Are You Allowing God’s Spirit to Lead You?
“Your spirit is good; may it lead me in the land of uprightness.”—PS. 143:10.
1, 2. (a) Name some occasions on which Jehovah used holy spirit in behalf of his servants. (b) Is the operation of holy spirit limited to special occasions? Explain.
WHAT comes to mind when you think of the operation of holy spirit? Do you picture the mighty acts of Gideon and Samson? (Judg. 6:33, 34; 15:14, 15) Perhaps you think of the boldness of the early Christians or the serenity of Stephen as he stood before the Sanhedrin. (Acts 4:31; 6:15) In modern times, what about the joy that abounds at our international conventions, the integrity of our brothers who are imprisoned for their neutrality, and the remarkable growth of the preaching work? These examples all give evidence of the operation of holy spirit.
2 Does holy spirit operate only on special occasions or under extraordinary circumstances? No. God’s Word speaks of Christians’ “walking by spirit,” “being led by spirit,” and “living by spirit.” (Gal. 5:16, 18, 25) These expressions indicate that holy spirit can continually exercise an influence in our lives. On a daily basis, we should entreat Jehovah to guide our thinking, speech, and actions by means of his spirit. (Read Psalm 143:10.) As we allow the spirit to operate freely in our lives, it will produce in us fruitage that is refreshing to others and that brings praise to God.
3. (a) Why do we need to be led by holy spirit? (b) What questions will we consider?
3 Why is it vital that we be led by holy spirit? Because another force seeks to dominate us, a force that opposes the operation of holy spirit. That other force is what the Scriptures term “the flesh,” which refers to the sinful inclinations of our fallen flesh, the legacy of imperfection we have received as descendants of Adam. (Read Galatians 5:17.) What, then, is involved in allowing ourselves to be led by God’s spirit? Are there practical steps we can take to counteract the pull of our sinful flesh? Let us consider these questions as we discuss the remaining six aspects of “the fruitage of the spirit,” namely, “long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.”—Gal. 5:22, 23.
Mildness and Long-Suffering Promote Peace in the Congregation
4. How do mildness and long-suffering contribute to peace in the congregation?
4 Read Colossians 3:12, 13. In the congregation, mildness and long-suffering work hand in hand to promote peace. Both of these aspects of the spirit’s fruitage help us to deal graciously with others, to remain calm under provocation, and to avoid retaliating when others say or do unkind things. If we have a difference with a fellow Christian, long-suffering, or patience, will help us not to give up on our brother or sister but to do what we can to heal the breach. Are mildness and long-suffering really needed in the congregation? Yes, because all of us are imperfect.
5. What occurred between Paul and Barnabas, and what does this underscore?
5 Consider what took place between Paul and Barnabas. They had worked side by side for years in advancement of the good news. Each had commendable qualities. Yet, on one occasion, there occurred between them “a sharp burst of anger, so that they separated from each other.” (Acts 15:36-39) This incident underscores that even among devoted servants of God, disagreements will at times arise. If a Christian has a misunderstanding with a fellow believer, what might he do to prevent the situation from escalating into a heated exchange that could result in a lasting rift?
6, 7. (a) What Scriptural counsel can we follow before a discussion with a fellow believer becomes heated? (b) What are the benefits of being “swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath”?
6 As is indicated by the phrase “a sharp burst of anger,” the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas was sudden and intense. If a Christian senses that he is becoming angry when discussing a matter with a fellow believer, he is wise to heed the counsel found at James 1:19, 20: “Every man must be swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath; for man’s wrath does not work out God’s righteousness.” Depending on the circumstances, he might try to change the subject, defer the discussion, or excuse himself before the conversation becomes heated.—Prov. 12:16; 17:14; 29:11.
7 What are the benefits of following this counsel? By taking time to calm down, pray about the matter, and consider how best to reply, a Christian allows himself to be led by God’s spirit. (Prov. 15:1, 28) Under the influence of the spirit, he can manifest mildness and long-suffering. He is thereby equipped to heed the counsel found at Ephesians 4:26, 29: “Be wrathful, and yet do not sin . . . Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth, but whatever saying is good for building up as the need may be, that it may impart what is favorable to the hearers.” Indeed, when we clothe ourselves with mildness and long-suffering, we contribute to the peace and unity of the congregation.
Refresh Your Family With Kindness and Goodness
8, 9. What are kindness and goodness, and what effect do they have on the atmosphere in the home?
8 Read Ephesians 4:31, 32; 5:8, 9. Like a gentle breeze and a cool drink on a hot day, kindness and goodness are refreshing. Within the family circle, they contribute to a pleasant atmosphere. Kindness is an endearing quality that stems from genuine interest in others, an interest that is manifested in helpful acts and considerate words. Goodness, like kindness, is a positive quality that is expressed in actions that benefit others. It is marked by a spirit of generosity. (Acts 9:36, 39; 16:14, 15) But goodness involves something more.
9 Goodness is moral excellence. It involves not just what we do but, more important, what we are. Picture a woman preparing fruit for her family, examining each piece as she slices it to make sure that it is sweet and ripe all the way through, without defect inside or out. Similarly, the goodness produced by holy spirit permeates a Christian’s entire way of life.
10. What can be done to help family members cultivate the fruitage of the spirit?
10 In a Christian household, what can help family members to treat one another with kindness and goodness? Accurate knowledge of God’s Word plays an important role. (Col. 3:9, 10) Some family heads include a study of the fruitage of the spirit as part of their weekly Family Worship evening. Such a consideration is not difficult to arrange. Using the research tools available in your language, select material on each aspect of the spirit’s fruitage. You might consider just a few paragraphs per week, spending several weeks on each aspect. As you study the material, read and discuss the cited scriptures. Look for ways to apply what you learn, and pray for Jehovah to bless your efforts. (1 Tim. 4:15; 1 John 5:14, 15) Can such a study really make a difference in the way family members treat one another?
11, 12. How did two Christian couples benefit from making a study of kindness?
11 A young couple, desiring to make a success of their marriage, decided to make an in-depth study of the fruitage of the spirit. How have they benefited? The wife comments: “Learning that kindness includes both fidelity and loyalty has made a real difference in how we treat each other down to this day. It has taught us to be yielding as well as forgiving. And it has helped us learn to say ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’ when appropriate.”
12 Another Christian couple, who were experiencing marital problems, realized that kindness was missing in their relationship. They decided to study the subject of kindness together. With what result? The husband recalls: “Our study of kindness helped us to see the need to give each other the benefit of the doubt rather than impute wrong motives, to look for the good in each other. We began to take more of an interest in each other’s needs. Being kind included inviting my wife to express freely what was on her mind without my taking offense at what she said. It meant that I had to set aside my pride. As we began to put kindness into practice in our marriage, our defenses gradually melted away. It was quite liberating.” Would your family benefit from a study of the fruitage of the spirit?
Exercise Faith When in Private
13. What danger to our spirituality must we guard against?
13 Christians need to allow God’s spirit to lead them both in public and in private. Today in Satan’s world, sordid images and degraded entertainment have proliferated. This poses a danger to our spirituality. What is a Christian to do? God’s Word counsels us: “Put away all filthiness and that superfluous thing, badness, and accept with mildness the implanting of the word which is able to save your souls.” (Jas. 1:21) Let us consider how faith, another aspect of the spirit’s fruitage, can help us to remain clean before Jehovah.
14. How can lack of faith lead to wrong conduct?
14 Faith means, fundamentally, that Jehovah God is real to us. If God is not real to us, wrong conduct will be just a short step away. Consider what happened among God’s people in ancient times. Jehovah revealed to the prophet Ezekiel that detestable things were being done in private, saying: “Have you seen, O son of man, what the elderly ones of the house of Israel are doing in the darkness, each one in the inner rooms of his showpiece? For they are saying, ‘Jehovah is not seeing us. Jehovah has left the land.’” (Ezek. 8:12) Did you notice what contributed to the problem? They did not believe that Jehovah was aware of what they were doing. Jehovah was not real to them.
15. How does strong faith in Jehovah protect us?
15 In contrast, consider the example of Joseph. Although away from his family and his people, Joseph refused to commit adultery with Potiphar’s wife. Why? He said: “How could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?” (Gen. 39:7-9) Yes, Jehovah was real to him. If God is real to us, we will not view unclean entertainment or do anything else in private that we know displeases God. Our resolve will be like that of the psalmist who sang: “I shall walk about in the integrity of my heart inside my house. I shall not set in front of my eyes any good-for-nothing thing.”—Ps. 101:2, 3.
Guard Your Heart by Exercising Self-Control
16, 17. (a) As described in the book of Proverbs, how does “a young man in want of heart” become ensnared in sin? (b) As depicted on page 26, how could something similar happen today regardless of one’s age?
16 Self-control, the final aspect of the spirit’s fruitage, enables us to say no to things that God condemns. It can help us to guard our heart. (Prov. 4:23) Consider the scenario found at Proverbs 7:6-23, which describes how “a young man in want of heart” succumbs to the wiles of a prostitute. He becomes ensnared after “passing along on the street near her corner.” Perhaps he ventured into her neighborhood out of curiosity. All too quickly, he fails to discern that he is being led into a foolish course that “involves his very soul.”
17 How could the young man have avoided this disastrous mistake? By heeding the warning: “Do not wander into her roadways.” (Prov. 7:25) There is a lesson for us: If we want God’s spirit to lead us, we need to avoid placing ourselves in the path of temptation. One way a person could wander into the foolish course of the “young man in want of heart” is by aimlessly flipping through television channels or surfing the Internet. Whether intentionally or not, he might well chance upon sexually stimulating scenes. He could gradually develop the unclean habit of viewing pornography, with devastating consequences to his conscience and his relationship with God. It could involve his very life.—Read Romans 8:5-8.
18. What measures might a Christian take to guard his heart, and how do these involve the exercise of self-control?
18 Of course, we can and should exercise self-control by taking immediate action if we are confronted with a provocative image. But how much better if we avoid the situation in the first place! (Prov. 22:3) Setting appropriate safeguards and adhering to them involve the exercise of self-control. For example, keeping the computer in an open area can serve as a protection. Some find it best to use the computer or watch television only when others are present. Others have decided not to have access to the Internet. (Read Matthew 5:27-30.) May we take whatever measures are necessary to protect ourselves and our family so that we can worship Jehovah “out of a clean heart and out of a good conscience and out of faith without hypocrisy.”—1 Tim. 1:5.
19. What are the benefits of allowing holy spirit to lead us?
19 The fruitage produced through the operation of holy spirit brings many benefits. Mildness and long-suffering contribute to peace in the congregation. Kindness and goodness promote family happiness. Faith and self-control help us to remain close to Jehovah and clean before him. Moreover, Galatians 6:8 assures us: “He who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.” Yes, based on Christ’s ransom, Jehovah will use holy spirit to impart endless life to those who allow themselves to be led by the spirit.
How Would You Answer?
• How do mildness and long-suffering promote peace in the congregation?
• What can help Christians to manifest kindness and goodness at home?
• How do faith and self-control help a Christian to guard his heart?
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How can you prevent a discussion from becoming heated?
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A study of the fruitage of the spirit can benefit your family
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What dangers do we avoid by exercising faith and self-control?