“But the 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!”
Galatians 5:22 (NLT)
I used to think things like, “I’m doing pretty well with most of these fruits, but I need to work harder on the fruit of patience or self control.” How I was missing the point of this scripture!
God is not asking me to work harder at patience or self-control. For one thing, Paul talks about fruit (singular) not fruits (plural). It’s a combined fruit, or characteristic, of the Spirit of God, and it is offered to me by the Holy Spirit. The Lord is not asking me to work harder at being good, he is asking me to draw nearer to Him… to be filled with His spirit… to press in a little deeper to Him… to spend more time with Him in prayer and Bible reading… to listen more closely to His voice… to be still and know that He is God.
As I abide in Jesus and become more like Him, I will display the character of His kingdom (the fruit of the spirit.) “A branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me… Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.” John 15:4-5.
What does “remaining” in Christ mean? It could mean many things. It might mean something different to you than it does to me. For me it is submitting to His sanctification process even when it’s uncomfortable; foregoing the myriad activities that beckon to me and instead take time to be still and quiet in the Lord’s presence; giving up a leisurely breakfast in order to attend prayer group, bible study, or worship services; turning off the TV and reading or praying; closing my Facebook app and seeking the Lord. Sometimes it means getting out of my own head and meeting someone else’s need so that I can quit worrying about my own! Some of these things may seem legalistic to you, but they are where the Lord has convicted me. What are some of the things He is calling you away from so that you can remain in Him?
If I am lacking in any part of the fruit of the spirit, it’s not because I’m not trying hard enough, it’s because I’m not allowing the Spirit to do His work in me. I’m not in tune with Him. I am too self-focused, comparing myself to others and coming up short (or worse yet, coming out on top and feeling prideful in my “good works.”) Or I may be trying to “be good” or “do better” instead of trying to know Him better… to be more open to His Spirit. I must keep reminding myself what Ravi Zacharias said, “Jesus did not come to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive!” It’s not a matter of me being a good person or even a better person. It’s about me being alive with the Spirit of God, filled with the Holy Spirit, alive in Christ!
So, when I’m lacking in any aspect of the fruit of the Spirit, I need to check my heart. I need to draw near to Jesus and allow Him to nourish my soul.