We have become accustomed to our ‘five-a-day’ fruit and vegetables, recommended for the health of our body and brain. The food we eat affects our frame and functions!
The Bible is the spiritual equivalent BUT there are nine of them! We find the ‘fruits of the spirit’ (as they are known) in Paul’s words to the Christians living in the first century in a place called Galatia – modern day Turkey.
His message to them was urgent – they were not to falter in their faith. Paul was encouraging them all to remain true to the gospel they had originally grasped. That they would stand firm in Christ, that he died to provide freedom from sin by his sacrifice, once and for all. But being free did not mean indulging their sinful nature, developing hatred, discord, sexual immorality, and such like. Their freedom in Christ was to serve one another, to develop spirituality and to mature in themselves the mind of Christ. And so, we come to the nine fruits of the spirit given in chapter 5 of Galatians. They are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.
To cultivate these is to develop our character, “to be transformed by the renewing of your mind” as Paul wrote to the believers in Rome (Romans12 v 2). This struggle to mind the things of the spirit is a thread throughout the Bible and is explicit in the New Testament books. The real emphasis is in being Christlike and then doing good will be the natural outcome. Let’s look at these lovely qualities of the Godly mind:
It’s so much more than good neighbourliness and brotherly kindness. It involves considering how Christ would’ve behaved and talked to any individual. It is unconditional, constant-caring, underpinned by the wisdom of God.
A contentment and happiness within, regardless of circumstances because we are certain of God’s care and purpose and his love and mercy, giving us a deep-seated security.
This involves an ease of mind, essentially untroubled by stresses and strains because we are confident that God is in control. “All things work together for good for those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose”. (Romans 8 v 28)
This quality is slow to anger, long-tempered with endurance. So it is unlikely to be hostile, give stinging remarks or angry glances! It’s a forgiving spirit too!
Essentially this is a genuine kindness of heart, not out of obligation or from a social motive. An attitude which makes allowances, has generosity and bears with the person, having empathy. Kindness can be inconvenient to the giver!
Not a bland, low-key quality. Rather, goodness combats ‘badness’. It works effectively against error, corruption and distortion, championing truth, judgement, and discernment.
This involves the realisation and certainty of what we hope for, it is a solid ground and carries conviction. Believers must believe! Faith needs to be personal and then it will transform our lives – because we know God exists “and rewards those who earnestly seek him”. (Hebrews 11 v 6)
Not timidity, nor weakness! Rather it is strength and control arising from our security in the Lord. Being empowered by God’s word. It is strength with gentleness because the true Christian is God-reliant and not out to impress.
An old-fashioned word for self-control but, really it is being controlled by the word of God, with its immense transforming power. “He who rules his spirit is better than he who takes a city”. (Proverbs 16 v 32) We need to control our thoughts which in turn influence our actions and habits.
Fruits often grow on trees and the person who develops the fruit of the spirit has often been likened to one! The very first psalm describes it:
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.” (Verse 1)
“That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.” (Verse 3)
And how do we do this?
“His delight is in the law of the Lord, and he meditates on His law day and night.” (Verse 2)