When I lived in the Pacific Northwest, fruit was plentiful. In late summer we would pick and preserve peaches, pears, plums, apples, apricots, you name it. Earlier in the summer, we made a lot of jams: strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry to name a few. Fruit is sweet by nature, pleasing to the taste buds, and eye appealing. Likewise, the fruit of the spirit is sweet and pleasant to those around us. Have you ever wondered how to develop the fruit of the spirit?
If you are new to Christianity, you may be thinking:
- What is the fruit of the spirit?
- What is the purpose of the fruit of the spirit?
- Is the fruit of the spirit important?
Let’s take a look at these questions and find some answers.
What is the fruit of the spirit?
“Fruit of the spirit” is a metaphor for the Christian life. Jesus used the analogy of fruit in our lives, but the Apostle Paul spelled out what all it encompassed.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
These verses come after a list of behaviors and attitudes that are not pleasing to God and harmful to relationships. They are the result of living a self-centered life that is bitter to those around us.
In contrast, the fruit of the spirit are attitudes that are sweet, build strong relationships, and are pleasing to God.
Why it is called fruit and not something else?
When Jesus was teaching people, He often used examples from nature to illustrate spiritual truths. Since vineyards were common, the growth process was understood by most listeners.
Thus when the Apostle Paul used the words, “Fruit of the spirit” in the book of Galatians, it was a further explanation to what Jesus said in the book of John.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
What is the purpose of the fruit of the spirit?
You may be wondering why you should develop the fruit of the spirit. Is it important? Does it matter? The answer really depends on who you are wanting to please.
For those who are self-centered, how to develop the fruit of the spirit is really of no concern. In contrast, Christians should be ever-increasing in the fruitfulness of their lives. Why? The fruit of the spirit is the very nature of Jesus and becomes a part of us the more we get to know Him. More fruit means we have spent more time with Him.
Jesus talks about the need for His love to shine through us to others. That is what happens when we develop the fruit of the spirit in our lives. Another metaphor for Jesus living in us is “living water”.
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” John 7:37a-38
Practical examples of the fruit of the spirit
If you have ever wondered how to recognize the fruit of the Spirit in yourself or others, here are some examples.
The Bible uses three words that are translated into the English language as “love”. Fruit of the spirit “love” does not expect anything in return. It is a choice, not a feeling. Thus, it can be given to others regardless of how they have treated us.
This kind of love comes from the Greek word “agape” and always wants the best for others. It has been seen occasionally in a courtroom where the family members of someone murdered have forgiven the one who is guilty. Most families want revenge. But agape love makes the choice to forgive. Why? Because they recognize that if the murderer knew Jesus personally, he would not have committed this crime.
As Jesus himself was being murdered, he spoke agape love in His words,
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
We can have joy even when we are crying. It is a stable, unfluctuating force in our lives.
Joy is more than happiness. It can be present even when circumstances are not what we had hoped for. Thus, when a family loses a baby, or the love of our life abandons us, we can find joy in the Lord. Why? His love is everlasting. He will never leave us. His plans for us are good.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11
The word “peace” is a picture of tranquility in spite of the pressures of life. Because of Jesus, we can have inner calm regardless of the circumstances.
The lack of peace surrounds many individuals as a national election approaches. Dred and calamity are imagined if the candidate of their choice should not win. It pushes people into verbal wars on social media and in the marketplace.
Let’s face it, none of us wants to lose control. Fear of the unknown can drive us to do things we later regret. Yet this is how many people live.
In contrast, when the spirit of God lives in us, we don’t have to fear the future. Regardless of what is going on around us, God is still in control. His plan for us is still good and we can rest in that. Jesus said:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27
One way to supercharge peace in our lives is to keep a gratitude journal. The more we find to thank God for, the more we realize that He is in control.
When my daughter was a toddler, the “terrible twos” weren’t really so terrible. But things changed when she turned three. It’s not that she was hard to manage, but she was trying so hard to be independent and do everything for herself. I called it the “trying threes.”
I almost lost my “cool” many times as I knew she couldn’t put on her own shoes and tie them. But she had to be convinced of that through trial and error before she would allow me to help her. I was learning patience.
Isn’t that the way we are with God? We want to find out for ourselves that something won’t work before we finally get out of the way and let Him do what He has planned, in His way, in His time.
God is is the essence of patience. Jesus demonstrated it over and over with his disciples. Numerous times He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”, as it says in Mark 4:40. In the Old Testament, it tells us that God is “slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Exodus 34:6)
Kindness is one of the best gifts we can give anyone. It is free to give but is priceless for the one receiving it.
Kindness and gentleness are like cousins and usually are found in the same situations. When was the last time you were kind to someone? It feels good, doesn’t it?
Jesus was kind to those caught in sin when the religious leaders wanted to throw the book at them. Jesus did not scold the sinner. He simply helped them and said, “sin no more.”
Wikipedia, in Fruit of the Holy Spirit, says that “kindness is goodness in action.”
There are many synonyms for the word “good”: excellent, wonderful, favorable, great, positive, satisfying, valuable, perfect. You can probably think of situations that could be described using these words.
The opposite of “good” is: unacceptable, unsatisfactory, unpleasant, bad.
Many English Bibles take one Greek word, and translate it into either “kindness” or “goodness.” (1) The meanings in English are very closely related. Goodness is “a personal quality, with stress on the kindly (rather than the righteous) side of goodness.” (2)
Faithfulness is probably the one attribute of God that I appreciate the most since I have been both abandoned and abused. When promises are broken in marriage or family, we wonder who we can trust.
Being faithful means that God will never leave us even though others have. He will keep His promises even though others haven’t. God can be trusted. And as we develop the fruit of the spirit, we will in turn be that faithful, solid rock that others can trust.
God is gentle with us despite our many downfalls. He could strike us dead for our waywardness, but He doesn’t. Why? Because He remembers our frailties and weaknesses.
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:10-14
God is always willing and ready to restore us into fellowship with Himself. Likewise, we are instructed to treat each other with the same gentleness. (Galatians 6:1, 2 Peter 1:5-7)
This part of the fruit of the spirit is almost self-explanatory. As humans, it is hard sometimes to control our wants, desires, and reactions. So we may yell when we wished we hadn’t. Other times we may eat more than we should and regret it later. We easily waste time on social media and wonder why we don’t have time for other things. Truthfully, we have far less self-control than we want to admit. But the more we get to know God, His Spirit gives us the self-control we all need.
How to develop the fruit of the spirit
Since Jesus is the source of spiritual fruit, He is where we need to start. First and foremost, we need a personal relationship with Him. Then as we grow in our love for Jesus, we begin to have more and more of His fruit as part of our own character. The fruit of the Spirit is the result of God’s Spirit living in us.
If you don’t know Jesus, you probably have questions. The people at Chat About Jesus have answers. You can text, call, or chat with them online any time of the day or night.
It is not up to us to develop the fruit of the spirit within ourselves. Instead, it is a natural result of living a life in love with Jesus. That takes the pressure off us to perform. But it is a process and takes time.
Having love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is just a relationship away. Do you have this most important relationship in your life? Are you learning to love Jesus?
A gift and resource as you develop the fruit of the Spirit
If you like to color, this free printable Bible verse coloring page is for you. Or, you can use it as a black and white Scripture card. No email is required.
If coloring is one of your favorite things to do, The Creator’s Classroom has a much more detailed, 20 page Bible verse coloring collection available on the fruit of the spirit. It will give you many hours of enjoyment while you are developing the fruit of the Spirit in your life.
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