Written by David Partington and Friends
You can download the PDF of this resource here.
‘The mature Christian judges himself, not with the spirit of self hatred, but with the eager desire to conform more fully to the image of Christ.’ (From Finding God by Larry Crabb.)
The power of fruitfulness
I don’t know if you like gardening! But in trying to help you find the fullness God has for you, I think it’s helpful to recognise that God doesn’t only want you free of your life-controlling problem, but He wants you to be fruitful. Most of us spend too long striving to deal with our abiding sin by saying “No”. We tried to deal with old habits like some people deal with weeds – they chop the tops off. It seems the obvious thing to do until we realise that, until we deal with the roots, the weeds will just keep growing again.
Perhaps even more relevant is the biblical picture of the vine: ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 5:15). I don’t find it difficult to visualise a vine in full growth, bowed down with enormous, luscious bunches of grapes which threaten to part from the stem because the clusters are so large. I believe that’s the fruitfulness that God intends for every Christian life, including yours. The wonder of fruitfulness, however, is that not only do those around us get blessed by it, but so do we.
So let’s look at the fruits of the Spirit that we read about in the book of Galatians, and see how they can minister to you and others.
The fruit of love
It’s no accident that love is first on the list. What else would come first? Having been ‘born again’, the primary quality of that new nature born within you is the love which flows from God. So many Christians make the mistake of thinking that the fruit of the Spirit (especially love) are mainly about striving to love, etc. The important thing for you is that love is a fruit which comes from that abiding love of God which is now part of you. It’s not your love that is important, but letting God’s love break in and break out of you. It’s a supernatural reality, and you can always pray for a fresh revelation of God’s love. Maybe you need to take time out with God, and go to that place where the fullness of love was evidenced in the most profound way - the foot of the cross. As Selwyn Hughes once said, “Here, and only here, is the heart of God fully unveiled.”
Having come back from the foot of the cross it’s what you do with the new sense of love that counts. You can either rejoice in it, or rejoice in it AND reveal this fruit to others. Loving others is probably the most powerful antidote to abiding sin. If you use any temptation to sin as a new opportunity to love someone, then the results will be only too obvious. The liberty and blessing it will bring will be immense. You give and you will receive – loving others brings with it the other fruits. Communicating supernatural love results in more joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
The fruit of joy
Joy flows from love, and “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). God wants joy to flow in your heart and life in order to deal with the grief we feel about the pain and heartache we have caused others and ourselves. In their notes from The Brain Trauma and Joy, Ed and Maritza Khouri give some wonderful perspectives on the fruit of joy:
- There are two types of joy in Scripture: the spontaneous expression of joy, gladness and celebration in response to external circumstances; but also an inner joy that is not dependant on outward circumstances. This is a joy that exists in the face of oppositions and great trial. It is expressed as perseverance that acts in love in spite of circumstances.
- There is a joy that is a result of a relationship or belonging, and reflects an inner sense of connection.
- Love expressed through joy opens the brain to healing.
- It is God’s love, delight and connection with us that offers a source of transcendent joy.
- Joy grows as we believe that we are deeply loved.
It’s sometimes difficult to recognise joy for what it is. We’ve grown up with a distorted view of joy. One way to get God’s perspective on the reality of joy in our lives is to ask Him to reveal it to us afresh. It’s important because joy:
- protects our hearts against the entry of problems and wrong emotions.
- keeps us alive spiritually and emotionally.
- immunises us against attack. (Quoted from Every Day With Jesus.)
The fruit of peace
There can be no greater peace than being a child secure in the arms of a loving father or mother. That’s why the peace which is a fruit of the Spirit is difficult for many to recognise; they have no reference point on which to base it. For you and for others there may be no real sense of the love and security which come from loving and passionate parenting.
Thankfully in the grace of God, that historical deficit is no limit to the peace He wants us to know. All we have to do is go to the Father and ask Him to reveal that peace in His arms. I remember being broken before God one night in a large meeting where I realised I had never really known the love of a father. Thankfully I was led, through the prayer of a complete stranger, into the presence of God in His throne room. I remember sensing the holiness and radiance of being in the presence of God. I remember even more being in the arms of my heavenly Father holding me tight. The sense of love, and the peace that flowed from that love, has sustained me more times than I can count. Yet, whilst that peace has become a significant part of my life, I do have to remind myself that it’s still there – a fruit which comes from that throne into the everyday activities of life. It’s about allowing it to subdue those things that threaten to overwhelm and distort.
The fruit of patience
As someone who lives at the edge, always looking to the next destination, the next meeting, I often need to remind myself of the fruit of patience. I have been described as ‘driven’, but God has graciously shown me patience, and so I have had to learn to be patient with myself and others. Where do you need the fruit of patience? Can you better recognise it in the need to be more patient with yourself, or with someone else?
The fruit of kindness
Reflecting on the fruit of kindness, I was reminded of the kindness of my wife and others whilst I was rebelling against God and rejecting them. It was a fruit which was healing and gave me the opportunity to face myself as I really was.
But perhaps the greatest reinforcement of showing the fruit of kindness to others is in remembering God’s kindness to us. When it was least deserved or expected He showed it to us, in great generosity, again and again. How much do those we know who least deserve it long - without knowing it - for you and I to show them this fruit; so that they too might be warmed and nurtured into a different longing for God, as we were!
The fruit of goodness
Oh how we need to sense goodness, bringing healing to the broken, distorted and corrupt areas of our lives. To know the fruit of goodness which is the very being of Jesus. Here is another antidote to the desire for sinful habits - to rejoice in the fact that the Son of God has endowed you with the fruit of goodness. It’s a quality that isn’t earned, isn’t manufactured through effort but, again, comes direct from the loving heart of God. How others need that fruit of goodness through your life! Neither do we need to go far to find them. You will find that those in the greatest need for goodness through you are very close. It’s those who we live with, those we work with, those we fellowship with, as well as your next door neighbour…
The fruit of faithfulness
How many men and women through the ages have been rescued from sin, heartache and despair by someone who remained faithful despite their unfaithfulness? One iota of faith is the only condition to enjoy the fruit of faithfulness. You don’t have to ‘work it up’, but simply trust that, because God has provided by His Spirit, it will be invested in any and all of your dealings. Where you once needed to work hard at being faithful in relationships, work, prayer etc, you only have to be still and move into the faithfulness inherent in your life by God’s Spirit.
The fruit of gentleness
Never has the world needed the fruit of gentleness more than it does today. You, like the vast majority of other Christians, have been affected, not only by a world which demands performance and conformity to an almost unreachable and distorted set of values, but sometimes by church structures which place more value on achievement and works than the fruits of the Spirit. You’re called to enjoy, experience and manifest the gentleness of Jesus, which carries with it a power that can bring healing and grace into broken people and broken lives.
The fruit of self-control
Yet again, allow God’s Spirit to speak into the core of your being. “I have placed within you my Spirit of self-control. Stop trying, and let my life do the work.” Whenever the pain sets in and you feel you are losing your ability to control an urge or a temptation, remember this prayer. Always be alert to situations where you take back control from God, when your inclination is to say “I can handle this my way.” When that happens, remind yourself that, unless Jesus is Lord over ALL areas of your life, then you are the loser! His lordship brings life, life on God’s terms and life in the power of God’s Spirit.
The Power of Discipleship
Jesus brought twelve men together, as well as a wider group of women and children, and spent three years with them. He wanted to develop these men, to train and equip them to go out and transform the world. He did it by the way He lived and talked, but, primarily, He did it through relationship. He communicated (and the disciples knew it) that He loved them so very much; but He wasn’t willing to leave them the same way as they were when He first called them. Why? Not only because He had a plan for each of their lives, but because He knew that those things in their individual lives which were negative could be turned around to bring healing for them.
In just the same way, I firmly believe that the call of Jesus to you is as deeply personal as it was to any of those twelve disciples. He especially wants you to know that this is not a new call but a reiteration of the call He gave you those many years ago, regardless of whatever storms have raged in and around you. He’s simply repeating the call He made, no matter how much rebellion there has been. He’s calling you again, regardless of how many times you have shamed yourself or Him. He cares about you so much. He, the Son of God, is calling your name and saying:
‘Come back to me as my disciple. Because I love you with a deeper love than you ever thought possible. I have all the love you have ever looked for, and it’s enough to fill the emptiness that is there when you stop doing those things that are destroying you. So much love that it will overflow from your life when you receive it, that it will overflow into the lives of those you have hurt. Come back to me, because I miss you when we’re not in communion. Come back to me with your weariness and despair, so we can walk together into the future. I want to build a deeper relationship with you based upon trust and grace. I want to fill your life with truth and hope that will set you free, not only to enjoy being you, but to help others enjoy being them.’
I know you will say that you’ve done that before and you let Him down. But that’s the wonder of real love – it’s a love which is not conditional on a standard, it’s not fed by success. The love of Jesus is self-sustaining, so it’s always big enough. Maybe this is the point of no return for you and Jesus? The same point that Peter came to where Jesus asked the question “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” (John 21:15). It’s a fact of life that you cannot have betrayed Jesus more than Peter had done; but it’s not the past that Jesus is concerned with when he asks you the same question, it’s your future.
He knows you can only enter into the fullness of your future with Him when you have reached a certain point. That point is when you reach the conclusion that you love Jesus more than you love your habit; more than you love meeting your needs, on your terms. It’s not that you have reached the stage of being absolutely certain that you can beat it, but that you need Jesus more, and you want to start afresh.
It’s about the empowering of love for someone other than ourselves. Self-love feeds off pride, and it is self-defeating because it can never get enough. Love for another person is creative, it reproduces more love. All of a sudden there is a radical shift – love for another seeks the best for them. When you can say with Peter, "Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you”, then you begin to enjoy not only a loving relationship but a call, a sense of purpose. When Jesus heard from Peter that he loved Him He said, “Feed my sheep”. Jesus knew that Peter’s focus had radically shifted from himself. Now Peter could become what Jesus knew was best for his future wellbeing. Now he was ready to enjoy the call on his life, what he was not only best at doing but would enjoy the most.
The garbage you’ve been involved in is self-defeating. But the call to discipleship comes with an empowering call to come into the destiny you were made for and saved for. It is creative; it will not only bless others but will feed the right things in you, your need for significance and self-worth. Don’t however do it for that reason or for any other reason than just wanting to walk and talk with your Saviour! All else flows from this; what the disciples knew, and you know (or one day will know), is that Jesus is risen from the dead and lives IN you.
This is no longer a romantic walk in the park with Jesus. This is a walk (sometimes on the dark side) with the Son of God. You’re setting out in the knowledge that you have denied yourself in a way you never thought possible. Recognition of your real state and your willingness to turn (deny your needs) has now set you free to take up your cross. You’ve recognised that your cross is the cross of paying the price of saying “No” to your life-controlling problem. Up until now you made attempts to say “No” and failed. This time it’s different because, in the presence of Jesus, you’re choosing the pain. Before, all you wanted to do was get through it and experience the relief. Now it’s about choosing the discomfort which comes with withdrawal. This is the power of any cross which was exemplified at Calvary. As soon as Jesus chose the cross at Gethsemane it lost its power to defeat either Him or the eternal purposes of God. There’s more! The pain of your withdrawal or denying yourself is the way to newness. The cross for Jesus was the way to resurrection life. Beyond your chosen discomfort there’s resurrection life of freedom, hope, victory, and potential. It really is a new dimension.
David Partington and friends.
David Partington is general secretary of ISAAC, the International Substance Abuse and Addiction Coalition, www.isaac-international.org. He writes in acknowledgement:
This feature is written by ‘DP and friends’ because others have been so much part of the journey. How can I fully acknowledge so many who have shaped it? I am sure there is hardly an original thought in it. Where possible the source has been acknowledged, but so many others (speakers, preachers, writers and friends) have planted seeds and shaped my conclusions. Most importantly of all, I am deeply aware that it has been the living Word of God that has brought revelation, understanding and blessing which is way beyond human logic or understanding in my case.
In specific terms I want to thank my dearly beloved wife and family, who have brought God’s love and blessing to me in a way no one else did. I really do tremble to think what might have happened if they had not shown the love and grace of God which ‘rescued’ me. Then there’s my church family (Woodley Baptist Church) who have loved me and mine for over 30 years. Without you I would be less than I am today. Special thanks goes to the Lowen family whose loving provision of a lovely place to write enabled me to actually finish this.
Thanks also to my ‘friends’ who answered questions and told their stories with such open hearts, John, Penny, Dave, Floyd, Campbell, Ed and Noel. Finally there’s the ISAAC family in over 70 countries. Men and women faithfully and sacrificially serving addicts and their families and who have taught me so much at a spiritual, practical and technical level.
© David Partington 2011.