‘But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit. Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless’. Galatians 5:22-23 The Passion Translation
Oh, delicious fruit! Two verses that teach how we should live our lives. How to be people with strong character and deep integrity. I challenge you throughout the banalities, twists and turns, highlights and low-lights, tragedies and funny moments of everyday life, to consistently be all that these verses hold. NOT. EASY. AT. ALL! But such sweet, sweet fruit. To be all that those two little verses hold, would be to testify that there is a God whose Holy Spirit lives within us and through is. I see a wonderful image of His grace filling us up and pouring out of us. Because it is only through His strength, and by His grace, that we can genuinely and authentically be the kind of men and women that God calls us to be. I know there are situations where you want to be anything but! But call on Him, He will give you the grace in those moments, and always.
1. Joy that overflows
Deep joy. Joy that cannot be taken away by anyone. That inner joy that comes from knowing you are a child of the only Living God. That no matter what is going on in your life, He adores you more than any parent, or husband, or wife, or child could. He cares about every tiny detail about you and your life. He is intrigued and interested in you. He sees you as a precious jewel. Nothing you could ever do would ever reduce His love for you. Like any parent He has rules that are there to protect you and have consequences when you break them. But this does not mean He does not love you. That deep joy comes from knowing that whatever happens in this life, if you have accepted Him as your Lord and committed your life to Him, you do not have to fear death. Because you know with certainty that your eternity is in glory. Practice gratitude always. So that joy overflows and is evident to all around you. Not a fake ‘happy-clappy-life-is-so-perfect-and-wonderful-all-the-time’ sort of ‘joy’. A genuine deep contentment that despite life’s challenges, you are loved, worthy, and full of hope. You have Joy in Christ. His face shines upon you and this is evident to all. ‘”The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face towards you and give you peace”‘ Numbers 6:24-26.
2. Peace that subdues
Be slow to anger and quick to forgive. Peace that subdues. Subdues the fire. Reduces volatility. Seek and pursue peace always. We are told to ‘be the peacemakers’. This does not mean accepting what is wrong and being a pushover. Jesus was not a pushover. I repeat, Jesus was NOT a pushover. Make your case heard when needed. But always aim to pursue peace. Peace within yourself and peace around you. Be quick to forgive… that was a strong hint towards the quest for peace.
3. Patience that endures
That word ‘endures’ is not a comfortable word. But it is intrinsically linked with patience. Being patient, means enduring. It is not easy. Do it anyway. Be patient, be humble, allow for people to be travelling their own journeys of self-development. Be patient in love. Patience is forbearance. Again, it is being slow to anger and quick to forgive. It is loving people through the crap – family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, strangers. Love your neighbour as yourself. Giving people grace. Show them mercy. Just as God shows mercy to you. Just sprinkle some wisdom on top, to know when it is right to exercise patience and tolerance, and when it is right to speak up. I repeat again, and will keep repeating, Jesus was not a pushover. Discernment is key.
4. Kindness in action
Kindness is everything! Genuine kindness is like a beautiful flower, opening up its beauty for all to see, emanating a sweet fragrance and giving pleasure to all around it. Genuine kindness means kindness without agenda. It is the ‘no strings attached’ sort of kindness. It is selfless. It is not a power play. It is not a networking or status-seeking opportunity. It would be done even if no-one were there to see it. It is not self-serving, self-seeking, or self-tooting-of-the-horn. It is solely for the benefit of the recipient and it is unconditional. Be kind to everyone. Everyone! If you can be genuinely kind, without resentment or hard feeling, to the people that treat you badly, God’s grace is truly working within you. All glory to Him. Keep it up! His strength is made perfect in your weakness. Practice kindness – it takes action, it takes humility, it takes depth of character, it takes strength, and He sees it all. He sees the intentions of your heart. Even if others do not, or twist it for bad. He sees your intentions. That is all that matters.
5. A life full of virtue
In short, try to do good always. In all situations try to do the right thing, not the easy thing. Even if the culture or commonplace thing to do is the wrong thing. Be brave. Go against the grain. Be the odd ball if that is what it will mean. Whatever. Your identity does not lie in other people’s approval. You know who you are and Whose you are. Do the right thing. Full stop.
6. Faith that prevails
Have and exercise faith that prevails throughout the hard times and most of all when it feels like God is not there, does not care about you, and is not being helpful to your cause. Exercise faith. This means declaring the truths you know from scripture, despite what your circumstances look like or what your feelings are. Feelings are not facts. Facts are in the Bible. God cares and loves you and is with you and wants to speak to you, even if you don’t feel like this is the case. Exercise faith. Be thankful in all things – worship and praise Him, in all circumstances. The Potter is kneading and molding you and maturing you. He is making something beautiful out of the mess you see.
7. Gentleness of heart
A gentle heart is open to instruction from your Heavenly Father. It is not hardened with bitterness and resentment and lack of forgiveness. It is open to emotion and working through the hard stuff. It is open to listening to God and seeking His will, for your life and for each tiny step along the journey. It is open to seeing and accepting change in people. It is open to vulnerability. It is soft and open. Yet it is guarded from those that want to harm it. It is soft, yet discerningly wise. It is open to the right influences and guarded to the wrong ones. It is open to the Holy Spirit. ‘Let your gentleness be evident to all’. It is an amalgamation and a display of all the above virtues. But, ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it’ Proverbs 4:23. Be wise, be wise, be wise!
8. Strength of spirit (self-control)
Are the above qualities weak? Are they exposing one to be taken advantage of, undermined, or maltreated? Some might see it that way. I want to be very clear. Exercising the above qualities day to day, in spite of the persecution it can sometimes bring, is a symbol of utmost strength. Strength in Christ. It displays supernatural strength. Strength of the Holy Spirit working within you. Evidence of God’s grace, love, and mercy. The height of self-control.
It is easy to be unkind. It is easy to get angry and irritable. It is easy to lose your cool. It is easy to be catty. It is easy to manipulate others for one’s own gain. It is easy to appear good by being charitable whilst being doing wrong in other areas. It is easy to be passively aggressive. It is easy to do a stealthy ‘PR’ campaign for one’s own status and power, at the expense of others. It is easy to fall into temptation. It is easy to coast through life keeping the status quo and doing the least amount necessary to get by. For the Christians, it is easy to be a ‘surface level Christian’. A lot of things in this life are easy! ‘”Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”‘ Matthew 7:13-14
It is not easy to be kind to those who are unkind and hurtful to you. It is not easy to work to find productive solutions with peaceful means in order to solve conflict. It is not easy to forgive and keep forgiving, in order to find peace within yourself and with others. It is not easy to show Christ’s joy and hope when you feel disheartened. It is not easy be respectful when you feel disrespected. It is not easy to be patient when you want it fixed now. It is not easy to be humble when you are frustrated or hurt. It is not easy to do what is right when it means you lose face or are mocked. It is not easy to have faith when you feel God has deserted you.
Do not be fooled. These virtues are not weak, they are strong. God challenges us to do what is extremely difficult but what is ultimately right, and rewarding in Christ. He knows it is not easy, but He calls us to a higher standard. When it is hard to exercise those virtues, and you do it anyway, you will be amazed at the outpouring of God’s grace. HE does it through you. He sends His Holy Spirit to help you. He upholds you with His righteous right hand.
‘For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he loves me”, says the Lord, “I will rescue him; for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation”. Psalm 91:11-16 NIV
I challenge you.
Seek maturity in Christ. Renew your mind day by day. Try to live out Galatians 5:22-23 in all circumstances. Aim to develop and grow; do not be satisfied with staying as you are and being a ‘safe’ Christian. You will slowly stagnate spiritually. Forget worldly accolades. Be heaven-focused. I promise you, you will be richly rewarded by your Heavenly Father and you will see His Spirit in action in you and through you. His grace is sufficient for you.