Cultivating in the Spirit

God has so much planned for us. 

When I sat down to write this post I had a completely different concept in mind. I was going to outline each fruit with a summary of the full posts. 

Instead. I want to talk about The Spirit of God, and His sovereignty. 

Life has a way of throwing things at us over and over and over again, and expecting us to just take it. We’re tired, we’re stressed, we’re uncertain, and generally I feel like we’re all just kind of taking things one step at a time. That’s all we can do, right?


I’ve lived by that concept for years, and only this year am I realizing that only “taking one more step” is not enough. It’s not enough to take that step on our own.

 We have to take that step with God. 

Walking in the Spirit

How many times have you been walking on flat ground and tripped on your own feet? I promise, I’ve been there hundreds of times. It’s frustrating and sometimes painfully embarrassing, even though we KNOW everyone does it from time to time. 

A part of being human is faltering and falling. But we can become stronger and more sure-footed when we put our trust and our purpose in the gospel, and in Christ. 

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

Galatians 5:16

The desires of the flesh are listed out in the next few verses after Galatians 5:16, all of them encompassed by selfishness, jealousy, and pride. We focus so much on ourselves that we don’t consider God. 

Do you think God goes even a second without considering us?

That’s why He’s given us the Spirit to walk with. He is our guide, leading us so we don’t stumble and fall, so that we can cultivate the fruits and gifts He has determined for us. 

1 Corinthians 12:11 tells us that “All these (gifts of the Spirit) are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills.” 

In Romans, Paul tells us that “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (8:14). 

We belong to God, and because of that He has given us the Spirit to lead and guide us. We have been given spiritual gifts by the Spirit to help us cultivate the fruits of the Spirit that we’ve outlined the last ten months.

Cultivating Fruit

When growing fruit trees, cultivation is ridiculously important. You want to make sure you have the right soil, location, environment, and irrigation system in place so that the fruit tree can reach a proper root-depth. These fruit trees usually need about three feet of root growth to be strong enough to start growing fruit. 

Compare that to yourself now, as God does in the Bible. We have to have an “irrigation” system in place to help feed and water our souls so that we can continue to grow stronger and healthier in our faith and fruits. We are fruit trees, and must put ourselves in the proper environment, location, and in the right soil.

A proper environment for a Christian is one surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ. We are told in the Bible that we have brothers and sisters around the world struggling with the same obstacles we do. Surrounding ourselves with other believers fosters an attitude of growth and inspiration.

The soil we should be planted in is the word, which nurtures our souls and feeds our minds. It keeps us alive and strong, and we become stronger the deeper we grow in it. 

The irrigation system for a Christian could be many things, from personal conviction (or, rather, the conviction of the Holy Spirit), to family members and mentors who keep us accountable against the word of God. This weeds out the bad habits and influences, and builds or strengthens the systems and influences that help us grow stronger in our faith.


I came across an article discussing the process of cultivating fruits, and this section popped into view: 

“Pruning is the removal of parts of a plant to influence growth and fruitfulness. It is an important fruit-growing practice. Primary attention is given to form in the first few years after fruit trees or vines are planted. Form influences strength and longevity of the mature plant as well as efficiency of other fruit-growing practices; pruning for form is called training. As the plant approaches maximum fruitfulness and fills its allotted space, maintenance pruning for various purposes becomes increasingly important.”

Have you ever considered pruning for the sake of your spiritual growth? Pulling out the bad habits, unhealthy friend groups, uninspiring TV shows, or even music that is detrimental to your growth? These bad habits take our attention away from God and towards the world. They determine where our thoughts will be, and draw our focus onto ourselves and the people around us, rather than onto the scriptures and the promises of our Father.

In our first few years of cultivation this is extremely important, because it provides the soil which we grow into the rest of our lives. 

Crucify the Flesh

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Galatians 5:24

I don’t know if you’ve ever studied the crucifixion or the practice of crucifying. But essentially, the reason it is so horrible, and why it was reserved for criminals, was because of just how slow and painful it was. 

Besides being nailed hand and foot (or wrist and ankle, likely) to thick pieces of wood, the criminals would then be hoisted into the air (often naked) the full weight of their body hanging on the nails. This would stretch out their shoulders, sometimes dislocating them, and force their body to hang limp because you couldn’t really fight against it (at least not for long.) It often took days for the people to die this way, hunger and thirst taking as much a toll as the cross itself. 

This, as horrible as it is, is exactly what we want to do with our sinful selves. We deserve this and so much worse for rebelling against our Father in heaven, except that Christ did it for us!

“For the people of Christ, the cross broke the grip of the laws and also the grip of the flesh. By faith, they recognize the reality of their union with Christ in His death. So, too, they have been raised to new life in the Spirit of Christ and therefore walk in the Spirit.”
ESV Study Bible footnotes

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
”BUT GOD being rich in MERCY, because of the GREAT LOVE with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward  us in Christ Jesus.”

Ephesians 2:1-7

God has provided everything for us, even the sacrifice that was necessary for us to be able to grow in the Spirit.

We didn’t deserve that, we hadn’t earned it, we aren’t that good. No matter how you look at it, the gift of God’s Spirit is exactly that: a gift. 

God is rich in mercy meaning that His mercy overflows, it is abundant. Mercy is a gift, it is the withholding of a punishment we have earned.

God is faithful. God will not leave us to our own demise. We are His, and He will continue to care for us because He is faithful and consistent in character.

God is Sovereign

“No temptation has taken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Romans 10:13

Sovereignty is a word we throw around a lot in Christian circles. Essentially, it means God has complete control and power over the universe that He has created. 

This is a comforting thought, that God does in fact know all and see all, even when we don’t feel it. 

“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’” 

Isaiah 46:8-10

There is no one like God, no one Who can create out of nothing and speak into existence things that we couldn’t even imagine. There is no one who can save the entire world—past and present—from sin and death. Except Christ.

“He has caused His wondrous works to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear Him; He remembers His covenant forever.
He has shown His people the power of His works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
The works of His hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy;
They are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is His name!”

Psalm 111:4-9

We are provided for and cared for, loved even, by God who is “rich in mercy and abundant in lovingkindness,” and so we are in good hands.

Spirit Lives in Us

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”

1 Corinthians 3:16

We hear all the time in Christian circles that we can do things “with God” and that things are possible when we have “God on our side.” 

But what does that really mean? Obviously we normally don’t see a physical presence of God walking beside us. Christ isn’t currently walking the earth in human form. So what do we mean when we say we have God with us?

“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Acts 2:1-4

The signs they witnessed here were evidence of the presence of God. We often get caught up in the details of the little flames or speaking in tongues, but imagine simply the full presence of God and how that is manifested here. 

This is how God walks with us, as God the Spirit within us. He is a gift to us, as we see promised in Joel 2:28-32 and Isaiah 44:3-8. The presence of the Spirit is as comfort, as living water, as Helper, and as guide. John 16 tells us in beautiful detail the role of the Spirit has in our lives, and how as an individual member of the Trinity, He acts independently under the authority of God. 

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.”

John 16:7

The plans of God are perfectly orchestrated to provide for His people. In His sovereignty He has provided a way for our salvation and a destination for our eternity. We will not be forgotten by our Lord, our Father, our Savior. 

The Spirit Cultivates With Us

As we close out this series on the Fruits of the Spirit, I hope you always remember the reality of the presence of the Spirit within us. Go back and meditate on each fruit, allowing the Spirit to guide you in your walk with Christ.

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. Each fruit is crucial and important for your spiritual growth. If we allow the Spirit to influence our lives and live with the fruits in mind, the Spirit of God will be with us every step of the way.

He is a constant presence cultivating our growth and feeding our souls. We can find comfort in the fact that we do not have to rely on our own strength or ability to live as Christians, but that we can lean on God and His perfect, sovereign will. 

A Prayer for all us Mountain Goats

My prayer for you is that you would take what you’ve studied and heard, and apply it to your life. I pray that you and I would both acknowledge the constant presence of the Spirit and recognize His help in cultivating our fruit. I pray that we would reflect the fruits of the Spirit in so much grace that it stands out from others around us. And I pray that through this, we would each grow closer to God hour by hour, day by day.

The Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control

“While we may not be able to control all that happens to us, we can control what happens inside us”

Benjamin Franklin

As we near the end of the Fruits of the Spirit study, we find ourselves at self-control. This quality of Christian character is the skeleton of all of the others, without which, the body cannot stand. We can’t be patient, loving, kind, or gentle without control of ourselves and our reactions. 

David Mathis, chief editor for Desiring God, says that self-control is “that important, impressive, and nearly impossible practice of learning to maintain control of the beast of one’s own sinful passions.”

When Paul shared the gospel with Felix and Drusilla, he “reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgement.” In essence, he was summarizing the Christian gospel worldview, which included self-control as an equal with the concept of righteousness. 

Why is that? Why is self-control such a key component of the gospel? And why is it a summary of all of the fruits of the Spirit?

To understand why self-control is so important, we need to have a full understanding of its definition and concept. While it seems self explanatory, there’s more to it than simply controlling yourself.

What is Self-Control?

Biblical self-control begins in our hearts. Desires are driven by our hearts, and there they take root and grow into almost uncontrollable beasts within us that we have to fight daily. Jeremiah tells us that our hearts are “deceptive above all else” (Jer 17:9). R.C. Sproul notes on this verse that the heart “represents the basis of character, including the mind and will.” 

Because of the deception of our hearts, we must take special care to be in control over those desires. 

We must also have control over our minds. It is so easy in today’s culture to be distracted by literally anything. We have cell phones, televisions, radios, political battles, international conflict, schoolwork, job drama…any number of controversies surrounding us demand our attention and our time. 

And we give it to them.

We are so ready to donate our thoughts to anything and everything except Christ. Just like Dug, the dog from UP, we are shouting “SQUIRREL!” every time our attention tries to focus in the right direction. 

The mind is a difficult thing to control, but it governs our actions and our bodies.

That is why we must have self-control over our body, as well. I think this is often the easiest to understand as a concept. We don’t hit people for being mean, we don’t yell at people who disagree with us, and we don’t physically run away from uncomfortable situations (well…usually). 

But beyond that, do we refrain from doing things we should do? By that I mean, do we procrastinate and ignore our responsibilities in favor of more leisurely activities?

I, a habitual procrastinator, would argue that yes it is. Not having control over my own use of time would definitely count as a lack of self-control. I can’t blame other people or outside circumstances if I also spent approximately twenty-five hours watching Netflix instead of writing, reading, studying, or praying. That is entirely on me. 

The same goes for anyone who may find themselves in a similar situation. When it comes to God, we must act with intent.

The three facets of self-control (heart, mind, body) need to be intentionally recognized as distinct. The heart needs its own sort of self-control, the mind its own, and the body its own. But the control of each has to be a very intentional, conscious effort.

Self-Control in Daily Life

The application of self-control may be easier to attain if we can see how it affects us in our daily lives. It may play a bigger role in your life than you think! Without seeing this though, it’s easy to disconnect ourselves from the need for control. We get caught up in all the various causes around us, which isn’t explicitly bad, but we lose control of our own thoughts when we succumb to submitting to the thoughts of others. 

Self-control is more than just a way to appease God. It stands as a foundation that allows every other fruit of the spirit to grow and prosper. When it comes to our day-to-day activities, self-control plays a more vital role than you may think.

It is Our Defense

“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” 

Proverbs 25:28

Control of ourselves is our strongest defense against the enemy. With control over our desires, we can fight off every temptation Satan throws at us, just like Jesus did in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11). Satan came at him over and over again with seemingly logical arguments, and time and time again Jesus refuted the devil’s approach with His own self-control. 

Satan appealed to Jesus’ body, His hunger, by telling Him to turn the stones into bread.

Satan appealed to Jesus’ mind by testing His trust in God, telling Him to jump off the cliff because “He will command His angels concerning you.”

Satan appealed to Jesus’ heart when he told Jesus to bow down and worship him instead of the Father. 

Jesus responds the way I hope all of us do when we are tempted: “Be gone, Satan!” 

It is Our Peace

You keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Isaiah 26:3

Focusing our mind on God and His perfect plan is the only idea that can bring us true peace on this earth. Nothing else is as constant, or as perfectly complete as this. 

Peace of mind is something people fight for a lot in this age of technology. With all the chaotic noise around us, it’s hard to find true “peace” as the world sees it. But as believers, we are welcomed into the arms of our Savior, where true peace was fought for and achieved already!

It is Our Hope

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 1:13

We can fully hope in the grace of God, because it is promised to us. We can set our hearts and our minds completely on the knowledge (not theory) that God has and will reveal all things to us. 

What better way to prepare our minds for action than to learn how to have more control over our thoughts? And when our minds belong to God, it may be easier to turn our hearts and our bodies over to Him as well. Our minds are the source of our intent, and self-control and self-discipline is achieved through intentional action and decision making. 

It is a Sign of Stewardship

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.”

1 Peter 4:7

The practice and act of self-control is a sign of good stewardship of the grace of God. 

It is like receiving a set of kitchen knives as a gift. You want to make them last and take care of them, especially if they come from someone who means a lot to you. So you’ll sharpen them, and clean them, maybe even polish them. You’ll try to use each knife for its specific purpose. 

By doing these things, you’ve been a good steward of the knives. You received a practical gift, and you’ve taken care to use them as they are meant to be used. We have to do the same thing with self-control. We’ve been given the fruits of the Spirit by God, and thus practicing them and making sure we use them correctly shows that we are at least trying to be good stewards of those gifts.

The Act of Self-Control

Since self-control is a matter of the heart, mind, and body, we can deduce that it is both an external and an internal battle. We have to work on our surroundings as well as our decisions and intentions. As reflections of Christ, we must concern ourselves both on our outward reactions as well as our inward affections. How are we responding within ourselves to the circumstances around us? How are we outwardly reflecting the gospel in response to these circumstances? 

Self-control, according to David Mathis, is “at the height of Christian virtue in a fallen world.” This means that the more control we have over our internal and external reactions, the easier it will be to reign in the rest of the virtues listed as characteristics of Christ in the scripture. 

Each element of self-control then (mind, heart, and body) must be examined against scripture, as Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 13

Matters of the Heart 

The heart is likely the hardest element to control, as it influences many of our decisions and emotions.

First off, do not “follow your heart.” As we mentioned before, scripture tells us that our hearts are deceptive above all else, so why would we follow them? 

I believe the only way to truly have control over our hearts is to give them to God. The Psalmists pray in Psalm 51Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” 

Our hearts should, and do, belong to God. Only He can purify them and cleanse them through the Spirit. Luke writes in Acts 15:8-9

And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as He did to us, and He made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.”

Acts 15:8-9

God knows our hearts, He knows where they stray and where they are weak. He alone can cleanse them and turn their desires towards heavenly action and purpose. 

Thinking Thoughts Through

The mind is a delicate part of us, and must be protected while also exercised. We are told to “prepare (our) minds for action.” How do we do that? 

We can use Philippians 4:8 as a guide:

Finally brothers,
whatever is true,
whatever is honorable,
whatever is just,
whatever is pure
whatever is lovely,
whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence,
if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.”

Intentional thinking has to be practiced daily, because it won’t come naturally. Pray about it, allow God to saturate your mind with all He has said and done, and these characteristics will begin to flow through your mind more freely. 

One way to do this is to start each day with a meditation on scripture. One of my favorite places to begin my daily meditations is in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. However, the Psalms are also an excellent place to begin, as they record the very thoughts that people had while meditating on God!

It’s My Body

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

Romans 12:1

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-10

After reading these verses, can we really claim that our bodies are our own? Once we’ve given our hearts and minds to God, don’t our bodies also belong to Him and His purpose? 

As children of God, and members of a larger body, one made and driven to serve a purpose greater than ourselves.

This purpose is the spread of the gospel, Matthew 28:19-20 tells us to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus tells us straightforwardly what we are to do, and that He is going to be there to help us do it. We have only to decide to turn our hearts, minds, and bodies towards this purpose.

What Will it Look Like?

What do you picture when you picture self-control? Do you picture someone sitting quietly in the corner? Do you picture someone diligently filling out their planner every morning, or working out for exactly one hour in the gym, Monday through Friday? Or maybe you think of the phrase “think before you speak.” 

All of these are accurate representations of self-control. I would argue that self-control is achievable through intentional action. Where have we placed our intentions? Do we make an effort to be diligent and responsible in every plan we make and every response we give? Do we really truly think before we speak? 

David Mathis suggests in his post titled “Self-Control and the Power of Christ” that the best way to pursue self-control, is to change the way we think about what we need to control ourselves about. We need to turn our eyes to the source or real and true power, look upward rather than inward. When we consider God in all of our actions, it is much harder to lose control. 

“Christian self-control is not finally about bringing our bodily passions under our own control, but under the control of God by the power of His Spirit.”

David Mathis

A Prayer for all us Mountain Goats

My prayer for all of you this month is that you can rely fully on the hope and peace we have been given by God, and that you and I both can learn to look upwards rather than inward to gain control over our hearts, minds, and bodies. I pray that as hard as this may be, the fruits of the Spirit truly begin to grow in each of you as you begin practicing intentionally every day. I pray that God would fill you with a hunger for Him, and to be a full reflection of Him in your everyday life.

Lydia Cannon

Christian, Writer, Coffee Addict

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The Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

“…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing one another in love…”

Ephesians 4:1b-2

Of all the fruits of the Spirit, gentleness is often the most neglected. We don’t practice gentleness on a daily basis (unless maybe you work with children or animals), and we certainly don’t talk about it. 

When was the last time you thought about having a gentle attitude? I’m sure patience, self-control, or kindness are more frequently considered than gentleness for most of us.

However, it is equally as important as any other fruit, or God wouldn’t have included it. 

What Does it Mean to Be Gentle?

The word “gentle” has a connotation of innocence, motherhood, and sometimes even weakness. When I think of an image of gentleness, I picture those videos of big dogs petting tiny kittens, because that’s what gentleness feels like to me. 

But of course, that isn’t a full picture. Gentleness is so much more than hand-pats and motherhood. 

Two words often associated with, or synonymous with, gentleness are meekness and humility

Meekness, to start, is not weakness. It means to be quiet, gentle, and submissive. Submissive to what? The law of God, the will of God, and the promises of God. 

This is not easy, and therefore could not mean weakness. Submission, especially in an age of individuality, is a difficult action.

Humility, similarly, is a very difficult quality in this era of individuality. We’re taught to be proud and even haughty, selfish in our ambitions, and self-centered in our actions (although, not in these words). 

To be humble takes us completely in the other direction of today’s culture. Putting others above ourselves, thinking more of them than ourselves, and putting their needs before our own…it’s a foreign concept in today’s ideology. 

As with many Fruits of the Spirit, though, we are called to go against the flow of culture. 

Christ was Gentle

The ultimate example of any fruit we’re taught about in scripture, is the example set by Jesus. 

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Matthew 11:29

Jesus tells us to learn from His gentleness and His humility, to take those upon us and we’ll find rest for our souls.

“I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!—”

2 Corinthians 10:1

Paul recognized the gentleness of Christ, without ever having met Him personally. This is a testament to Christ’s legacy, and His example while walking on earth. 

Even before Christ was born on earth, we were told by the prophets that He would come humble, lowly, gently. Zechariah 9:9 says that He is coming “humble and mounted on a donkey,” which speaks directly about the triumphal entry before Christ’s crucifixion (Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-40, John 12:12-19).

Gentleness Starts with Humility

This one is tough. Even for Christians… sometimes especially for Christians.

Humility means setting aside ourselves, our desires, our pain, our burdens, our biases and predispositions for the sake of the gospel, and for the sake of others. It isn’t about making ourselves smaller than those around us…it’s not about us at all. 

“…put off the old self with its practices and…put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” 

Colossians 3:9b-10

The Proverbs tell us that “humility comes before instruction.” We have to humble ourselves before we even know why. We have to humble ourselves to be able to learn more about our purpose on this earth.

Pride is a roadblock to progress, and it is impossible to better ourselves if we’re only thinking about ourselves. Objective thinking and selflessness are only acquired through the setting aside of ourselves. 

This all sounds pretty harsh, I know. But here’s the real purpose of setting ourselves aside.

When we aren’t standing in our own way, we are able to let God fill us with a glory and a gift so much more powerful than we could ever be on our own. We are able to be filled with the understanding of a purpose beyond anything this individualistic world could imagine or embrace. 

We are part of God’s kingdom!

Gentleness… not Weakness

Because of this filling of the kingdom within our souls, we are made strong. The world around us would tell us that we’re only strong when we’re our best version of us. It’s all about “me, myself, and I” and we don’t need anyone else. 

That is a lie. 

We need the strength of our King, our Savior. It is through Him that we have the strength of David, who stood up to the giant, Goliath, with only some stones and a sling. 

It is through Him that we have the strength of Esther. She saved an entire people because she’d given her life to the purpose of God, and even her own life was spared.

It is through Him that we have the strength of Paul, a murderer-turned-evangelist who faced the very people he once persecuted, requesting not only forgiveness but acceptance into the family of believers. 

It is through Him, and only Him, that Job survived losing everything. Anything that he could have been proud of, was stripped from him. And yet, he praised God. 

We are not the source of our own strength, and through Christ alone we can become strong. 

Gentleness and Anger

Perhaps the most practical… or simply the most regular application of gentleness would be within conflict. 

Every one of us, as human beings on this earth, have been in conflict with someone else. Whether it’s a sibling who takes too long in the bathroom, a parent who just “doesn’t understand,” a teacher who didn’t give us an extension on our paper (that we probably knew about weeks in advance), or even the church, which is full of sinners just like us. 

These situations, and others, give us a never-ending opportunity to practice gentleness. 

If we take ourselves out of negative situations, let God take over our responses and reactions, and humble ourselves to see another perspective, this is how we can pursue gentleness.

Cultivating Gentleness

When you’re gardening, it is important to regularly check in on your plants. You have to water them, feed them, check their roots, and sometimes even uproot them and plant them in some new soil. 

We have to do the same thing when we cultivate the gardens of our souls. 

Check in with yourself regularly, or better yet, check in with God. Set yourself in scripture and learn from Christ, who in Matthew 11:29 tells us to “take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Meditate on scripture, on the words of Christ, and into prayerful communication with Him regularly. These habits will ultimately take over our daily walk. 

According to Scott Swain, the President of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, “virtues are habits of intellectual and moral decadence.” He explains further that habits themselves are “settled dispositions that predispose us to think, feel, and act in specific ways.”

So what if our habits become virtues? What if we practice and study the fruits of righteousness so often that they become instinct, reflex? I think the world could benefit from a collection of people (Christians) that reflexively respond with gentleness rather than anger, or hate, or resentment, or spite. 

The world we live in right now, this year of chaos and uncertainty, makes it hard to pursue righteousness. It’s much simpler to blend into the voices calling for violence. It’s much less controversial to stand behind the walls and watch the riots destroy history. It’s so much easier to stand by and watch the call for unity cause even more division than we saw in the first place.

But our lives as humans were never meant to be easy. Our lives as Christians, however, have a purpose beyond comfort and ease, but one of sin and hell conquered, and a kingdom rising. 

A Prayer for All us Mountain Goats

My prayer for you today, and in the days to come, is that you truly develop a habit of gentleness.

I pray that in spite of everything going on in the world today, you’re able to sense the peace of the promises of God, and let that fill you with a hope and a purpose that is unending. I pray for the health and safety of every one of you, and for discernment and biblical hunger to overwhelm you with wisdom and knowledge.

I pray that you search for the answers by walking through the gospels with Christ, rather than alongside “moral speakers” of this world.

I pray that you will be okay.

Lydia Cannon

Christian, Writer, Coffee Addict

Don’t forget to check out the Recommendations page for links to other Christian organizations and Bible study tools!

The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness

“But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”

2 Thessalonians 3:3

The faithfulness of God is one of the most comforting and beautiful aspects of the Trinity. He is always faithful, without fail. 

When we think about something being “without fail,” it can be hard to wrap our heads around the fact that it truly is without fail. 

God will not fail us. 

He is faithful no matter what, in all circumstances, at every hour, whenever and wherever we need Him. God will always be there. 

Take a look at Joseph in Genesis 37-41 (I highly recommend reading this, it’s a thrilling story). 

After being sold into slavery by his brothers, Joseph is falsely accused of a crime and thrown into prison. 

Here, he interprets two other prisoner’s dreams (through God’s revelation), his only request being that they remember him when they are released. 

For two years, the one prisoner who lived forgot about him. Two whole years, Joseph wrongfully sat in prison, waiting for the Lord to make the next move. 

After this, things started to look up for Joseph. Pharaoh needed help interpreting his dreams, and the former prisoner remembered Joseph. 

He correctly interprets the dreams and saves the people from dying of famine. He meets his brothers again, forgives them, helps them survive the famine, and even gets to see his elderly father before his death. 

Through all of the hardship and emotional turmoil Joseph went through, he remained faithful to God. He trusted God’s providence and didn’t turn away from Him, even when things kept going wrong. 

How could Joseph, or anyone really, remain faithful after being sold by his family, wrongfully charged and imprisoned, and forgotten for years?

Do we struggle to remain faithful after suffering devastating loss, after feeling abandoned by God, or when dealing with mental, physical, and emotional illnesses? 

Many Christians struggle to understand why we should remain faithful, or how to remain faithful when it seems like everything around us is falling apart. 

Why should we remain faithful to a God who allows such hardship to fall on us, especially when we feel we’ve done nothing to deserve it? 

The answer is simple. God is always faithful.

God is Always Faithful

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful—for He cannot deny Himself.”

2 Timothy 2:13

This is one of my favorite characteristics of God (if you can have a favorite). There is no one in the world you can rely on like you can rely on God, because no one on earth is perfect and faultless, like He is. 

One of the best reminders of this is in Psalms 136

Twenty-six times, it repeats “for His steadfast love endures forever.” (I’ll put the whole chapter at the end of this post so you can read it.)

***Note: The terms “steadfast love” and “faithfulness” are used interchangeably through much of scripture. I may as well through the rest of this post.

If His love is steadfast, meaning it holds fast through every trial and every single sin we commit against Him, then of course we can believe He is faithful. 

He will never leave, never go back on His word, and never turn away from us. 

God Doesn’t Change

Scripture reminds us of the character of God over and over again, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17

“For I the lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”

Malachai 3:6

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Hebrews 13:8

There is no variation, no shadow, God does not change. He is constant. 

In other words, we can rely on Him and trust Him. There is no reason to doubt He’ll carry out the promises He’s made to us. 

Just like Joseph, it may not be on our preferred timeline, but He will pull through. 

The Good and Faithful Servant

If you aren’t familiar with the Gospel according to Matthew, it is full of the parables taught by Jesus to the disciples. One such parable is The Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew 25:14-30.

In this parable, a manager has given three of his servants a certain amount of money to be in charge of while he is out of town. To one, he gives 10 talents (1 talent = ~20 years of wages), to another he gives 5 talents, and finally to the last, he gives only 1 talent. 

The first two servants went and took the money and invested it, and they each doubled what they had been given in the time the manager was away. 

The third servant, however, knew his manager was a hard man and that he’d be upset if what he’d given his servant had been lost. So he buried the single talent he’d been given, and he let it just sit there till the manager returned. 

When the manager came back, the first two servants were proud to present the earnings they’d received on their talents, giving back what they’d been given with interest. He responded with thankfulness, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”

The third servant came up to his manager and presented the single talent, proud that he hadn’t lost it. “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.”

Now, the manager received back exactly what he’d been given, with no loss. By first-impression logic, that isn’t a problem, right? Let’s see how the manager reacts.

“You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.”

This is an interesting response when you really sit and think about it.

I want you to consider what God’s given you. 

What talents, gifts, and skills have you been given by God that you aren’t using? 

This is how we’re faithful to God. He has given us so much. Every single one of us has spiritual gifts, whether it’s patience, speaking, creating, teaching, whatever it is, God has given this to you. 

Cultivate it. Use that skill and make it better, make it bigger, make it more effective. Practice diligence with the talents God has given you and return to Him those talents with interest. 

Bring God glory through everything you do, as 1 Corinthians says “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 

R.C. Sproul comments on this verse saying “the Christian’s every decision is to be governed and determined by what will promote the manifested excellence of God through the… strengthening of the church of God.”

Everything we do, everything we say, every decision we make, we are supposed to consider God. Philippians 4:6 tells us to pray about everything. Not some things, not every other thing, not just the hard things, everything. 

“…those who act faithful are his delight.”

Proverbs 12:22b

A Prayer for all us Mountain Goats

I sincerely pray that you all would be convicted of God’s faithfulness, reminded of His unchangeable character, and comforted by His promises. I pray that you would find the strength to remain faithful in little, no matter what it is. I pray that we as the people of God would be diligent with the talents that He’s given us, so that we can return to Him with even more than we had. 

Lydia Cannon

Christian, Writer, Coffee Addict

Psalms 136

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
For His steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods, 
For His steadfast love endures forever
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
For His steadfast love endures forever;

To Him who alone does great wonders, 
For His steadfast love endures forever;
To Him who by understanding made the heavens,
For His steadfast love endures forever;
To Him who spread out the earth above the waters,
For His steadfast love endures forever;
To Him who made the great lights, 
For His steadfast love endures forever;
The sun to rule over the day,
For His steadfast love endures forever;
The moon and stars to rule over the night,
For His steadfast love endures forever;

To Him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
For His steadfast love endures forever;
And brought Israel out from among them,
For His steadfast love endures forever;
To Him who divided the Red Sea in two,
For His steadfast love endures forever;
And made Israel pass through the midst of it,
For His steadfast love endures forever;
But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,
For His steadfast love endures forever;
To Him who led His people through the wilderness,
For His steadfast love endures forever;

To Him who struck down great kings,
For His steadfast love endures forever;
And killed mighty kings,
For His steadfast love endures forever;
Sihon, king of the Amorites,
For his steadfast love endures forever;
And Og, king of Bashan,
For His steadfast love endures forever;
And gave their land as a heritage,
For His steadfast love endures forever;
A heritage to Israel His servant,
For His steadfast love endures forever;

It is He who remembered us in our low estate,
For His steadfast love endures forever;
And rescued us from our foes,
For His steadfast love endures forever;
He who gives food to all flesh,
For His steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of heaven,
For His steadfast love endures forever.”

Don’t forget to check out the Recommendations page for links to other Christian organizations and Bible study tools!

The Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness

“…but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.”

Philemon 1:14

One of my mom’s favorite passages of scripture to quote is Mark 10:18b

“No one is good except God alone.” 

Now, she says it ironically much of the time, but have you ever stopped to think what that verse really means?

I feel that “Goodness” as a quality of the Spirit is severely under-understood. 

We say it when we rattle off the fruits of the Spirit, but do we ever truly consider what it means to be “good” separate from all of the other fruits?

As we’ve seen in the other posts in this series, each fruit has its own characteristics separate from each other.

Love is focused on intention and sacrifice. We talked about God’s love for us and how that was exhibited through the sacrifice of His Son.

Joy, we learned, is more than just an expression of happiness. It’s found in our souls, a satisfaction of the Holy Spirit within us. 

Peace comes from a place of repentance and contentment. An understanding of God is necessary for attaining it. 

Patience is quiet, it needs time. 

Kindness is a generous orientation of our hearts towards other people. It is selfless acts in cases of possible suffering. 

(We’ll learn about the characteristics of faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in coming posts.)

But what about goodness? What characteristics come with “being good?”

To understand this, let’s first look at how we view goodness in everyday life.

Good as the World Views It

When you think of what it means to be a good person, what usually comes to mind?

Do you think of people like, say, Mother Teresa? Ghandi or maybe a celebrity, like Hugh Jackman?

Do acts such as giving blood, donating to a cause, or running a 5k for charity come to mind?

When the world thinks about what is good, they usually weigh their options based on personal experience or what benefits come with each individual action.

This often leads to a belief that simply “doing good” is enough to claim you a seat in Heaven.

But good deeds are not the same as goodness.

Good deeds are random acts of goodwill. They are indeed good, but they don’t stem from the will of God.

In other words, doing good isn’t enough. We must do good with good intent, with the intent of God.

But how do we “be good?”

Goodness comes from God. It is part of Him, and we can only have the fruit of goodness through Him.

“…for it is God Who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

Philippians 2:13

It is not us who do good works, but God (The Spirit) through us.

God Alone is Good

As Mark wrote the words of Jesus, “No one is good except God alone,” I wonder if he ever stopped to think about what that actually means. 

We often consider ourselves good in comparison to those around us. We don’t cheat, lie, steal, or cuss as much as other fallen humans, so we’re good people … right? 

But other people aren’t the standard, God is.

As followers of Christ, our sins are more insulting to God than the sins of unbelievers. 

We know the standard, we know our God, and yet we still intentionally, and knowingly sin against Him.

Thankfully, we’re not relying on our own goodness, but the goodness of a loving and forgiving God.

The Goodness of God

“For how great is His goodness, and how great His beauty!” 

Zechariah 9:17

In order to know the characteristics of goodness, we must first understand the characteristics of God.

It’s easy to think of God as powerful, all knowing, judge, and love. Goodness, however, has its own implications. 

Good is a moral quality; it is contrasted with evil. So God, being good, is contrasted to evil as well. 

He is the exact opposite of evil, of sin, and of wrong. 

Psalms 145 paints a picture of God’s moral goodness:

“The Lord is faithful in all His words and kind in all His works.
The Lord upholds those who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. 
The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His works.
The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him; He also hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.”

God’s righteous goodness is incomparable, and honestly I don’t believe that we can fully describe or comprehend how great it is in human terms. 

We may be “good” in the eyes of unbelievers, but when we are put next to the reflection of God, we aren’t even close. 

So yes, God alone is good, because only God can be perfectly sinless.

In John 10:11, God is described as the good shepherd. 

A shepherd would have been a familiar example to pretty much everyone Jesus spoke to during His time on earth, but since it’s a little more unfamiliar for us today, I’ll explain.

A shepherd takes care of his flock, makes sure they’re fed and watered and picks up the sheep when they fall. 

He guides them when they’re lost, he fights off predators, and they know his voice. 

They follow him, and they trust that with him they’ll be safe. 

That’s what God is to us. He is our good shepherd, and we are his faithful sheep.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

John 10:11

Jesus laid down His life for us, sacrificing His life so that we may live. He saved us when the goodness and loving kindness of the Lord appeared.

We’re Commanded to do Good

We are commanded in Luke 6:27, Romans 12:21, Galatians 6:9, and 1 Peter 2:12 (to name a few) to do good deeds and to be known by our goodness to others. 

But if God alone is good, then how can we obey His command to be good?

How can we possibly be good if God and God alone is the only one who can be deemed as “good?”

We need to understand one concept that gets misinterpreted by thousands of non-Christians and Christians alike.

God isn’t commanding us to be good. He is commanding us to do good.

We, as fallible humans, are susceptible to sin. We grow and learn what is acceptable and good, but we can never be good itself.

This is why God is the only one capable of being good. He is unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

“For I the Lord do not change”

Mal 3:6a

So, how do we, as fallible christians, do good?

We do good deeds the same way we love, the same way we practice patience, discernment, kindness, or any other virtue of the character of God.

We are made in the image of God and thus have the capability to do good, through Him.

And the best way to understand the character of God is by developing a relationship with Him and studying His word.

Apart from God nothing can be truly good, but with Him we can at least do good. 

How do we do Good?

There are a few passages of scripture that illustrate for us what goodness ought to look like.

1 Peter 1:5-8 is one of those passages that help with recognizing goodness: 

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Goodness doesn’t stand on its own. 

It is built up of so many other qualities that work together to create goodness. 

In other words, goodness comes out of virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. These seven characteristics build a biblical definition for the moral quality of “good.”

Romans 12:9-21 spells out the “Marks of the True Christian,” concluding with the verse “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” 

This insinuates that the Marks of the True Christian are the good that overcomes evil. 

The basic theme of the whole section is unity

  • Caring for those who need it 
  • Rejoicing with those who rejoice
  • Weeping with those who weep 
  • Forgiving those who’ve fallen

The passage also says to outdo one another in showing honor, to rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and to be constant in prayer.

Trust in the Lord and Do Good

“Trust in the Lord and do good; well in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalm 37:3-4

Nothing, not one single thing that we are called to do by Christ is possible without His Spirit. 

He is our Shepherd, guiding us toward the Father, bearing suffering and temptation for our sakes, and sacrificing Himself for us

If we trust in Him, we can obey His commands. If we dwell in His promises, hold onto His faithfulness, and delight ourselves in Him above all else, He will give us the desires of our hearts. He will give us the desire to obey Him, to love Him, to enjoy Him, and to do good.

Christ is the ultimate example of good, and how better to honor that than to pray to Him for guidance. 

A Prayer for all us Mountain Goats

I sincerely pray that all of you would desire to do good. I pray that the God of all goodness and righteousness would shine His Spirit inside of you so powerfully, and so brightly, that you can’t be blind to His beautiful glory. 

I also pray for your safety, your health, and your families during this time of uncertainty. We are not under the power of this virus, for God is above all things, but it is still a scary situation that we are facing and I pray that you can find joy, hope, and peace every day. 

I pray that this time of isolation becomes a time of reuniting between your mind and God. I pray that through all of this, Christians around the world would be praying for each other, building each other up, and looking upward to God.

Lydia Cannon

Christian, Writer, Coffee Addict

Don’t forget to check out the Recommendations page for links to other Christian organizations and Bible study tools!

Easter Reflections 2020

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, And by night, but I find no rest.”

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; You lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; They have pierced my hands and feet—I can count all my bones—They stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.”

-Psalms 22:1-2, 14-18

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”

-Isaiah 53:3-7

Hey, Mountain Goats.

I wanted to make this short post because I feel there is so much distracting us from Christ right now.

From unemployment and contagious viruses, to political conflict, school, and social tension, we have little room left for thoughts of the crucifixion and resurrection of our God. 

But there is truly nothing more important in our daily spiritual walks than to remember the sacrifice of Christ

Our Savior, Christ, quoted the verses above as He lived out the descriptions we find in Psalms. He lived the most devastating sacrifice because He was separated from the Creator God, His Father

I don’t believe we can truly understand just how horrible His suffering was, I really don’t. He was “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

I personally don’t associate the name of Jesus with someone “Well acquainted with grief,” but if anyone was, it was Christ. His separation from God was wholly unnatural. 

He paid the penalty for our sins. Have you ever thought about what that really means?

He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.”

We are not saved by our own doing. We don’t live a peaceful life because of our own good deeds.

It’s all because of Christ.

In America especially, we live a safe life of faith, and from that, have become blind to the suffering that Christ went through for us. 

I hope and pray that with all the excess time we have right now, we all take the time to read the Passover story, listen to the words preached about it, and really study and try to understand the “whys” behind the death of Christ.

The gravity of the gospel is unending, and so I think reflecting on it for the 4 days of Easter weekend is essential for Christians who want to understand their salvation, and their God.

His sacrifice truly is a beautiful act of love from our Father to us.

Lydia Cannon

Christian, Writer, Coffee Addict

The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah 6:8

In a world where fear and steadfastness are the most popular scriptural topics to discuss right now, I want to stop and focus on this one word: Kindness.

Continue reading The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience

Photo by Amanda C. Leidy Photography

*NOTE: Hey Mountain Goats! This is one part of a whole series about the Fruits of the Spirit. If you haven’t read the introduction post yet, you can do so here!

“See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and late rains. You also be patient.”

James 5:7-8

I was often told growing up that I was a very patient person. For years I believed this to be true, until college that is. In coming to understand the concept of patience for myself, I’ve come to realize just how impatient I really am.

It is tempting (daily) to be frustrated by the trivial experiences of life. Traffic is moving too slow, we’ve gotten every. Single. Red light on the way to work, we didn’t sleep well the night before, our coworkers were late, we forgot an assignment in school, that one person never responded to our text, etc. etc. etc. The list could go on for ages, right? 

We live in a world of instant gratification. From transportation to cell phones, text messages, drive-thrus, internet, emails, Amazon, even Netflix, we don’t have to wait for anything for any extended period of time. And we’ve done this intentionally, no one wants to wait for anything. 

Now, technology has many benefits of it’s own. I use the internet as a resource for so much personal study, as well as Netflix, Pinterest, etc. It isn’t inherently bad. 

But we’ve become so reliant on instantaneous everything that we don’t even know HOW to wait for things anymore. We wait until the last minute to do anything because we know we’ll receive it quickly. 

But what would the world look like if for just one day, we all chose to shut out all those things that normally drive us insane? What if we waited, uncomplaining, for every light to turn green. What if we let ourselves drive under the speed limit for just a couple of miles (speeding only really saves about ninety seconds anyways). What if we forgave our coworkers for being late, understanding that their situation isn’t any easier than our own.

That’s patience. That’s what patience looks like from the outside. When you truly start biblically diving into the practice that is patience, quiet waiting, enduring, understanding, being still and appreciating time, suddenly you’ll be able to see yourself becoming more like Christ.

What is Patience, Really?

“When the Bible speaks of patience…it speaks of it as a virtue that goes far beyond the mere ability to await some future gain…The patience that is in view here focuses more on interpersonal relationships with other people.”

-R.C. Sproul

A Christian who is patient is long-suffering, forbearing in the midst of personal injury, a reflection of the character of God. 

David Mathis defines patience as “the virtue of the soul that helps us persevere in doing good.” 

Patience is absolutely necessary for the virtues of the New Testament (faith, hope, and love) to exist. We have to have the ability and relationship with waiting and with quiet to be able to be fully faithful, a reflection of hope, and a testament to love.

I keep using the word “quiet” when talking about patience. It’s something I hadn’t really considered until I realized that the two words are so often used together. You can’t have patience without quiet, and often quiet is a sign of patient waiting. 

Patience is endurance, perseverance, stillness, and quiet. It is a reflection of God’s attitude toward us. 

What Does True Patience Look Like?

Like I said before, I used to think I was patient. But then I noticed all of the things I complain about. Everything that makes me irritable, or makes it hard for me to be polite. Everything that makes me reflect the world instead of reflecting God.

  • Do all things without grumbling or disputing
    Phil 2:14
  • For God alone my soul waits in silence…
    Ps 62:1
  • In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength
    Is 30:15
  • “It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
    Lam 3:26
  • “You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold the Judge is standing at the door…But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”
    James 5:9-12

These verses, as well as hundreds of others, illustrate for us what true patience looks like.

It is a state of God-saturated waiting. It isn’t simply internalizing all of the angry thoughts, but really listening to the voice of God in every situation. It is holding back our reactions, and instead responding to the situation with careful, balanced steps.

How Do We Become Patient People?

I know it sounds impossible. There is no one answer to becoming patient. There’s no fix-all solution to impatience, or to being quiet and calm in a stressful situation. 

You can’t just flip a switch to make yourself respond instead of react. 

It takes practice. Practice taking an extra three seconds to respond to someone, and process what they say before you speak. Practice taking a deep breath when people cut you off in traffic. Practice closing your eyes anytime you’re frustrated with yourself for not being where you want to be yet. 

Humble yourself. 

We aren’t any better than anyone else. My destination isn’t any more important than that mom who cut me off in traffic because she’s trying to potty-train her toddler. 

Respond, don’t react. Wait three seconds. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. 

Most importantly, though, rely on God

We truly can’t do anything on our own, in our own strength, or without God’s help. Pray for strength, pray for quiet, and pray for the ability to wait. 

Another aspect of becoming patient, from the inside out, is recognizing God. Recognizing His active presence in our lives can give us the perspective on everyday moments that Paul had when he said that he counts all as “rubbish” in comparison to the glory of God. 

The trivial everyday matters that would send us into impatient rants and grumbling are simply not as important when put up against the pure holiness of God. So, if we keep God at the forefront of our minds, what can stand in the way our our state of quiet patience?

A Prayer for all us Mountain Goats

My prayer for you is this: That you, and me, would learn to practice patience every day. That we would be careful with our words, with our responses, and with our actions. I pray that God would saturate the front of our minds so thoroughly that we don’t even have time to react instead of respond. I pray that we would be careful to acknowledge the importance of waiting, and giving ourselves time to remember God.

Lydia Cannon

Christian, Writer, Coffee Addict

Don’t forget to check out the Recommendations page for links to other Christian organizations and Bible study tools!

The Fruit of the Spirit: Peace

*NOTE: Hey Mountain Goats! This is one part of a whole series about the Fruits of the Spirit. If you haven’t read the introduction post yet, you can do so here!

I struggled when coming to this topic, because it isn’t one that I typically discuss or study on my own. 

It seems that there’s an abstract idea of peace I have in my mind that I’ve attributed to feelings of calm, or eras of history when conflict was at a low. But really, I don’t know that I’ve ever considered spiritual peace until I began approaching this subject.

What I do know is that without truly understanding it—or at least as much as we can of it—we can’t come close to being able to partake in peacefulness. Often the word “peace” is used in terms of “world peace,” “inner peace,” or in contrast with war. But in studying it a bit further, I believe there’s a much deeper application.

My experience with attaining peace has had somewhat of a rocky start. When I was in college, my ignorance of biblical peace served to frustrate every aspect of my life. It affected me mentally, emotionally, and most importantly, my grades started to slip. College is where I received my first ever F in a class. It still haunts me to this day.

None of this occurred to me until I actually sought to understand peace. Not only did I begin to recognize the patterns in my own life that were keeping me away from peace, I also began to fully believe I could have it for myself.

Attaining true peace is no easy task. It requires focus, faith, and a whole lot of prayer. The first step in achieving such a complicated concept is by first attempting to understand it.

Understanding Peace

I believe Paul can enlighten us a bit on the definition of peace. In Philippians 4:11-13, he says this: 

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance, and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Now, verse 13 is super familiar for lovers of Paul’s writing, and we apply it to everything as Christians. School, work, relationships, family, travel, healing, you name it. That isn’t a bad thing, because it is true that through Christ and God’s power we can move mountains. But, I do think we’re missing the point a little. 

In the context of the passage, Paul is talking about how no matter what his circumstances, he can experience a sense of contentment, or at-peace-ness about what’s happening.

I like to put myself in Paul’s place sometimes, and consider the fact that he wrote many of these letters from imprisonment. His life wasn’t easy, and he didn’t come from a “good Christian background,” he didn’t walk beside Jesus like the apostles did, yet he had such a deep understanding of the gospel and of Christ. His letters to the churches are dense with emotion and theology, and he truly cares for the churches he writes to. 

It is a goal of mine to have the sort of contentment that Paul did. I want to be able to look around at every shaky thing in my life and the world around me and be at peace, knowing that all of it is “rubbish” in comparison to the glory of God. (Phil 3:8)

R.C. Sproul, in the footnotes of the ESV study Bible, says that “Paul’s contentment was utterly reliant not on himself and his ability to suppress emotions, but on Christ, who held Paul fast and sustained him in all circumstances.

So contentment, here (which by definition is a state of peaceful happiness) is a reliance entirely on God; a trust that He not only can, but will hold us in all circumstances. 

Early on in the chapter of Philippians, Paul says that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7)

The peace of God in this passage is so all-encompassing, so fulfilling, and so protective of our hearts and minds that we quite literally cannot understand it. It is so beyond human understanding and comprehension that God even tells us we won’t be able to.

To me, this is kind of like when you’re in school, trying to understand something, and the teacher tells you it’s okay, you don’t have to understand it just yet because you’ll learn about it later. It will make sense later on, when you need it.

Attaining Peace

Understanding peace is only the first piece of the puzzle. The next step is attaining it. But, how are we supposed to achieve this abstract concept of peace? I know I want it in my own life, so how do we get there?

That was my question when I first approached this topic. Life has a tendency to shake us up, to throw curveballs at us, and expect us to adapt. I found during my college years that it was increasingly more difficult to curve away from these hardships, so instead I decided to face them. 

This technique wasn’t peaceful at all. I struggled a lot with daily returning to God, praying for myself and others, and seeking good in everything. I was consumed by my work and my school, and I struggled to make time for personal and spiritual relationships. 

Since college, I’ve made a stronger effort to build my personal and spiritual relationships. Not perfectly, of course, because only Christ is a perfect human, but I’m trying. Like Psalm 34:14 says, “Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” This is what I’m trying to do in my everyday life. But what does that look like?

Turning away from evil doesn’t necessarily mean other people’s evil, the sins of the world, or the sins of the church even. At least, not exclusively. 

True peace cannot be attained if we are not repentant of our sins; our deep, internal, secret sins that we know Christ knows about, but still want to hide. We have to be truly repentant of that evil, stop letting it control us, and make conscious steps toward the intentions of Christ.

In Romans 5:1 we learn “…since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

This specifically refers to His sacrifice on the cross for our sins. We have been reconciled to the Father through Christ’s death. He took our punishment for us, so that we don’t have to be enslaved by our sins anymore and we can repent. Through this, we have the ability to achieve peace.

Jesus confirms this in John 16:33 when He says “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Through Christ’s sacrifice, we’ve been given access to a myriad of gifts and promises that we wouldn’t have otherwise. God has given us access to hope, truth, love, eternal life, and yes, peace. 

But these gifts aren’t like Christmas gifts, you don’t just receive them and move on. They require an active life choice to accept that God is our Father, and to be obedient to Him.

So, how do we achieve peace under that criteria?

To answer this question, let’s take a look at 2 Timothy 2:22-23:

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.”

From this, we learn that part of attaining true peace and contentment comes from maturing and pursuing. Fleeing from immaturity (youthful passions), and pursuing the things, thoughts, and character of God. We want to find unity and harmony with our brothers and sisters in Christ who pursue God with a pure heart.

Jon Bloom, a theological source I trust for much of my personal study, wrote an article published on Desiring God about pursuing peace. In this article, he uses Romans 12:14-21 to illustrate what pursuing peace would look like:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Bloom also says “it requires a rigorous, disciplined commitment to being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. It requires pressing on…for peace.

To attain peace, we must trust God’s reason. His reason is, in fact, superior to our own because He knows more than we do. 

Peace and trust go hand-in-hand. They work together to make each other stronger. We trust more when we are at peace with God’s reason, and we are more at peace when we trust that God knows more than we do, and that He is in control. Even when it seems like life is in chaos, God is in the middle of it whispering words of intention and reason through the Holy Spirit. 

Envisioning Peace

I think that often, when we think of peace, we think of the ocean or the woods, where everything is calm and routine, and we know what to expect. We think of peace as an escape from reality or from the everyday busyness of life, rather than an internal practice of contentment no matter the circumstance. 

Biblical peace is more like standing alone in the middle of a crowd, knowing that as long as you keep moving forward you’ll get where you’re supposed to be. It doesn’t matter what the person to the left of you is yelling about, or the person to the right of you is complaining about, or even whatever mess you yourself just stepped in. As long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other and trusting that as long as you face the right direction, you’ll be safe. 

I think that’s what the peace of God feels like. 

A Prayer for all us Mountain Goats

My prayer for you is that you would be able to trust God with such an all-encompassing fullness that nothing can pull you away from the peace that surpasses all human understanding. I pray that together, we as a body of Christians can be filled with so much peace that we literally reflect the joy of Christ. I pray that we can witness through our contentment, and pursue truth and righteousness with a spiritual maturity that we’ve never experienced before. I pray that you may feel the peace of God overwhelm you. 

Lydia Cannon

Christian, Writer, Coffee Addict

Don’t forget to check out the Recommendations page for links to other Christian organizations and Bible study tools!

The Fruit of the Spirit: Joy

“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.”

1 Peter 1:8

Joy is one of my absolute favorite topics in the Bible. It is also one of the most frequently mentioned words throughout scripture. From Nehemiah to 1 Peter (just the word itself), we find a remarkable number of references to the topic of joy: 

  • Nehemiah 8:10:And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” 
  • Psalm 4:7:You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound”
  • Habakkuk 3:18: “I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

We also find the command to “rejoice” several times in scripture, which is the outpouring of a joy in a visible, active way. To rejoice means to be filled with joy, to cause joy, and to give joy to (someone). 

In Romans 12, Paul tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” In Philippians, “rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.”

It is a core quality of a Christian to be filled with joy, and to spread that feeling with those around us.

What is Joy?

“Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as He causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.”

John Piper

I often refer to John Piper’s definitions or use articles on Desiring God to research for my writing. The topic of joy is by far one of Piper’s most common themes, and he has thoroughly broken down this definition of what joy is:

  1. A Good Feeling: not an idea or a conviction, not a persuasion or a decision, but a feeling.
  2. In the Soul: not the body
  3. Produced by the Holy Spirit: as one of the fruits of the Spirit, it is a work of the Spirit
  4. Sight of Jesus: work of the Spirit results from seeing the glory and beauty of Jesus
    1. The Spirit opens the eyes of my heart to see the beauty of Christ, and then my heart is drawn towards Him in joy.
  5. In the Word and the World
    1. Word: it is most clear in the Bible (which is inspired by the Holy Spirit)
    2. World: through gifts and people, nature, food, and so much more

“Our experiences of the Spirit’s joy does not define our assurance of the Spirit’s presence.”

Dane Ortlund in: Joy Doesn’t Always Look Happy

Joy is an objective reality; it is a basic, non-optional element of what the indwelling Spirit gives to believers. Essentially, if you have the Spirit within you, you will have the ability to rejoice with a joy that is “inexpressible and filled with glory.”

In all honesty, it is remarkable to me that joy is not based on our circumstances. I think that growing up, most of us associate the word “joy” with the word “happy,” because that’s the closest synonym in our dictionaries. 

But really, joy is so much more than that. Joy is an unstoppable force of God’s character that makes happy look small in comparison. Joy is an overwhelming feeling within us that our basic emotions can’t crack. It’s the thing that makes people who have lost a loved one still smile, because they know that death has already been conquered, and it is nothing to fear anymore. 

Joy is the outworking of our union with Christ, and it flows from the taste of the sweetness of grace. It ”springs from knowing the true value of what God has given us.” (Derek Thomas)

How to “Joy”

Just like knowing who God is is different than knowing God, knowing what joy is doesn’t help so much with knowing how to feel it. 

As I mentioned before, joy is one of John Piper’s most discussed topics. As such, he has come up with “Fifteen tactics for joy” that I’d like to share with you here:

  1. Realize that authentic joy in God is a gift.

 It is not an assumed characteristic of a Christian’s life, you don’t just receive joy when you receive Christ necessarily, it’s a gift in addition to the salvation we receive.

  1. Realize that joy must be fought for relentlessly. 

I’m sure you know that joy isn’t easy, it isn’t natural. It’s hard to just “have joy.” It must be fought for, strived after, chased. But it’s worth it.

  1. Resolve to attack all known sin in your life, by the power of the Holy spirit.

 If we’re living in our sin we’ll never be able to fully grasp hold of joy, that sin is holding our hand back just enough to keep us from holding onto joy. We have to completely let go of the world’s hold on our lives.

  1. Learn the secret of gutsy guilt-how to fight like a justified sinner. 

Know that it is only God who can redeem you, and fight for that. Know that it is only God who can cleanse you, who can pull you from that sin, and fight for that.

  1. Realize that the primary battle is a fight to see- to see God for who He is! 

There is nothing like seeing and knowing our God.

  1. Meditate on the word of God day and night.

 Like David singing psalms in the kingdom to Saul, or Daniel defying the king’s orders and praying openly to his King in heaven, let us find joy in speaking with our God! Let’s be hungry for communication with our Father.

  1. Pray earnestly and continually for open heart-eyes and an inclination for God. 

Often in the Psalms we see David asking that his voice be heard by God. This honest plea to be heard is not unfamiliar. God can hear you, all you have to do is ask!

  1. Learn to preach to yourself rather than listen to yourself. 

This point, I believe, is one of the most important-at least for me. We need to turn our grumblings into lessons for ourselves, push ourselves forward, motivate ourselves with words from scripture and prayers to our God.

  1. Spend time with God-saturated people who help you see God and fight the fight. 

We become like the five people we spend the most time with. If the five people we spend time with are God-saturated, we will start to imitate that behavior, to desire to be God-saturated too, and we won’t be able to turn our backs to the words of God.

  1. Be patient in the night of God’s seeming absence.

 I know this is hard, it’s not an easy thing to be patient in any situation. And it’s scary to feel like God isn’t there. But I promise He is there, He won’t leave, and He’s working in your life to make everything more beautiful than you could ever possibly hope for.

  1. Get the rest, exercise, and proper diet that your body was designed by God to have. 

Our bodies were created by God, they are precious creations that require special care. Don’t abuse that creation, but have dominion (care-taking) over your body.

  1. Make a proper use of God’s revelation in nature – take a walk in the woods.

 With precautions, of course, but there is nothing like a walk in the woods to open your eyes to the nature of God.

  1. Read great books about God and biographies of great saints.

 It may seem dry at first, but these people have been saturated with knowledge of the gospel and it is thrilling to hear what they have to say.

  1. Do the hard and loving thing for the sake of others (your verbal witness and deeds of mercy). 

It isn’t always easy to be kind, but we are walking witnesses of Christ, lights in the darkness of this world and we can change the world simply by imitating Christ; doing the hard and loving thing.

  1. Get a global vision for the cause of Christ, and pour yourself out for the unreached. 

Our little circle of the world is not the only part that’s fighting for the gospel. It’s important to realize the global impact of the gospel and how that’s affecting our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world.

“Every moment of our existence is cause enough for joy: the good and the bad together should integrate to form a hallelujah symphony to the praise of almighty God.”

Derek Thomas

We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (the second shortest verse in the Bible) to “Rejoice always.”

Ellen B

One of my favorite people in the Bible, Paul, writes a lot about joy in suffering in his letters to various churches in the new testament. While in prison, under guard, in trials legally and figuratively, he finds joy. He is able to separate his circumstances from the overwhelming understanding that through all of it, God is still there. God is still God. 

While there isn’t one fix-all solution to feeling joy, I think that reading about the people in scripture who have felt joy and expressed joy no matter their circumstances can certainly help inspire anyone to have a more joyful attitude towards their own life. 

I know that no matter what I go through, remembering Paul’s example, Job’s arguments, Esther’s faith, David’s psalms, and Christ’s prayers unfailingly help me to turn my attitude around. 

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:3-5

A Prayer for All Us Mountain Goats

I sincerely pray that each of you can find a way to experience joy in the Lord. I pray specifically that you can find joy when it’s hardest to feel it, that you can rejoice boldly and with certainty that God is there, that God has redeemed you, and that God is working in you to make you whole, complete, lacking in nothing. I pray that we as a body of Christians can shine with joy so brightly that people question us, and recognize that we are glowing with something more powerful than we can understand. 

Lydia Cannon

Christian, Writer, Coffee Addict

Supporting Verses

Nehemiah 8:10

Psalm 4:7

Isaiah 9:3

Psalm 21:6

Ps 16:11

Psalm 66:1

Ps 81:1

Ps 95:1

Ps 98:6

Joel 2:23

Habakkuk 3:18

Luke 1:44

Luke 2:10

Galatians 5:22

1 Thessalonians 1:6

Acts 13:44-52

James 1:2

1 Peter 1:6-9

Psalm 98:4

Psalm 118:24

Romans 12:15

Philippians 4:4

Philippians 3:1

1 Thessalonians 5:16

Don’t forget to check out the Recommendations page for links to other Christian organizations and Bible study tools!