In Sunday School, our adult class has been studying through the doctrines of our church. Most recently, that study has brought us to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. We have discussed this doctrine under these two trains of thought:
- Who is the Holy Spirit?
- What does the Holy Spirit do?
In going through all that the Bible teaches us about the Holy Spirit, we wanted to spend a little extra time learning about the spiritual gifts and also what the Bible says about the sign gifts. However, one thing we didn’t take as much time to consider, giving occasion for this blog post, is spiritual fruit.
In Galatians 5:22-23 we learn that the “fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
How can I know the Spirit is working in me? What would be great evidence in my life that I am truly a follower of Jesus Christ? How about things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc.!
And while we’re at it, what do those words mean?
- Love – Giving of myself for the benefit of another
- Joy – A deep abiding happiness and thankfulness
- Peace – An inner calm or tranquility
- Patience – Enduring composure
- Kindness – Considerate generosity
- Goodness – Morally virtuous
- Faithfulness – Loyalty, commitment
- Gentleness – This word is also translated as meekness. John MacArthur’s Biblical Doctrine defines it as “Controlled strength expressed by a humble heart”
- Self-control – An ability to hold back our fleshly desires
Though this list of “fruits” is probably not exhaustive, it is certainly helpful and encouraging to read through the list and to consider the meaning of each term (Of course…it’s the Bible!). However, the list can also become very discouraging if we forget what environment this fruit needs to grow.
Apples grow the best on apple trees when the winters are cold, the summers are moderately warm, and the humidity is medium to high (Like, in Michigan!). If you plant an apple tree in the environment that is best for it’s growth, you will see the best and most fruit. Make sense? So, how can that apply to our spiritual fruit?
And this is where it is crucial that we understand…where we can be the most encouraged or discouraged. If I think that the environment I need to develop love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control is only where I can find love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…I am completely right! But if I think I am going to find that environment anywhere on this planet, with any of the people on this planet, I am going to be disappointed and discouraged. (And, if anyone tries to use me or you as their “environment”, they too will be left without all the help they need.)
- “If my kids would just be quiet, I could grow in peace!”
- “If my co-workers would stop messing everything up, I would be able to stay patient!”
- “If I could get more sleep, I would be able to show kindness.”
- “If my wife just loved me more, it would be so much easier to love her back.”
Remember, the environment matters, and all the people around you, your spouse, kids, neighbors…everyone, are just as perfect and flawless as you and I. Yikes! But that’s OK, because God didn’t call this fruit, the fruit of a great family or the fruit of a great night’s sleep…it’s called the fruit of the Spirit.
It’s such good news that this fruit listed in Galatians 5 comes from the Spirit and not from a perfect earthly environment. Especially because we are prone to go the wrong way whether things are going “terribly” OR when things are going “well”. That’s why it says in Proverbs 30:9, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say. ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”
The fruit of the Spirit then, being produced by the Spirit in and through us, can be ready for harvesting whether the humidity of this life is high or low, whether the winter was frigid or mild, because we have a shelter in Christ. In Psalm 62, for instance, David writes, “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.”
So, let’s consider how we might redefine our fruit shall we?:
- Love – Giving of myself proactively and sacrificially for the benefit of another
- Joy – A deep abiding happiness and thankfulness that can cut through times of adversity and still remains fixed on the highest joys of Christ when other things around me go “well”
- Peace – An inner calm or tranquility that can remain intact through the ups and downs of life because the Lord never changes
- Patience – Enduring composure made possible in the knowledge that only God will make all things new
- Kindness – Considerate generosity with no strings attached
- Goodness – Morally virtuous toward those who would count themselves my enemies and toward those who would count themselves my friends, in order to point them all to Christ, their greatest need
- Faithfulness – Loyalty, commitment, motivated by the mercies of God toward me that are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-24)
- Gentleness – Controlled strength expressed by a humble heart that neither retaliates in vengeance after a “loss” nor taunts in order to brag after a “victory”
- Self-control – An ability to hold back our fleshly desires because we have come to value fellowship with God more than we value the elimination of our hardships or the furtherance of our life of ease
Praise God for his gracious fruit-producing work in our hearts and lives!
See you in Sunday School!