FAITH, GENTLENESS, SELF-CONTROL
Galatians 5:22g-23b
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Galatians 5:22g (Holman) . . . faith, . . .

Faithfulness is to be our hallmark. We are Ambassadors on a divinely appointed mission, speaking and doing only what we are commanded.

We are slaves, bought with a price. Stories of faithfulness, of those who fulfilled their duty, inspire us.

At the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War (1854) 600 British Cavalry were ordered to charge a strong Russian position. The order was foolish, the cause hopeless. They charged anyway. Lord Tennyson immortalized them:
“Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die: Into the Valley of Death rode the six hundred.”

Henry Thoreau went to jail in New England rather than pay poll tax to a state supporting slavery. Thoreau’s good friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, hurried to the jail and asked, “Harry, what are you doing in there?” Thoreau replied, “Ralph, the question is, what are you doing out there?”

A small fishing village in Holland maintained a volunteer rescue team for emergencies. One night a storm capsized a fishing boat at sea. The crew sent out the SOS. A rescue rowboat was launched.

An hour later, it reappeared through the fog. Cheering villagers ran to greet it. Falling exhausted on the sand, the volunteers reported the rescue boat had left one man behind. Even one more passenger would have surely capsized the rescue boat and all would have been lost.

The captain begged for rested volunteers to go after the lone survivor. Sixteen-year-old Hans stepped forward. His mother grabbed his arm, pleading, “Please don’t go. Your father died in a shipwreck 10 years ago and your older brother Paul has been lost at sea for three weeks. Hans, you are all I have left.”

Hans replied, “Mother, I have to go. What if everyone said, I can’t go, let someone else do it?’ Mother, I have to do my duty.” Hans kissed his mother, joined the team, and disappeared into the night.

Another hour passed. It seemed an eternity to Hans’ mother. As the rescue boat came through the fog, someone yelled, “Did you find the lost man?” Hans yelled back, “Yes, we found him. Tell my mother it’s my brother Paul.”

On July 11, 1937, the home of famous German pastor, Martin Niemoller, in Dahlem was raided by the secret police and he was jailed. When brought to trial in February he was all but acquitted, but the angry Hitler ordered him held in solitary confinement in a concentration camp as “my personal prisoner.” Despite intense international pressure Hitler refused to release him, but fear of foreign opinion did spare Niemoller from almost certain execution.

When World War II began, Niemoller, still a German patriot, volunteered for naval service, but his request was rejected. He remained a prisoner till liberated by American soldiers in 1945.

Niemoller, who remained faithful in his imprisonment, felt he had not been faithful enough in trying to relieve the sufferings of fellow Germans. A famous statement he often repeated in his speeches was, “They came for the Communist; I didn’t object, for I was not a Communist. They came for the Socialist; I didn’t object, for I was not a Socialist. They came for the labor leaders; I didn’t object, for I was not a labor leader. They came for the Jews; I didn’t object, for I was not a Jew. When they came for me, there was no one left to object.”

Galatians 5:23a (Holman) . . . gentleness, . . .

In our harsh culture, a gentle Christian can be hard to find. As God’s eyes survey the earth, He must enjoy the rare sweet saints He sees.

Four suggestions may help us encourage this God-delighting virtue. One, gentleness must become a prized goal in our Christian pilgrimage. We must highly value it as a virtue, and should see ourselves as on a never-ending journey toward this objective. Everyday tune our desires to being sweet. Maintaining a gentle heart must be our never ending aspiration.

Two, when sourness appears in our lives, find the ugly root. Is it selfishness, temper, jealousy, lack of prayer and Bible study? Do not let a lack of gentleness go unattended.

Three, beware those people with whom we find it difficult to be sweet. Put on a double guard when near them.

Four, determine we will respond to everyone and every situation with sweetness. We have not come very far in the Christian experience if we still repay hate with hate and scorn with scorn. Don’t imitate those who upset us. They irritate us. If we imitate them, we’ll irritate others.

In Heaven we shall all talk without harshness. Let’s do our best to bring this part of heaven down to earth.

Galatians 5:23b . . . self-control . . .

We must control fleshly impulses, and treat self as a force needing control, as a collection of energies requiring restraint and direction. Lusts and selfish desires must be overcome.

Rigid and habitual self-control are necessary marks of Christian living. The flesh regularly desires things to which the spirit must say no.

In the vital area of temper control, be especially careful to avoid irate shouting. Anger hates to stay quiet, and often vents itself through the mouth with blaring words and noisy disputes. When people start shouting, they have run out of valid arguments to support their position.

Shouting is a red flag that life is spinning out of control. When the voice goes up, let the argument go down. Stop the discussion a while. Take time to think and pray.

Brothers and sisters, leave off yelling. Anger does not motivate. Take it out of our voices. Traffic control officers do not raise their voices. They do not have to because they speak from the premise of authority.

Self-control, logic, and reasoning are hallmarks of mature interaction. Youth, do you want to be respected and treated as adults? Do not shout. Talk. Parents, do you want to be respected and treated as adults? Do not shout. Talk. We could all save much heartbreak in the world if we simply lowered our voices.

Pastor Ironside had a friend, George, who had a terrible temper which often erupted. Christian friends lovingly helped George battle his sin. When he would lash out, someone would quietly ask, “Is that old George or new George talking?” Ironside said the man’s eyes almost instantly began to fill with tears, and he would say, “That’s old George; new George would never behave that way.”

Our happiness in life depends heavily on our ability to show self-control. Since their response mechanisms are under control, the self-controlled are rarely and hardly provoked, the result being joy and rest.

The absence of self-control results in an absence of enjoyment. Of the miserable people, rich and poor, we know, I dare say almost every one of them is not practicing self-control. Some area of their life is out of control.

For instance, one whose feelings are easily ruffled is constantly miserable, a slave to anyone who wishes to disturb him. Unless we are self-controlled, refusing to be flared up by the insults and injuries of others, perpetual frenzy will ruin our inner peace. When any passion is out of control, we have no control, and life degenerates to being harried, vexed, unsettled.

Having greed and envy in check, the self-controlled enjoy what they possess, however little of it there might be. Satisfied and content in God, the self-controlled find the whole earth a temple of delight and devotion.

Plutarch wondered how a fig tree, whose root, stem, branches, and leaves were extremely bitter, could bear sweet and pleasant fruit. It may also be asked how the nine sweet fruit of the Spirit can grow on the bitter stock of human nature. It can be accomplished only by the working of Christ within.

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