“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” – Galatians 5:22 – 23 (TNIV)
There are nine Fruit of the Spirit (printed above) and ten descriptors of Agape Love (a person who Loves, Esteems, Cherishes, Respects, Favors, Honors, Accepts, Prizes, Relishes and demonstrates Devotion).
I’ve often thought that this is a “manageable 19,” and if I just consider these 19 behaviors my job description for the rest of my life, then not only do I have my work cut out for me but more than likely I’ll probably experience and achieve a lot of good in my life and in my relationships.
This sounds simple (and it should be), but I also get how it may seem difficult to achieve and possibly feel downright overwhelming to produce these sweet, edifying, nurturing, pleasing and pleasurable behaviors on a consistent basis. I really get that. However, I’d like to suggest in this and upcoming posts on this subject, how we might be able to pull this off. Over my 50+ years of life, and my 30+ years as a Christian and a Counselor in recovery, I really ascribe to the one-day-at-a-time philosophy when it comes to producing healthy changes in our behavior.
When it comes to producing sweet, functional, mature and fruitful behavior, one day at a time validates reality, which means we’re not going to grow these characteristics overnight. I think weeds (or said another way, our character defects) may grow overnight, but most fruit (our character values) that we want to share with others who are important to us, will take some time to mature, especially considering the different contexts that we operate and live in (family, work, school, civic, etc.) where we want to share “the fruit of our labor.”
So I’m going to labor to keep this simple, because the process of growing fruitful behaviors is simple, needs to be simple and achievable, especially when we consider the natural parallels that are all around us that Paul, the writer of the Book of Galatians suggests to us.
In starting, here are a few things to consider:
- The “Garden” to produce the Fruit is your Mind: The word picture for our English word Energy (Energes) is freshly plowed land. Have you heard the statement “the land is teeming with energy?” The parallel is your mind. No matter who you are and outside of the most unusual of cases or situations, if you have breath in your body then your mind has the possibility to grow and produce these changes that we call the “Fruit.”
- There’s definitely some cleaning up to do as we begin our work: Galatians 5:19 – 21 (below) speaks about the “contaminants” that could complicate if not sabotage our effort to grow the very fruit that we wish to produce. Which ones are in your life? Could you see how they could compromise your personal and relational growth process? Who could help you to remove these “toxic weeds and rocks” which could be embedded in your own heart and are simultaneously neutralizing your effectiveness and robbing you of valuable “garden space” inside your mind that God could use to grow additional fruit?
- We have the best “Counselor” or Helper available to assist us in the clean up and growth process: Remember, this is the Fruit of the Spirit, which infers there is a power greater than ourselves (Step Two) that is available to all of us to consult, counsel, cleanse, remove, fertilize and empower our whole growth process. We don’t need to think we have to produce this fruit by ourselves. That would be daunting. On the other hand, I hope it deeply encourages you when you think about the fact that God wants to partner with you to be successful in each and every season of your life to produce these and more positive characteristics! Remember Steps Six (“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character”) and Step Seven (“Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings”)? If our loving Higher Power is for us, who or what could be against us (Romans 8:31)?
- Remember, God gives us a major clue regarding the growth process in the scientific process of Phytoremediation: Phytoremediation (my article and the Wiki entry) is an environmentally sound technology (EST) in which plants are used to remove, detoxify or immobilize environmental contaminants that are in the soil and in the water. Plants belonging to the Cruciferae family work the best. These particular plants are named and are a part of this family because they have a corolla of four petals arranged like a cross. In this example, I see God subtly giving us a clue that this is one of the best processes available to us to help us not only with the clean up, but also with our growth.
- Draw deeply upon the spiritual ingredients that will facilitate growth and maturity: When the seeds (or 19 characteristics listed above) are implanted in our mind, then just as a seed struggles to break outside of it’s “seed coat,” we should expect some struggle in our initial steps to grow these characteristics. However, know that just as the taproot goes down into the soil to draw upon the non-manmade (read spiritual) nutrients to help its growth, we’ll need to do the same (perhaps on our knees, or in any position of humility and receptivity). Equally, just as the next step in the growth process is the leaf that struggles against the soil to reach the power of the Sun to begin taking in more energy through photosynthesis, our growth could benefit by us doing the same, by practicing our spiritual disciplines (like prayer, meditation, study, etc.). Remember the wisdom we receive from Psalm 1:2-3: “Blessed is He whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.”
A big clue in this fruitfulness process is that the tree that is written about in Psalm 1 never says it has enough water or sunlight; it keeps taking it in, day and night, night and day, day and night, in doses that facilitates growth. Please take what you can use here! Oh, the text on Galatians 5:19-21:
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (TNIV).
So I’m looking forward to sharing with you over the next couple of posts a few thoughts on how to grow these Fruit of the Spirit! May God richly bless you in your effort to be fruitful, productive and “mature,” which is when the fruit we want to produce is its tastiest and most edifying.
Here’s a link to the next post in this series: “The Fruit of the Spirit #2: It all begins with Love (Part 1).”
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