22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:22-26, ESV).
God raises up leaders in a church that is an overflowing of their relationship to Jesus as hopeful, joyful disciples of Him. In the life of a believer and a leader, we must live as we are–followers of Jesus. The world (and the church, for that matter) watches who we are. The fruit of who we truly are comes out, either in the fruit of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) or in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24).
How do we as leaders keep in step with the Spirit and avoid being “conceited, provoking one another, envying one another”? In our relationship with Christ, we see these traits as follows:
This word ‘agape’ is a type of love that is selfless and sacrificial, a love that loves to give of self rather than a ‘getting’ for self. This aspect of the fruit of the Spirit (as well as the “fruit of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21) informs all of the other aspects. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, you see:
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[a] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.
Do we find ourselves aiming to love people the way God loves them (selflessly and sacrificially), or do we lead because we desire to be loved? To be in control? To have people sacrifice themselves for us?
Joy is fueled by contentment. “Joy is the ability to take good cheer from the gospel. It is not, therefore, a spontaneous response to some temporary pleasure. It does not depend on the circumstance at all. It is based rather on rejoicing in one’s eternal identity in Jesus Christ” (1) Christian leaders must not go up and down based on circumstances such as numbers, flatterers, critics, and the like. Our contentment comes from the glorious, hopeful, joyful, majestic work that Christ accomplished on our behalf, the gospel. The Holy Spirit takes hold, sealing our heart in the Christ who brings “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3).
Is your joy fueled by the person and work of Jesus? Do the cross and the empty tomb ground your contentment in Kingdom work? What do numbers, flattery, and criticism (constructive or otherwise) do to you?
John MacArthur notes, “If joy speaks of the exhilaration of the heart that comes from being right with God, then peace refers to the tranquility of mind that comes from saving relationships” (2) Paul reminded the Corinthians church that we have been reconciled to God through the atoning work of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-21), therefore we should have relationships marked by peace with others.
Are we peaceful in our relationships? Do we bring about a “tranquility of mind” to those areas we oversee? Or do we find ourselves stoking the fires of contention when someone disagrees with us?
Hardships come in life, and especially in leadership. Paul addressed this to the Roman church:
2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.
The ‘endurance’ piece in this hope-filled chain is dealing with patience, a dealing with adversity. These hardships produce a Christ-like character, but that doesn’t happen without producing patience in the annoyances and persecution.
Ryken rightly said that “a patience person has a slow fuse.” Does that mark you as a Christian and leader? What triggers your impatience? Did you believe that, when you came into the Christian life and leadership, you would only face easy times and loving adulation? When did you realize that wasn’t the case? How did you react?
Kindness is not simply a one-and-done act every so often, but a consistent consideration that is part of the Christian’s personality. This continual readiness to help epitomizes a servant’s heart that seeks no kindness in return. When a Christian is gripped by the grace of Christ, this grace is extended to others. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
What is your motivation to be kind? Do you see kindness as a weakness or a hindrance to getting things done, or are you willing to take a slower pace in getting things done if it means adding that extra bit of kindness in the process? Would others mark you as ‘kind’? Why or why not?
This term was a term used in Paul’s day to denote a moral excellence that overflows in a generosity. Romans 5:5 tells us that, as believers, God pours out His love into our hearts by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Those who are believers and, in turn, have received the Holy Spirit as all believers do, will in heart and mind have a ‘goodness’ that brings glory to God and benefits all around.
Do you have a generosity about you? Do people recognize the change God has brought about in you, taking you from self to Christ? How has this shown in your thinking and your behavior? Do you keep everything above board, or do you believe that the ends justify the means?
Our Christian life and leadership must be marked by being trustworthy. That trustworthiness comes from where our trust lies–in Christ and Christ alone. Our loyalty to God and to our brothers and sisters in Christ is imperative, both in good times and in troublesome times. God told the people of Israel:
The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression of sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:6-7a).
As the Spirit resides in us, the faithfulness that God has can come to others as we serve as His conduit. Are we trustworthy? Do we keep our promises and our word? Do we make commitments to pray for and talk to others, then fail to follow through? May the faithfulness that God shows grip our hearts in demonstrating that faithfulness to others.
This is power under control (also known as meekness). Doris Akers wrote a song that was quite popular in days gone by known as Sweet, Sweet Spirit (3). That sweet, sweet spirit that’s “in this place” when it comes to a church service starts with it being in the ‘place’ known as our hearts.
Do a sweetness and gentleness exude from us? Are we ones who come off as proud and in control of the room, or as ones who are humble? Do we lose our temper and become angry when things do not go our way?
In a culture that’s out of control in all matters (eating, drinking, sex, etc.), Christians by the work of the Holy Spirit stay under control. While we are free in Christ, we are not free to use that freedom as a blank check to do as we wish. Paul wrote to Timothy, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Be careful not to cherry-pick the fruit of the Spirit. It’s one fruit. Praise God for the areas in which fruit is borne. And pray to God that He would show you areas where you need His work to take place. None of us are perfect, but the Spirit has called us to “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
God’s blessings on each of you as you see how Jesus is enough!
(1) Philip Graham Ryken, Galatians: Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2005), 233.
(2) John MacArthur, Galatians, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody, 1987), 66.
(3) Sweet, Sweet Spirit” by Doris Akers. https://hymnary.org/text/theres_a_sweet_sweet_spirit_in_this_plac?sort=tuneTitle