbelief in God does not exempt us from attacks as all are equally weak and threatened.
Titus 2:11-13. For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
2 Timothy 3:16-17. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Each day, I renew my vow to follow Jesus because spiritual maturity is a process. Through fellowship, I strive to remain focused on God so that the Fruit of the Spirit can take root and develop. It’s vital to be immersed in the Scriptures as they provide the sustenance which the spirit needs. We can’t just wing it and expect blessings on blessings. It takes time and patience to know the Lord’s character but He’s more than willing to reveal His glory. In fact, it’s Jesus’ good pleasure to be in relationship with His flock.
John 10:27-28. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”