Last week, we looked at the passage about the houses built on rock and on sand and spoke about our lives being built on listening to and acting on the words of Jesus. How has that gone for you this week? Have you been able to see a difference in how you are able to handle things when you have tried to do that more? I said in my blog last week that we would be coming back to the fruits of the Spirit this week as we live out our lives on very different frontlines to what we are used to. As disciples, even ones who are unable to meet together with other disciples, we should still be growing more like Jesus, learning more about him and finding ways to share him with those around us.
Galatians 5 first talks about the freedom that we find when we are ‘in Christ’ and asks the question to the church in Galatia about why, when they were initially running a good race, they stopped and listened to someone else and end up being thrown into confusion. Paul then says that we are called to be free but that freedom doesn’t mean that we can live indulging the flesh. He talks about what life in the flesh looks like and how we live when we set out to please ourselves and live in our own strength. He then goes on to say:
22 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.
So, how are you doing?
Just spend some time thinking about your situation right now.
Love: Are you showing love to those you are in communication with? How?
Joy: Tough one this one. I admitted last week to being really quite grumpy. Where are you finding joy and where are you giving it?
Peace: Do you experience peace even in the difficult situations you now find yourself?
Patience: Another tough one for me! How are you responding having to stay at home or to repeat yourself over and over again or ask for the 100th time for something to be done?
Kindness: Do you respond to others in kindness?
Goodness: How is goodness being displayed in your life right now?
Faithfulness: Are you being faithful in all your relationships, in thought as well as action?
Gentleness: Is your gentleness evident to all who you are connecting with?
Self-control: Are you managing to control your mood, your behaviour, your thoughts?
If the answer to any of these is not what you would have it be (and I’m presuming that for all of us, there will be some that aren’t!), what can we do about it?
We could try harder. For all of us, I’m sure that putting a bit more effort into each of these things would bring some change. We could make ourselves a bit kinder, we could practice self-control more deliberately and we would see some improvement.
Do you know what, though? My knowledge of trees isn’t that great but I’m pretty certain that they don’t spend all day every day trying really hard to grow fruit! The fruit grows when the conditions are as they should be. The right amount of sun, water and carbon dioxide develop healthy roots and enable the tree to grow as it should and as it grows, to develop fruit.
What does that mean for us? You may know the Parable of the Sower where the farmer sowed seed which landed in different types of soil. There was the path where the seeds were just trampled on and eaten up, the stones which stopped the seed from taking root and gave them no protection from the sun so they withered, the thorns which choked and suffocated the seeds as they grew and the good soil where growth happened. We spoke last week about foundations and here we see similarly how important it is that we have our roots in the right kind of soil in order to be able to grow and develop as disciples of Jesus. That wonderful passage from Ephesians 3 about the love of Jesus being wide and long and high and deep in the Living Bible translation talks about our roots going ‘down deep in the soil of God’s marvellous love’. Doesn’t that sound just wonderful? Why would you want your roots anywhere but there?
A slightly different analogy is shown in John 15 where we hear Jesus saying that he is the vine and we are the branches and he tells us that we have to ‘remain in him’ in order to bear fruit. We already talked about the idea of being ‘in Christ’ from the beginning of the Galatians passage and the freedom that comes from being in him. Here we see that not only freedom but also growth comes from being in him. As branches attached to the vine, as the vine gets sustenance from the roots, so do we. It is in being attached to the vine that we get all that we need and the fruit grows as a result of that rather than as a result of our effort.
So we remain in Jesus – we work on our relationship with him as we talk to him in prayer, read his word and act on it, allowing it to go deep in our hearts rather than just in one ear and out the other – and we will bear fruit.
- We will become more loving.
- We will find joy in the seemingly mundane lives we currently have to live.
- We will experience peace even in hard times.
- We will find patience to deal with the hundredth question or the waiting to leave our houses.
- We will be able to be kind when we don’t necessarily feel like it.
- We will show God’s goodness in the way that we live.
- We will be able to be faithful in all our relationships, in thought as well as in action.
- We will respond with gentleness in our conversations with others.
- We will be able to exercise self-control the way we think, speak and act even when it’s tough.
I want that. Do you?
The other wonderful thing that struck me about these passage this week is that, if we are all ‘in Christ’ and ‘in the vine’ then even in our forced separation physically, we are still all together! I love that. We are connected, even now! Isn’t that great?
So this week, by all means try to be better in the way you respond to others but focus on Jesus and developing your relationship with him and watch the fruit grow ‘all by itself’!
And now I leave you with my prayer for you and a benediction from Ephesians 3:
When I think of the wisdom and scope of his plan, I fall down on my knees and pray to the Father of all the great family of God—some of them already in heaven and some down here on earth— that out of his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you the mighty inner strengthening of his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts, living within you as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love; and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up with God himself.
Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. May he be given glory forever and ever through endless ages because of his master plan of salvation for the Church through Jesus Christ.