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There are nine different types of spiritual fruit listed in Gal 5:22-23. I've devoted a blog entry to how we are protected and strengthened by love, and one entry to how the same blessings are bestowed through joy.
I don't plan to devote an entire entry to each of the nine types of fruit. But I do want to give a little "bullet point" summary of how I can see God protecting and strengthening us through each of the nine. Then I want to devote the rest of this entry to one fruit in particular: meekness.
First, the summary of how God works on our behalf when he develops His fruit in us:
- Love – protects me from sinning against God and others, and from missing out on the joy of fellowship with both. As He teaches me to love my enemies, He protects me from taking revenge, and from failing under persecution or mistreatment. These protections strengthen me to do right, to live fully, to risk the radical way of the cross.
- Joy – protects me from depression, despair, anger, and surliness. It strengthens me to bless others in the midst of difficult circumstances.
- Peace – protects me from withdrawal, isolation, fearful self-protection, and the resulting neglect of my family and my duties. It strengthens me to face the world instead of hiding from it.
- Patience – protects me from explosive temper, exasperation, quitting, and discouraging others. It strengthens me to keep on plugging away when I'm tempted to give up.
- Kindness – protects me from merely theoretical Christianity. It engages my hands, my feet, my heart, and my smile in the service of the Gospel.
- Goodness – protects me from the love of sin, and from believing its lies. It strengthens me to resist temptation.
- Faithfulness – protects me from breaking promises and hearts, from the shame of failure, from loss of eternal reward. Strengthens me to do even hard, repetitive, or boring work.
- Meekness – protects me from turning to the wrong sources of strength, and from the abuse of power. Gives me strength to do eternal good, rather than just having a temporary illusion of control.
- Self-Control – protects me from the tyranny of my ever-shifting moods. Strengthens me to go on even when my moods say otherwise.
So there you have my list. I hope it helps. Now let's look at one fruit in particular: meekness.
I chose not to use the translation "gentleness," since that doesn't really capture the essence of what meekness is. (I read a very helpful blog entry about true meekness here. I hope you'll check it out.)
Meekness is not weakness. It is not "being a doormat." Jesus most certainly was not one of those! Oswald Chambers says:
For the Christian, meekness requires submitting our will to the Master. Meekness is not submitting to everyone around us; it is taking our direction from God. Meekness means that we do not have to defend our rights, but we allow the Lord to defend us. Meekness means a life that is submissive to the Holy Spirit, giving Him the freedom to make any changes He knows are necessary. Meekness involves a self-control that comes from trusting God. Meekness demonstrates an attitude of long-suffering that allows God to deal with the injustices we face.
Though I've read many such helpful discussions of meekness in my life, none have particularly inspired me.
Remember a few entries ago when I talked about having a disconnection between what I believe and how I live? I'm finding that the short-circuit happened because I misunderstood several key things. I thought the characteristics of godly living (including the development of godly fruit) would make me weak, not strong. I needed godliness in order to have a certain quality of walk with Christ, but I needed strength to survive my life. Survival always won, hands down. And that meant that godliness quickly fell by the wayside whenever I needed to feel strong and in control.
But now God is teaching me two vital new truths.
- My greatest need for strength is not so that I can stand against circumstances or people that hurt me. It's so that I can stand against sin and persist in walking with Christ.
- Godliness gives me the strength I need to pursue my greatest need.
Of all the pains in my life, none hurt as much as regret. And all of my deepest regrets in life come from my own sin. Every one, without exception. None come from circumstances, or from the sins that others have committed against me. It took me decades to see the truth of that, but it's absolutely a fact.
And I have committed most, if not all of my sins in a mistaken quest for power, for control, for autonomy over my own life. And so have you.
No, I'm not what most people would call a power-hungry person, and you probably aren't either. We're not out trying to become the billionaire movers and shakers of this world. But we do want control over what happens to us, so we can minimize pain and maximize pleasure. And most of our sins pursue those two goals.
Most of our regrets and most of life's pain come from the sins we've committed in those pursuits. We've sought strength from the wrong sources and for the wrong reasons.
Meekness protects us from that mistake.
Do you see it? Meekness is not weakness! It is a refusal to turn to the wrong sources of power, which we pursue for the wrong reasons. Meekness recognizes that there is only one power worth pursuing, and that's God's power. He gives it to us in our pursuit of godly love, and godly joy, and godly peace, and godly patience…and all of the ways in which we seek to have a godly influence in this world.
Everything we gain by worldly, selfish power will burn up on judgment day. It is wood, hay, and stubble. But everything we do by the power of God's Spirit, working through the fruit that He develops in us, will shine forth as gold forever. That's why a truly meek person would rather appear powerless for a time than appear strong by sinning. When Jesus appeared powerless while Roman soldiers nailed Him to a cross, He was in fact performing a feat of heroic strength. He stayed and accepted what He could have prevented, and who can measure how much strength that required? And then, through what looked like weakness, He single-handedly defeated all the power of Hell, for all eternity.
And this hero is the holder of the Name above all names, upon whom all honor will be bestowed for all eternity. And He says to us:
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matt 11:29 KJV)
I don't know about you, but I want to discover the glorious power of this meekness. And I want the protection it offers from all the heartache I bring on myself when I pursue what the world wrongly calls strength.
Lord Jesus, teach me how to embrace Your yoke and learn meekness from You. Amen!