You've probably heard it said many times to look at the "fruit" of a person.
Are they producing fruit? What does that fruit look like? There is an importance to each one of the fruits that the Spirit imparts in us. I find myself asking more and more, "Am I producing the fruit of the Spirit?" Am I showing the fruit of the Spirit within those that I am interacting with? What does that look like, and why is it important? So I took some time to connect each fruit to God’s word to learn what it looks like according to God’s definition and how each fruit is connected to the others in our lives.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:1-5
"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lived: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!" Galatians 5:22-23
With there being 9 fruits of the spirit and this being a blog, here begins a 3 part series discussing the Fruit of the Spirit, how God shows us what each fruit looks like in His love for us, and how we can grow in them ourselves.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
God is love. We are made in God’s image. We are naturally made to love. Loving those we agree with and share similarities with comes naturally. But loving all people takes the work of the Holy Spirit in us.
"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:6-8
The Romans verse can seem a bit heavy in challenging us that we might possibly dare to die for someone. It’s not that we’re called to literally die for others as we become more Christlike, but we are to love others so selflessly that it is shocking to the world. Connecting this to the 1 Corinthians verses, ask yourself, "How can I show love to someone I don’t easily get along with?" What kindness can you show in response to someone’s anger? When a friend is given a blessing while you’re stuck in a dry valley, make the effort to celebrate them and not compare their blessing to your longing.
And because God is love, someone once pointed out to me that we can replace “love” in these verses with “God”. God is patient. God is kind. God does not envy…etc. And if we desire to step into all the potential God has for us, we must first produce love for all. We can’t produce the rest of the fruit of the Spirit without love - just like we can’t gain the fruit of the Spirit without being in relationship with God.
"But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you." Psalm 5:11
Joy and happiness are not interchangeable. In the Psalm those who take refuge in God will sing for joy. When do we look for refuge? When you’re in trouble. When things are not going well. When we are scared, and the enemy seems bigger than us. In that moment of fear, of being attacked, we can find joy as we take refuge in God. Joy is not always positive. But joy is safety and fulfillment knowing as horrible as the situation may be, God is in control, and He will bring us through it in His time.
With that revelation you’re probably thinking, “That’s a great point, but what does that look like in action?”
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." 1 Corinthians 4:7-10
Also remembering the writing of James, the opening of his letter points out, “consider it pure joy my brothers when facing trials of many kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2-3)
I recognize that this reads like a downer, but I promise this is good. Because there is nothing about life that promises a way to avoid difficult times. Some say the only thing promised is death and taxes, but I would also say we can add difficulties. What I have learned long ago, if it doesn’t challenge me, it’s not going to change or grow me. Difficult times where we are desperate for the refuge and provision of God is essential to our growth. Finding the joy of the Lord in the blessed times is as easy as breathing. But turning to God and experiencing joy in the safety and protection of God in the midst of hardship is the goal. Because sometimes things are so difficult that just knowing we are close to God in the moment is what guides us through that valley.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-8
Similar to joy, we find peace in situations that don’t make sense, only when we turn to God in “prayer and petition.” The peace the Spirit gives to us doesn’t make sense. How often do we find ourselves in an extremely stressful, tense, and/or crazy situation with a calm, positive focus, unable to explain why we’re not freaking out with the rest of the world? It’s because we are in God, we are in His Word, and the gift of living in the Spirit is a peace that surpasses all understanding to bring us through the difficult moments in life.
David showed how clearly this is true in Psalm 23. Verse 4: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and staff, they comfort me.” That is the peace the Spirit gives us. That peace given to us from Jesus as a final parting gift upon His death and resurrection. We learn this from the Gospel of John.
“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:25-27
It’s a peace that can’t be forced or faked, but instead only something that comes from the Lord. Which means the best way to gain that peace we can’t pretend to be peaceful in the chaos or calm in the storm, but like Peter walking on the water, we have to look to Jesus. We can deepen our relationship with Jesus through prayer, reading the Bible, and walking alongside our fellow believers to gain wisdom from their relationship with the Lord as well.
Let’s pause for a second
This is the end of part one of three, but I want to add this: Walking in the fruit of the Spirit the same as described in the mentioned verses is not what it will always look like when you start the process. It’s so easy to see people at church and their strong connection to the Lord that we begin comparing ourselves to those who have been working at this for a long time. In those moments when you are tempted to judge yourself for not being where others are in their journey, think about how much we celebrate the firsts for children and continue to encourage children when their second attempt might not go as well. You aren’t expected to be the spiritual pillar on day one, month one, year one or decade one. We are always in process and that’s to be celebrated. So as you take those baby steps in growing the fruits of the Spirit, celebrate the victories and encourage yourself in the opportunities to learn.
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