My wife, Emily, loves mystery novels. She loves all the different twists and turns and following all the threads throughout the book until they are tied together in the solution at the end. What she doesn’t like is loose ends, threads of the story that are left hanging. Over the last several weeks we have looked at 9 different character traits, threads if you will, called the Fruit of the Spirit which can be found in the Bible in Galatians 5:22-23. We’ve looked at how each trait impacts our character and how we can put them into practice, and what difference they can make in our lives and the lives of those around us. What I want to do in this post is look at how we tie all these threads together by looking at why they are known as the Fruit of the Spirit (and why that matters) and why having them in our lives is important.
First things first, why are these characteristics known as the Fruit of the Spirit? Going back to the text, the author of Galatians, a man named Paul, is encouraging his readers to leave behind selfish, unhealthy behaviours like hatred, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition and envy and move towards the behaviours listed under the Fruit of the Spirit. Paul says that because those of who are followers of Christ have his Spirit living in them they should be living out these traits as a way of showing God’s love to those around them. So does this mean that Paul is saying that only Christians can live out these traits? And why do so many Christians not live this way?
The short answer to the first question is quite obviously no, it is not only Christians who can live with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All you have to do is look around you to see people who aren’t Christian displaying these qualities to see that they are not exclusive to those who follow Christ. Given we are talking about the Fruit of the Spirit, let’s use fruit trees as an analogy. Just like all fruit trees are able to produce fruit depending on the type of tree they are, so all people are able to show the traits listed here because we are all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). The difference comes in where the trees are planted. Trees who are planted in Christ have the benefit of being cared for by God, the master gardener. He will make them healthier by trimming away the branches of unhealthy habits and behaviours, he will support them when they are struggling and feed them spiritually to help them to grow and produce more and more fruit. Those trees who are planted outside God’s garden are still able to produce fruit, but they do not have the benefits of the gardener to help them grow and develop, and to support them through the storms. They are still able to produce fruit, but not to the same potential they would have with the gardeners help.
The answer to the second question, why do so many Christians not live out the Fruit of the Spirit is two-fold. Firstly, just like it takes time for fruit trees to grow and develop, it takes time for Christians to grow into who they are meant to be. Fruit trees go through a process of feeding, watering, pruning, growing and producing that cycles through seasons. In the same way, to grow into a mature Christian who lives out the Fruit of the Spirit in everything we do takes time and goes through seasons. As much as we would like to be able to get everything right straight away, it takes time and the reality is that just like trees can always benefit from a gardeners attention we will never be perfect and will always need God to be working in our lives. The second part is that unfortunately not all who call themselves Christian truly choose to plant themselves in God’s garden. They may say they are, but may not actually allow him to nurture them. This is not a reflection on the gardener, or the fruit that there is the potential to produce, but is simply a reflection on people’s ability to choose.
The last point I want to touch on in tying things together is to look again at why these fruit are important and how they can help us in living out our purpose. As we talked about at the start of this series, our character will direct our actions so if we want to live out our purpose the best we can we need to be intentional about developing our character. The stronger and healthier our character, the more able we will be to have a positive impact on the world around us. We can’t grow be accident, so we need to be intentional about taking every opportunity to develop our character.
- Love underpins our character and fuels us.
- Joy and peace help us to stay calm when trouble strikes and find the good in every situation.
- Patience gives us the ability to look outward to how we can help others even when things aren’t going the way we want them to.
- Goodness sparks us into action and kindness gives us the ability to act even when it may come at a cost to us.
- Faithfulness helps us to keep going even when we’re not seeing a return for our actions or busyness threatens to get in the way.
- Gentleness and self-control open the doors of opportunity and enable us to step through them.
Together these nine character traits enable us to live out our purpose and have a positive impact on the world around us.
So what about you? What areas for growth can you see in your character? Which element has spoken to you the most? Unlike trees which are planted and rely on someone else to move them, we have the choice as to where we choose to be and if we choose to grow. I challenge you this week to reflect on the nine elements of character we’ve discussed and how you can develop them in your life. And if you’d like to know more about how you can connect with God and allow him to help you grow, feel free to get in touch, we’d love to talk with you about it!