Galatians 5:22-23: “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.”
I was nervous. It was my first time practicing my golf swing at the driving range without the instructor. I was trying to be inconspicuous but I was in Phoenix and, by far, the youngest person out there. And I’m female. And I was decked out in a tennis skirt and a pink shirt and had pink golf clubs (note to self: work on being inconspicuous). I pretended like I knew what I was doing as I grabbed the range-ball coins I had just paid for and slid one into the ball machine. I turned around to glance at the range and listened to the rumbling of the machine as the balls prepared to come down the chute, as it dawns on me…I never put a basket under the chute! In what seemed like slow motion, I leaped for the pile of baskets nearby, grabbed a basket, and shoved it under the chute—but it was already too late. Half of the balls were bouncing (loudly) off the bottom of the grate onto the cement ground and scattered around me. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so instead I pretended like it was no big deal, picked up the balls, and proceeded confidently (with a beet-red face) to the absolute farthest possible open space on the driving range.
Sometimes it feels like life is one big juggling act. As though I’ve got a million balls in the air and if I could only keep them going I would be okay. But the moment I turn away, they all start falling and there’s no basket around to catch them all. They all scatter, loudly, evidence to the world that I’m a complete wreck.
In the same way, it can seem like Christianity is all about the rules. What are they, and what do they mean? And when I fail at these things, is it evidence that I don’t have it all together or is there hope after all?
Thinking of the story above, do you ever feel like you’re trying to hold a million balls in the air? Do they ever come falling down? Do you feel overwhelmed by God’s rules?
Reading and Questions
Read Galatians 5:22-23: “But the ____________ ____ _____ _____________ is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Which of the above fruit do you struggle with most, and how?
One of the most important things we can learn about the fruit of the Spirit is that these are not items on a checklist. God is not sitting by each day, checking them off as you pass, or giving you demerits when you do not. Instead, let’s look at the fact that they are collectively a fruit.
A fruit is something that appears as evidence of the type of tree. For example, you can tell an apple tree by the apples hanging from its branches. Read about what Jesus has to say in Matthew 7:17-18:
“Likewise every __________ tree bears ___________ fruit, but a ________ tree bears _________ fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” Then in verse 20 Jesus says, “Thus, by their ____________ you will recognize them.”
It is easy to spot a bad tree by its bad fruit. What do you think your fruit (action) looks like? Is it fruit that resembles Christ?
If we are followers of Christ, we are eternally rooted in Christ. But what about those of us who are rooted in Christ yet who don’t act accordingly?
Matthew 12:33-34 says, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks,” (emphasis mine).
Read Proverbs 20:11: “Even a child is known by his ________________, by whether his ______________ is ____________ and ______________.”
Thinking of your own child, how do his actions show how he is feeling? When he takes a toy out of another child’s hand, do you think his heart is feeling loving or selfish?
How about yourself? If you discipline your child by hitting him uncontrollably, what does that say about your heart? Or, in the other direction, if you discipline your child with careful and purposeful ways to teach him, what does that say about your heart?
Our actions tell us (and others) a lot about the condition of our heart. If we are displaying fruit that is inconsistent with God’s qualities—emitting bitterness and anger instead of the fruit listed in the memory verse above—we are choosing to ignore our Christian roots and are choosing to live in something other than God’s love. We are obviously not living with him. We aren’t spending time with him and doing the basic things he asks us to do. Bible reading and prayer should be some of our basic sources of water and fertilization, as a start. Instead, we are feeding ourselves with bad water and bad fertilizer. We spend our time each day focusing on things that don’t matter and ignoring God’s call to spend time with him, so we produce bad fruit—fruit that is inconsistent with our faith and beliefs. We exhibit qualities that go against the grain of what we’d like to display. It becomes easy to let a bad word slip. It is easy to falter. It is easy to be unkind, impatient, and lose self-control.
However, when I spend more time with God I find that the qualities he wants me to have—the fruit of the Spirit—occur more naturally. And the more time I spend with him, the more easily it is for me to generate His fruit. That is why the Bible calls it “the fruit of the Spirit.” When we are watered by the Holy Spirit, we produce fruit that represents the Holy Spirit. Praying and reading God’s word for 15 minutes each day will produce better results than a fleeting prayer of, “Lord, help me to have patience with this crazy child.”
Evaluate the fruit in your life. Are you displaying bad fruit? Think of some ways you can change your water to produce better fruit. I’ll give you a hint: Daily prayer and bible reading are a great place to start.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
Acts: Take note of how the new believers changed their ways
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
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