Today, I would like to dive into the fruits of the Spirit. These are attributes of a Christian’s life that should be/could be easily seen by anyone and everyone whom we come in contact with. The qualities are what Jesus displayed while here on earth, and these are qualities that come with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which He sent to us once we were saved and baptized in His name. The challenge is that sometimes we don’t even know they are there for us and so we don’t know how to bring them out.
So, let’s look at what the fruits of the Spirit are:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Let’s begin with the end of this passage: “Against such there is no law.” What does Paul mean by this? To what is he referring? Look back at verse 14:
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
ALL the law. Not just the ten commandments, but ALL 600-someodd laws that were proclaimed in the Old Testament. And love is therefore the fulfillment of our obligations. “Against such there is no law.” If we walk in love, we are walking as Christ walked. We are thinking and acting like Christ. We are putting our neighbors before ourselves as expressed in Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi:
…not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.
So, love is one fruit of the Spirit. It is the firstfruit of the Spirit. Without love, everything is useless. There is an entire chapter devoted to the description of ‘love’ – 1 Corinthians 13. I won’t go into too much detail about it here, but basically it is this – we could possess all of the wealth, health, and fame that this world has to offer, but if we have all of that without having love, we are nothing. We are useless. There is no place for us in God’s family. Period.
When working to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit, the first thing we should have on our minds is to become lovers – of everything. Love the sun. Love the rain. Love joy. Love the pain. Love the right. Love the wrong. Love the people. Love the animals. Love God. Love Jesus. Love the Holy Spirit. In this way, we will see our relationships become more meaningful. Our behavior towards the little things in life will become more profound. Our perspective on life’s ups and downs will not be so heavy, so crippling. Our maturity as Christians will become evident to everyone around us and everyone we meet. Love breathes life and light to a darkened world. A world starved for compassion and all of the other fruits of the Spirit. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.
The second fruit listed is ‘joy’. What kind of joy are we talking about here? “Oh, I just received the kindest compliment from the grocery clerk.” “Oh, I just won the lottery!” “Oh, my children are my whole life!” “Baking cupcakes brings me joy.” “Oh, what a joy it is to sit and put my feet up and relax.” Are these the kinds of joy we are talking about? Maybe, but I don’t think so.
The kind of joy I think Paul is talking about here is Spiritual joy. Godly joy. Joy that surpasses all understanding. Joy that finds us still smiling when our spouse just wrecked the car. Joy that envelopes us even when we lost a fortune on the stock market crash. Joy that fills our spirits even though we just lost a loved one to cancer or disease. That kind of joy only comes from knowing God and knowing the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. That kind of joy only comes from knowing that although Jesus died on the cross, He rose three days later to a victorious life eternal. Remember the parable of the hidden treasure?
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Note here that the man sold ALL THAT HE HAD. Everything. He sold everything he had. All of it. Every last item. So great was this treasure he had found that he gave up everything because this treasure is so valuable and brought him joy that was unsurpassed. That’s how the kingdom of heaven is. That’s how salvation is. That’s the message of the Gospel. If we don’t have that kind of joy over our salvation, over our acceptance into God’s family, then we are missing something.
How do we find that kind of joy if we don’t have it? That’s a very good question. The answer is right there in front of you. It’s not a mystery. It is as plain as day. Here it is: if you are born again, if you have confessed the Lord Jesus and accepted Him as your Savior, then the joy you are seeking lives right inside of you. It has been there from the very moment you accepted Jesus into your life. Let me repeat that. The joy you are seeking LIVES inside of you. It is always there. Always available. Always true. All you have to do to experience it is to surrender. Give up your selfish thoughts. Give up your idea that you are the center of the universe. Stop looking to material possessions to bring you lasting happiness. Stop chasing happiness as if it is something that comes from having more. More of this; more of that. Happiness is fleeting. Godly joy is everlasting.
Godly joy is cultivated by loving God, one; loving your neighbor, two, and loving this gift of life eternal. It is cultivated by exercising it.
I expect a tool that we can use to cultivate joy is a Gratitude Journal. A gratitude journal helps us recognize the little things and the big things. A journal forces us to think. To go beyond reacting to situations, and instead to step back and look at those situations and search for the joy that is hidden in them.
Godly joy lifts you up. It sustains you. Just like God’s grace, His joy is sufficient in every circumstance. No matter what might be going on in your life, joy is there at your service. Whether you are hailed as a hero, labeled a fool, or damned as a curse by ignorant people, Godly joy is available to you in that moment, in every moment. All you have to do is exercise your spiritual muscles – and look within because the Holy Spirit lives within you and His joy is fulfilling and vibrant and real. His joy, along with all of the other spiritual fruits, is always there waiting for you to claim it, exercise it, live it.
Whether you are facing bankruptcy or winning a singing contest, God’s joy is right there with you.
What’s next on the list? Peace. Peace is a fruit of the Spirit. This too, is a product of looking within and finding God and His love within you. This is a feeling that envelopes you. And sustains you.
You will find that when you have God’s peace, you can withstand the trials and tribulations that are bound to inject their pains in your life. What will change is the energy that surrounds you and is within you. You will have strength. Calmness. Sanity. Your levels of stress will be reduced significantly. You will be able to handle the pressures of this life with uncanny ease. No matter the crisis, you will not be moved.
And again, you can find that peace within you. It is brought to you by the Holy Spirit. That’s his job. That’s part of his treasure chest that lives inside you. It’s never far. It’s always near. And again, it is cultivated through your acts and thoughts. If you are full of love, if you find yourself caring about what happens to neighbors, strangers, animals, trees, societies, then you are cultivating peace through the love of your fellow man and woman.
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
The peace of Christ lives within you. His Spirit lives within you. And look, he even says ‘be of good cheer’! He knows we will have times of trouble, but He has overcome the world. Therefore, if we are in Him, and He in us, we have the ability to be at peace no matter what you are experiencing. His peace sustains us. Be of good cheer. Be at peace.
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
Be not troubled or afraid. Be at peace. “My peace”, he says.
The fruits of the Spirit are within us. We can grow them by claiming these fruits and acting upon them. These things are what the Holy Spirit has brought to us. They live inside us. They are always there. We just need to focus our attentions on them and exercise them like we would our muscles. The more we use them, the more they grow and the stronger they get. If we never use them, they atrophy and shrivel up. Oh, they’re still there, but they are weak and of little use because of their little use. We need to use them and strengthen them daily.
Have you ever seen a bodybuilder? They spend hours, days, weeks, months focusing on each muscle group in order to build them up. There are different exercises for each muscle. You can’t do pull-ups and expect your calf muscles to strengthen from the exercise because the calf muscles have their own specific way of growing and strengthening.
I remember when I used to go to the gym. I would begin with some stretching exercises. This was so that I could put in some hard work on the muscles without hurting them in some way. I would stretch those muscles for a period of time and then I would follow a routine depending on what day it was and what muscle group I was focusing on that day.
Our spiritual muscles are the same way. We need to stretch them. We do this by reading and studying the word, and, by praying. When we pray, we focus on areas of our life that need stretching. Love, patience, endurance, etc. We ask God for help to be this way or that way. To guide us into His peace. To move us to compassion. To bring healing to our friends and families. To reveal Himself to non-believers. All these requests stretch our spiritual muscles. That is why it is a good idea to begin in the morning with a good dose of prayer. When we do so, we prepare for the trials and troubles that will surely come throughout the day. Then, in those times we can exercise those spiritual muscles by focusing on the different fruits of the Spirit.
Start your day with a plan. Stretch your spiritual muscles. Exercise your spiritual muscles. And then end the day/night with thankfulness and gratitude for God bringing you through the day and growing your muscles.
To exercise the fruit of love, be loving. To strengthen your joy, find it in everything. To be at peace throughout the day, be a peacemaker.
Start a ‘Gratitude’ Journal. Gratitude is a great attitude to cultivate. And it is so easy. All you have to do is say, “Thank you.”
When I was in college, I received ‘A’s’ for my coursework. Not because I was a great writer, but because I spent a lot of time exercising those writing muscles. I would do draft after draft after draft. With each attempt I homed in on the message I was trying to convey. I spent a lot of time stretching those muscles by preparing – reading, studying, and contemplating. I took notes. Only after I had assembled enough information did I sit down and begin to write. We can do the same with the fruits of the Spirit: spend time readying, studying, contemplating. Take notes. Memorize scripture if you can. And then go out and exercise those spiritual fruits. It will be slow at first for most of you/us, but if we keep at it, soon we will see those fruits growing and sweetening our life’s experience, and, people will begin to notice. And our light will start to shine brighter and brighter until one day, we will hear the Lord say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Next time we’ll look at the fruits of longsuffering (patience), kindness and goodness.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for being an inspiration.
May His peace sustain you.