Love is a spiritual fruit that is built from real, godly character and commitment. It is the fiber of our moral center that stretches throughout our being, embracing and holding together our relationships when it is sealed as a choice and commitment, and not just a feeling. Love will synergistically combine with the other characters of our Lord to promote our ability to relate and grow in our relations, to better others as well as ourselves. Let us take a quick look at the main characters that flow from love. These flow from the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). A fruit is made up of more than one substance; it has juice, pulp, segments, and seeds, all held together by a skin or rind, and attached to the tree by a stem where its nutrients flow in. If you just eat of the pulp or juice and throw out the rest, how can you use the seeds to grow more? If you take the fruit off the vine, it will wither and rot; if the vine is not cared for, the tree will die. So it is with love. It requires our tending, and it is more than just one substance; all of its substances combined are greater than the sum of its parts.
Here is a list of godly characters that He calls us to emulate and put into our relationships. These are essential to growing a healthy and lasting relationship. You can examine the descriptions, look up the Scriptures, and then ask yourself these six questions:
- Is this character working in me?
- How do I now exhibit this character in my daily life?
- How can I use this character to develop a better willingness to respond to others-especially to the ones I love-with a since of awe, and fear of God, and respect for people?
- What blocks this character from working and being exhibited in me?
- How can I make this character function better, stronger, and faster, even in times of uncertainly and stress?
- Think through the steps you would take to put this character into action in a specific instance, or, to improve it. Consider the examples from the passages in God's Word.
· Love (John 13:1; 15:13; 1 Corinthians 13:3; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 John) will enable us to appreciate our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and, of course, our family and others around us. Love is taking the initiative to build up and meet the needs of others, without expecting anything in return.
· Joy (Psalm 32:7-9; Proverbs 15:13; John 15:11; 17:13; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Peter 4:13- 19; Hebrews 10:34) will allow us to enjoy our relationship with Christ, His creation, others, and our circumstances, with an expression of delight, and real, authentic happiness from and with harmony with God and others.
· Peace (Isaiah. 26:3; Matthew 5:9; Luke 19:42; John 14:27; 16:33; Romans 5:1; 12:18; Galatians 5:22-23; Colossians 3:15; Philippians 4:7) is surrendering and yielding ourselves to the Lord, to be in His control, for He is our ultimate peace! Allowing tranquility to be our tone, control, and our composure. This will be fueled from our harmonious relationship with God, handing over control of our heart, will, and mind to Him. Once we make real peace with God, we will be able to make and maintain peace with others.
· Patience (Hosea 2:19-23; Psalm 33:20; Matthew 27:14; Romans 5:3; 12:12; Galatians 5:1; 5:22-23; Colossians 1:11; James 1:3-4,12; 5:10-11) is showing tolerance and fortitude toward others, even accepting difficult situations from them, and God, without making demands or conditions. Patience allows us to endure a less than desirable situation, to make us better, more useful, and even optimistic and prudent. Hence, its other name, longsuffering. It allows us to put up with others who get on our nerves, without losing other characteristics of grace.
· Kindness (Romans 2:1-4; 12:9-21; Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12-14; 1 John 3:16-23) is the medium through which Christ's love becomes tangible through us. It is practicing benevolence and a loving attitude towards others. Kindness is the essence that shows the world that we are a Christian, like the fragrance coming from a flower. It is being convicted with God's Word, and then modeling it to others. Kindness is the subject to the object of who we are in Christ!
· Goodness (Amos 5:15; Proverbs 25:22; Matthew 19:16; Romans 12:17; Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 5:8-9; 1 Peter 3:11; 2 Peter 1:3-8) displays integrity, honesty and compassion to others, and allows us to do the right thing. It is doing the right thing, even when it does not feel like we should, as Joseph did. He was betrayed and sold as a slave, yet, he chose to make his situation into something good, and to help and treat others better than he needed to. Goodness is the model for people to repent and accept Christ.
· Faithfulness (Psalm 119: 89-90; Matthew 17:19; 25:21; Romans 1:17; 5:1-2; 1 Corinthians 12:9; Galatians 5:22-23; Hebrews 11:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:24) is the application of our faith in action, fused with being dependable. It is not faith itself, rather, the fruit and character of faith. It is the "gluing" fruit that will preserve our faith, and the other characters of the Spirit, and identify God's will, so we can be dependable and trusting to God and others. Faith is the one fruit that we give to God, whereas faithfulness and the other fruits and characters are from the Spirit working in us! Faithfulness is authenticity, the power and motivation for Christian living. Because God is trustworthy with us, we can be faith-worthy in Him!
· Gentleness (Isaiah. 40:11; 42:2-3; Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 4: 5; Matthew 5:5; 11:29; 12:15; Ephesians 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:24; 1 Thessalonians 2:7) is the character that will show calmness, personal care, and tenderness in meeting the needs of others. It is to be more than just a personality; it is to be who we are, from the work of the Spirit within us.
· Self-Control (Proverbs 16:32; 25:28; Romans13: 12-14; 1 Corinthians 6:12; 9:25-27; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Thessalonians 5: 22; Titus 2:12; Hebrews 12:2; 2Peter 1:5-7) is allowing God to be in control of our will and heart, and seeking the Spirit to enable us. Then we will know what not to do, and guard the areas in which we are weak. This will allow us to have discipline and restraint, with obedience to God and others. It is not allowing distractions to derail or remove us from His will and plan, so we will not be held back from what Christ called us to do.
· Forgiving (Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 23:34; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13) is the realization of how much we have been forgiven by Christ. This enables us to forgive the insignificant things that are done to us. It involves not being resentful to others, and ignoring the wrongs that we have received, so we can heal relationships by expressing Christ's love.
· Humility (1 Kings 8:58; Psalm 25; Luke 22:27; Colossians 1:18; Philippians 2:8; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:3-5) minimizes arrogance and removes pride. It is the understanding of our fallen nature and weaknesses which cause us to think we are better than we are, and that cause us to strive to lift ourselves above others and God. It is admitting that others, and most importantly God, are responsible for our achievements. Humbleness will enable us to be a teachable person, one who is willing to have the attitude of submission and servant-hood, a person who confesses sin, and remembers how Christ served us! Humility is not self-hatred, or having a "poor me" attitude.
· Fairness (Psalm 73; Proverbs 17:26; Matthew 7:12; John 7:24; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; 10:12; James 2:1) sees a situation from the viewpoint of each person involved, and not just our own. It seeks the best, just, equable solution, even if it hurts us. It does not seek to please one over another, nor does it seek more than is needed. Fairness is not insisting on having our rights over someone else's!
· Courage (Deuteronomy 31:6; Josh. 1:9; Psalm 23:4; 31:24; Proverbs 28:1; Phil. 4:13; 2 Tim. 1:7; 1 John 4:4; 18) realizes that God has given us the strength to face any situation, trial, or peril. It is the ability to react, knowing that God is in control, that, "He who is in me is greater than he who is against me."
· Friendship (Proverbs 18:24; 27:17; Matthew 5-7; Luke 15:1-2; Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9) is the companionship and closeness we are to have with one another. It is the commitment to build relationships by getting to know others, and helping them form the other characters, so they can, in turn, help you. Relationships are essential to life, and to being a Christian; it is our number two priority, besides our growth in Christ! This is not to be feared, but embraced, even when it hurts!
· Honesty & Truthfulness (Psalm 15:2; 25:5; John 16:6; 17; 2 Corinthians 8:21; Ephesians 4:15; 25; Philippians 4:8) means being straight and honest with others, and doing what is right. This trait will allow us to earn trust by being accurate with facts and situations.
· Dependable (John 15:13; 1 Corinthians 4:2; Colossians 1:10) is being constantly reliable and trustworthy. It will allow us to continue in our commitments, even if it means personal sacrifice. This will allow others to build trust in us, and point to the One who they can put the most important trust in, Christ as Lord.
· Gratitude (Luke 17:11-19; 1 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:18) is an attitude of being thankful, even when we do not see all that we have. This is an aspect of worship, expressing to God, and others, how they have benefited our lives, and by showing them support, appreciation, and benevolence. Because His blood has redeemed us, we are grateful.
· Responsibility (Romans 14:12-13; Galatians 6:1-5; Eph. 6:21; 1 Peter 4:10-11) means to know and do what God, and others, expect of us. The Christian is called to remain steadfast, with honesty, and, when we do something wrong, we own up to it, admit our wrong, and do all that we can to fix the problem we caused, and the relationships that have been harmed. Responsibility shows us the need to guard our weaknesses.
· Contentment (Proverbs 16:9; 19:21; Romans 9:19-21; Philippians. 4: 10-13; 1 Timothy 6:6-9; Hebrews 13: 5) is the attitude of accepting whatever God provides, and being happy with it. It does not seek for gratification what is not needed, and does not seek happiness in the shallow things of life. When you are more concerned with how others are doing than how you are doing, you will be on the right track.
· Generosity (Deuteronomy 16:17; Proverbs 11:24-25; 13:7; Matthew 10:8; 2 Corinthians 9: 6-15) allows us to give to others because God has given abundantly to us. It is the wise use of stewardship and the attitude that all possessions belong to God. We are merely the caretakers for His purpose. It will see the Lord as the Source of true blessing, not our selfish desires.
· Purity and Holiness (Matthew 5:8; Philippians 4:8; 1 Timothy 1:5; 5:22; James 4:8) mean being set apart for God's use, which is holiness in action. It will keep us from being contaminated by, or interfering with others in their growth and relationship in Christ. We must see our sins and weaknesses, and be humble before the Holiness of God. We may not be able to overcome all of our sins, but our desire is to go in the right direction.
· Confidence (Proverbs 3:25-27; 14:26-27; Job 13:15; Philippians 4:13; Hebrews 4: 14-16) enables us to rely on the Lord for all things in our life. We can push forward in the direction that we are called because He is governing, and He is sovereign. As we look to Him with trust, and not to others or ourselves, we have the God of the universe in us. Nothing is greater than that! We can live our lives in holiness and Christian character, and react to all the situations we encounter with the focus on who we are in Christ, as He is our confidence. Confidence also makes us realize we are not responsible for the results-only the faith and obedience.
· Encouragement (Psalm 119:28; 143:3; Matthew 3:17; John 14:1; Colossians 4:7-8;1 Thessalonians. 5:11-14; Hebrews 10:25) will lift, support, and help others through difficult circumstances, all from God's perspective. Being in Christ means living our lives for Him, with excitement, in all times and all places. This is influence; this is what encourages others.
· Availability (Isaiah 6:8; Mark 1:17-18; Luke 16:10; Acts 16:10) is being willing to adjust our own schedule, agenda, and plans to fit the right desires of God and others. It makes personal priorities secondary to the needs of God and others. It is to reflect God's priorities, so we are always available to Him, and others, when we are serving.
· Attentiveness (Proverbs 12:15; Mark 4:21-25; 16:24; Hebrews 2:1; James 1:19-25) will recognize the value of other people by giving them listening ears, respect, courtesy, and total concentration. This means paying attention to others, not just listening to our own needs and desires, and, also, giving genuine contemplation to God's Word, and His call to respond to others.
· Wisdom (Deuteronomy 4:6; 1 Kings 3:9; Psalm 119:97-98; Matthew 6:33; Romans 12:3;1 Timothy 1:18-20) truly desires the knowledge of God's Word and its proper application to our life. Wisdom is rooted in doing the will of the Lord; to forsake His Word is to forfeit wisdom (Jeremiah. 8:8-9). Wisdom will enable us to make good judgments and decisions. We will seek what is right and true, based on God's will, not how we may feel or think.
· Compassion (Job 29:13; Isaiah. 40:11; Mark 1:41; Luke 10:25-37; 19:4; 1 Peter 3:8) will allow us to feel the pain and plight of others, to see from their perspective and situation in life. It will enable us to convey a deep feeling of love and concern that moves us to meet their distresses, struggles, and needs. This all flows from our understanding of who God is, and our obedience, trust in Him, and gratitude for what He has done for us. (Luke 10:36-37; Eph. 4:23). Our lives must be motivated by who we are in Christ, and nothing else!
· Enthusiasm (Matthew 5:16; Romans 12:11; Galatians 6:9; Colossians 3:23; 4:7-8) will enable us to overcome disappointments and setbacks, so we can be positive, optimistic, and keep up our interest, attitude, and zeal, even when situations are harsh. Enthusiasm is the fuel that empowers the Christian, his/her testimony, and gives him/her the love for the call that he/she has been given. Enthusiasm is the pipe through which flows the earnest endeavor of our work and service. Along with this passion comes the natural desire to do our best for the glory of God.
· Initiative (Proverbs 22:29; Ephesians 5:8-14; Philippians 3:14; 4:13-15; Hebrews 10:24-25) will take the challenge, to recognize and do what needs to be done before being asked to do it. This character will help power us though set backs, failures, adversities, persecution, oppositions, injustice, ingratitude, and the old excuse, "we have never done it this way before." It is not about being a leader as much as it is motivating yourself to grasp what Christ has for you. It is the moving of yourself, using your resources and ingenuity to serve. We cannot stand for Him, or move for Him, if we do not arise, and get off the couch. We must make the move and get on with the life that Christ gave us. Christ said for us to rise out of our sleep!
· Diligence (Proverbs 10:4; Ecclesiastes 10: 10; Luke 16:10-12; Romans 12:11;Colossians 3:23) allows us to function with our best for His highest, and with excitement and passion, in order to complete our work and call from the Lord. It is practical obedience in action, which is the loving of our call and the pursuing of our work so we are doing our best for His glory. Diligence also helps facilitate us to develop a good attitude, in addition to confidence, patience, forgiveness, values, loyalty, integrity, and to be in a place to build, develop, and display a positive and attractive disposition to those with whom we work.
· Thoughtfulness (Philippians 1:26-30; 2:3-4; Colossians 3:13-17; 1 Peter 3:7-12) considers others, and gives attention and care first to their feelings. It helps us take the load and focus off ourselves, so we can see the needs around us. It is a form of love that seeks to uplift, and do good to others whenever possible. It is the opposite of selfishness, yet, it does not cause us to neglect ourselves, because, that would be unkind to God's child-you! It is especially appreciated when it is not expected. Bring thoughtful will disallow schedules to take priority over people.
· Efficiency (Psalm 90:12; 1 Corinthians 14:26-35; 40; Ephesians 4:23; 5:15- 16; 1 Peter 4:10) means being well organized, competent, and resourceful, making the most of every situation, doing our best, and always seeking better ways to be a Christian in all that we do. It means knowing that God will hold us accountable for what is presented to us, as well as for all we do with it. So, we need to be better stewards of our time, and make our lives well-organized, enabling us to do our best to serve God and others. With this character, we can function in a more orderly way, continually seeking the best way and means in all that we do-from errands to organizing our worship services-in order to achieve the greatest effectiveness.
· Discretion (Psalm 112:5; Proverbs 2:11; 22:3; Romans 12: 2, 9; 14:19, 22) keeps our minds and focus on sound judgment, giving serious attention and thought to what is going on around us. In that way, we can choose our words, attitudes, and actions more carefully so as to model goodness and righteousness for any given situation. Thus, we can avoid words and actions that could result in adverse consequences. With this character, we will be able to recognize and avoid wrong attitudes that might create objectionable words, actions, etc., which would appear condescending to others, and could bring serious consequences to relationships.
· Optimism (Proverbs 4:23; Luke 21:18; John 16:33; Romans 8:25; 28; 15:13; Colossians 3:1-4) combines hope and faith into synergy (the combination supercharges and become more than just the sum of its parts), so as to be positive for Christ. It is a heartfelt confidence that everything will come out for the best, no matter what happens, as Paul proclaimed. It will help us to think the best of and be positive with people and situations, even if we are proven wrong.
· Obedience (Deuteronomy 13: 4; 1 Samuel 15:22; Proverbs 19:16; Acts 5:29; John 14:14; 15:14; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Hebrews 13:17) is submitting to what God requires of us. This character motivates us to keep seeking our Lord and cleaving to Him, regardless of the circumstances, so we will be able to keep His precepts, and be loyal to His call. It is also recognizing authority and direction from others, such as the pastor and church, so winning situations can result.
· Reverence (Psalm 89:5-18; Proverbs 1:7, 29: 3:5-9; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 5:21; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Peter 2:13-14; 3:15a) is the true response that leads to worship for all who come before God. It is recognizing and honoring the authority of God with awe and fear, because, He is God, and He is more awesome than anything or anyone-period! It also means respecting people, not just because of their position, authority, or personality, but as brothers and sisters in the Lord, being aware that He loves them too!
And, there are dozens of more godly characters, emulated in the Bible, which God calls us to embrace, and apply into our lives! Remember, these all synergistically combine to help create the mature, Christ-like Christian. What Christ gives to us in grace, and how we respond towards others around us are essential in all of our relationships.
When the other ingredients of a good relationship are right, then the love will come. Love does not stand alone, it needs to be in synergy with good character, attitude, and reverence, so we can stroll through the maze of relationships with confidence, and the assurance that Christ is lighting our path.
Pray as a group and individually at home about how what we talked about can make you a changed person, so you can apply these precepts to all of your relationships!
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