Not too long ago, I was having a conversation with a friend who also happens to be a counselor and educator at a Christian university, and she reminded me to cross-check my thoughts with Galatians 5:22-23 before I reacted to them. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (NLT) You see, our beliefs cause a thought, which leads to an emotion and causes an action. If our belief isn’t from the fruits of the Spirit, the entire process results in a tailspin of emotions, thoughts, and actions not from God.
I don’t know about you, but, more times than I can care to admit, I’ve caught myself thinking things I know are untrue but, somehow, I have talked myself into believing they have validity! This little principle has helped me so much in capturing and controlling my own thoughts but also in my dealings with others.
How often do we have something done or said to us or about us that stings? You see, if we trace the behavior backwards in that Belief -> Thought -> Emotion -> Action pattern, we can find that, often times, what stings is a belief that isn’t a fruit of the Spirit!
It got me thinking about that verse a little more… What is your favorite fruit of the Spirit? What fruit do you struggle most with? When we become followers of Christ, each of the fruits of the Spirit is planted, like a seed, inside of us! Those fruits are nothing that we can earn or lose; they are God’s gift to us to face all the joyful and painful circumstances life will bring!
Paul tells us in Romans 7:6, “Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit” (NLT). We certainly all won’t naturally be good at each of the fruits, but with the gift of the Holy Spirit, we can call on Him to help us when we are struggling with patience or when we are not particularly joyful in the trials this life brings! How reassuring is that? We can call on Him anytime! We have the supernatural ability to deal with anything life throws at us!
As I continued to dive into that verse in Galatians, I started to wonder what the Biblical meaning behind each of the fruits was. I was kind of surprised at the differences between the Biblical meaning vs. their worldly definitions. Love is the first—and this isn’t just the “I love coffee” meaning. However, Philippians 2:1-3 gives us great insight! “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” This is the love that sets aside the desires of the self for the desires of another. This love is a choice, not a feeling!
In Galatians 5, we are given a little insight as to what joy means—gladness and delight. While by definition, the understanding of joy is similar, the joy the world experiences is only of the moment and fleeting. John 15:4-11 tells us of the eternal joy set before us—one that isn’t based on circumstances! Nothing about our world is peaceful these days, but we know that the peace the verse speaks of is reminding us we don’t live with the same chaos of the world. Check into Philippians 4:4-9 to find out step-by-step how!
• “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
• Let your gentleness be evident to all.
• The Lord is near. 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.
• Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Now, patience… This is a real challenge for me! It always has been something I’m not great at, but it’s on my heart for 2019 to become more patient! When we are patient like Jesus was, we tolerate circumstances and dealing with challenging people—even when we are very tired! 2 Peter 3:9 reminds us that God is so patient with us, always waiting and only wanting His lost children found!
Kindness and goodness go together like PB&J—not only having moral goodness but also in the way we express it to others! We know God showed ultimate kindness by offering us salvation and we already told in Ephesians 2:7 He will “show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us” forever! Kindness spoken of here is one that extends mercy and love with no expectation of its return! If this depth of kindness is a struggle for you, cling tight to Philippians 2:3-4: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others.”
The faithfulness of this verse isn’t exactly what the world would say in that a faithful person is trustworthy or reliable. This faithfulness is reflective of our obedience and submission to the One who is the most faithful. In faithfulness to God we allow Him to shape our lives, faithfulness is realizing our Savior is in control! Remember Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is a confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Gentleness is my favorite, probably because it is the most challenging! Even just saying the word brings a calmness to my soul! Gentleness is linked to humility, a lack of self-righteousness or self-interest. Moses was an incredible example of gentleness! He could have easily dealt with Miriam and Aaron but he didn’t, be remained meek and let God take care of the situation. Numbers 12:3 Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”
Last is self-control, the ability to say no to the flesh and yes to the spirit.
After learning all that, it became so much easier to identify those lies the enemy loves to speak into our lives. It became easier to stop in the moment and not allow myself to get attached to those words or actions! Just like any fruit—it starts from a seed and must be nurtured to grow and ripen. We can’t expect any of these fruits to be flawless, and we can’t expect all of them to be fully mature, but we can embrace the wonderful gift God has empowered us with for this walk! When we are able to give the Spirit control over our lives, God is able to do what only He is able to do! Romans 7:23 describes it in this way: “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. Paul is warning us to not fall into the trap of the world that leaves us believing it’s “natural” to sin.
In 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 we are reminded we are being transformed into his image! “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” So, as we strive to nurture these fruits in our own lives, we begin to look more like God, who embodies each and every one of these fruits. And isn’t that something we all would love to be—just like our Creator? I know I would.