I've been going through a study on the Fruit of the Spirit recently by Beth Moore called Living Beyond Yourself. One of the things that struck me this last week is that these things -- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control -- they are fruits of the Spirit.
Duh, right? I grew up reciting them, singing about them, studying them. I know they are the fruit of the Spirit. But what struck me this week is the fact that they are the result of something else.
Often I want to focus on the fruit (I need to love others better!) when I should be focused on the One that produces the fruit, the Holy Spirit.
I can wish for joy or peace in a given situation, hope for patience when dealing with someone, or pray for self-control when it comes to how I spend my time or what I think about. I can want them, but these qualities can't grow in me unless I have the Holy Spirit inside of me.
This reminds me of a Gatorade advertising campaign. The pictures of athletes dripping Gatorade colored sweat and the caption that says "is it in you?" The message is that because Gatorade is in them, they are champions.
As a Christian, I do have the Holy Spirit in me (Romans 8:9). Just like the Gatorade seeps out the pores of the athletes who have it in them, so too should the Fruit of the Spirit seep out of my pores -- and my thoughts and my actions and my words. If it is in me, it will come out.
It occurs to me that the Gatorade doesn't seep out unless the athlete is sweating. That implies hard work. Maybe it's when I am faced with adversity that the Fruit in me is revealed for what it is? Maybe that's how it ripens? Maybe, like an athlete who sweats in the gym, my patience is tested so that it has the opportunity to become stronger. As they say in the gym, "no pain, no gain."
It's not too hard to be loving if someone is lovable. Or joyful if things are going well. But you need the Holy Spirit in you to love the unlovable and be joyful even in trials. The Fruit of the Spirit are a result (fruit) of Jesus' work on the cross and my dependence on God.
When we first went into ministry, one of our trainers gave a talk about fruit and it helped me visualize the idea of God producing fruit in and through us. This teacher was talking about the fruit of ministry but I think it applies to the Fruits of the Spirit, too.
He stood up front and spread his arms out to his sides and said that producing fruit looks like this. When we look to Jesus, we produce fruit. He wiggled his hands to show that they were the branches that held the fruit. But then, he said, if we take our eyes off Jesus to look at our fruit, the connection is lost. It's like a plant that's been cut. As soon as you cut it, it's dead. It might not look it right away, but it's been cut from it's life giving source. You can't produce fruit if you are looking at the fruit. You must be looking at the source of the fruit to produce the fruit.
|See how the fruit falls as soon as she takes her eyes off Jesus?|
So, instead of saying "I need to be more [fruit of the Spirit]" I should be saying "I need to look to Jesus. Only with him in my life can I be [fruit of the Spirit]." He will grow in me the fruit to maturity.
Another thing struck me this week. My children can't manufacture goodness, just like they can't manufacture apples. If I say to them, "be kinder to each other" it will only go so far. If I want my children to have these qualities they need the Holy Spirit in them.
As I think about this, I picture again the Gatorade ads. When the hard times come and I am pushed enough to sweat, does the Fruit of the Spirit seep out of my pores?
As much as I depend on God, it will.