A String of Beads, a Family Devotional
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
According to Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Many songs and silly sentences have been created through the years to help people remember the biblical order in which the apostle Paul names these nine qualities. Few of us would dispute the importance of the first item on the list. It makes sense that “love” would be number one.
Today, however, I would like to look at the last item on the list. Is there anything special or noteworthy about why “self-control” comes at the end? I’ve heard one possible answer: Self-control is like the knot at the end of the string that keeps the beads from slipping off the necklace and spilling onto the floor.
Think about that for a minute. If you regularly exhibit the first eight traits but fly off the handle in anger when something doesn’t go your way, you might very well undermine your entire testimony with a single lapse of self-management. Likewise, if you frequently yield to temptation or regularly exercise a vice and choose to “let grace abound,” then your witness and reputation as an ambassador of Christ could become worthless overnight.
It’s important that in the many personality assessment tools that exist, no one personality trait is ever touted as better than another. Whatever your personality type, the real key to effectiveness in life is to allow yourself to be led by the Holy Spirit. When you submit your entire being to God’s Spirit, then all the positive attributes of your personality will shine forth. If you are not being led by the Spirit, then the dark side of your disposition will tend to come out, typically making life miserable for yourself and those around you. Therefore, as Paul continues in this passage, we need to crucify the flesh, with its passions and desires, and keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:24). That certainly requires self-control.
Notice that Paul lists all nine qualities as one “fruit” because they are much like a cluster of grapes. As you abide in the vine, your cluster of fruit matures and becomes part of your personality. Bearing the fruit of the Spirit means that all nine “grapes” are in your cluster. You can’t be satisfied with just being full of love or blissfully peaceful or whichever one you like most. Bearing five, six, or even seven of the traits doesn’t cut it either. No, as followers of Christ we need to strive for all nine. The one “fruit” we are to produce includes every single one in the list.
So submit to the Spirit and make sure that self-control is part of your style, your brand and your way of life. Don’t accidentally or intentionally leave this one off. If you do, you just might find the beads of faithfulness, or kindness or gentleness falling off the string. And you certainly don’t want love to spill onto the floor and cause your heart to harden or your family and friends to gasp in horror.
Keep it all together and let self-control be the knot that keeps love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness all together as one happy family of fruit on your cluster as you abide in the True Vine.
Heavenly Father, you are the gardener, and your Son is the true vine. I want to abide in Him as He abides in You. My heart’s desire is to bear fruit, much good fruit for your glory. Thank you for inspiring Paul to write this practical list to guide me in my sanctification. God, please help me develop all nine characteristics in my life. I ask especially that you help me be self-controlled so that none of the other eight are compromised in any way. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
Walking by faith and enjoying the homeschooling adventure of a lifetime!
Davis is the president of Apologia Educational Ministries, the #1 publisher of Creation-based science and Bible curriculum. He is the author of four illustrated children’s books designed to help kids learn a biblical worldview. He believes that if there was ever a time to homeschool, it is now! Davis’s four books include: Good Morning, God, based on Deuteronomy 6, A Light for My Path, an ABC book based on Psalm 119, In the Beginning, based on the Creation account in Genesis, Psalms to Know Early, and Truths to Know Early (Spring 2018).