The fruit of the Spirit, as listed in Galatians is what most Christians use as their plumb line on how they’re fairing as Christians. Just as a refresher, this is the passage the Fruit of the Spirit is spoken about:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.Gal 5:22-26
As Tim Mackie said in his sermon on the fruit of the Spirit, Paul uses the word “fruit” to make his readers stop and think about the metaphor he’s using, which is gardening. Within this context, and the scripture, we can learn a couple of things about becoming more like Jesus.
Growing the fruit is a process
I think the hardest part of life, for us as human beings, is waiting and struggling. And our dislike for these two things tends to drive us to instant gratification. When it comes to the fruit of the Spirit, we’re no different.
But if you were to think of fruit growing, it is a slow and laborious process. From seed to tree an apple tree can take 6 to 10 years before bearing fruit. In that time there is a lot of attention and care given to the tree to ensure that it reaches that maturity.
There are many pests that need to be dealt with. There will be times of pruning and times of drought, but all of these times contribute to the end goal which is the fruitfulness of the tree.
There’s a part God plays
Sticking to the metaphor of gardening, there is a part God plays in bringing fruit to bear. In spite of all the hard work that you put in to creating the environment for a fruit tree to grow, you can’t claim credit for making it grow.
There are external factors that causes the tree to grow. Like the sun – its magnificent rays ignites the chemical reaction called photosynthesis that produces the food for the plant to survive.
The seasons aren’t within your control either, yet these play an integral role in the growth of your fruit tree.
These things can be likened to the role God plays in our efforts to produce good fruit. There are external elements in life that we have no control over, but God does. With His supreme wisdom he brings forth the seasons in our lives as needed to make the fruit grow.
He also gives us His Spirit (Gal 22:25) to walk by and keep in step with to produce the good fruit.
There’s a part you play, dear gardener
As with all things, God invites us into a partnership. This includes the cultivation of good fruit in our lives. There isn’t an ultra-spiritual formula that you need to follow to be a good gardener. It’s not an hour long prayer, or a special Bible, it’s really quite simple actually:
Live your life in a way that removes the weeds, waters the heart and adds fertilizer into the soil.
I don’t want to boil down into too many specifics, but I’ll share examples from my own life:
- I read my Bible regularly, in order for me to know God and His story.
- I pour my heart out in prayer (as often as I can).
- I am part of a Church community that reminds me of the Gospel twice a week.
- I remind myself of the Gospel as often as I remember to.
- I know that there are books, TV shows and movies that are bad for me, because it breaks down what God is doing in my life and distorts truth. So I avoid these, not out of a sense of religion, but truly out of a sense of self-care.
- I avoid self-destructive activities (as far as I possibly can).
I don’t get all of the above right, especially not all of the time. But I am confident that God has taken the opportunity of the healthy environment I’ve tried to create, and he has produced many aspects of the Spirit’s fruit in me.
A final note on gardening for the Fruit of the Spirit
Does God’s creation of good fruit in me mean that I’ll stop doing gardening? Absolutely not.
I’m not kind all the time, and I am rarely patient. Nor do I have self-control at every waking moment. The various aspects of the same fruit (singular), will develop and mature as I continue in my partnership with God. It’s a process that takes years.
Does it mean that there’ll be no good fruit if you don’t do any gardening?
No, I believe that’s where grace comes in. But in the same way a neglected orchard will have fruit to be found, they will not be as full and lovely as the orchard that has been cared for.
I have a deep appreciation for Tim Mackie and the gift he has been given to unpack scripture. I leveraged his teaching on the Fruit of the Spirit for most of this post.