A Fruitful Character
Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
I squinted up at the spotted green apple hanging just out of reach and considered whether it was really worth the effort of trying to pick. Equally spotted and unappetizing fruit dotted the tree here and there, for a total of maybe six apples. The tree’s leaves looked just as unfortunate, speckled with brown spores, which obviously signaled some sort of disease.
I looked back at the house, as if gauging the distance, sighed and finally decided to just gently bend the branch down till I could grab the nearest apple, rather than trudge back to the house and retrieve a ladder from the garage.
I looked the fruit over for worm holes and finding none, wiped it on my sleeve, and bit into the apple. It was not good! It tasted mealy and sour. Upon inspecting our other, smaller apple tree, I found it had produced nothing and had the same spotted, curling leaves.
My husband and I purchased our home last year, and one reason we chose it was for the lovely, garden-like backyard. The previous owners planted a variety of trees, including the two apple trees and a pear tree. There are also multiple flower beds, a raised garden bed, and even two grape vines.
I’ve been researching how to take care of it all, especially the fruit trees and the grape vines, and I’ve learned that fruit producing trees and plants need a great deal of care and cultivation. In fact, more experienced local gardeners whom I’ve turned to for insight have informed me that they avoid planting fruit trees for exactly that reason.
Fruit trees must be carefully pruned during dormancy each year to train and guide their growth. You cut off the dead and less fruitful branches to allow the tree to give more nutrients to the stronger, better producing limbs. You must also fertilize and treat diseases at specific times. Our trees should have received a preventative treatment for leaf curl disease last spring.
The most interesting tidbit of information I’ve acquired is that it takes several years of careful cultivation before fruit trees begin to produce, and even more surprising, they need several other fruit trees, preferably a variety, planted in close proximity to produce well. A single fruit tree is unlikely to ever produce well because it needs to be cross pollinated with others.
People in Jesus’s time would have understood all this, living in a region where they grew figs, olives and grapes, which is why He, and His apostles in their epistles, used growing fruit as an analogy for developing faith and producing spiritual gifts and character traits.
Believers need to carefully cultivate faith by growing in our knowledge of the scriptures, which serve as our spiritual fertilizer and disease preventative. We develop our spiritual maturity by planting ourselves in close proximity to other believers who have a variety of gifts and strengths to help prune and guide us in our walk by setting us an example, giving us sound advice, and sharing their gifts.
Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, told His followers to beware of false prophets and said they would be recognized by their “fruits.” In Matthew 6:17-19 (ESV) He says, “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
The apostle Paul describes the good fruit of a believer in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – that’s a daunting list! A person would have to be perfect in order to demonstrate all those character traits consistently. Fortunately, they aren’t called the fruit of humans, but the fruit of the Spirit, and I am eternally grateful to the Father for supplying us with His own Spirit (Ephesians 1:13, 3:16) to supplant our own and give us provision and guidance in bearing such attributes.
In one devotion I read last month, the writer focused on Galatians 5:22-23 and encouraged the reader to consider which fruit of the Spirit he or she would like “to live out to a greater degree.” At the time, I chose gentleness, and I made a note in my prayer journal saying that the other fruits would assist me in cultivating gentleness because they all work together.
If you look at the list again, you can see that they do all work together, just as different types of fruit trees, when planted in close proximity, help to strengthen and support one another.
Upon further reflection I believe I need to work on patience and self-control, as well as gentleness. I feel that if I can cultivate more patience, it will lead to greater self-control, which will, in turn, yield gentleness, because ultimately, my temper is what gets the best of me most of the time, and it most often flares up out of impatience.
We all have a fruit of the Spirit that we need to cultivate to a great degree, but I think it’s also important to look back on our faith journey and see how much we’ve improved from where we started. If we only focus on our weaknesses without giving ourselves credit for our strengths, discouragement can set in.
We have to show ourselves grace and realize that we’ll never perfectly produce all the fruits of the Spirit all the time, but as we mature in the faith, we should display most of them consistently most of the time, and as 1 Peter 4:8 tells us love, the first fruit on the list, “covers a multitude of sins.” And we are most fortunate in that God loves us. (John 3:16, Ephesians 2:4,5)
As you consider the list of the fruits of the Spirit, which one would you like to “live out to a greater degree”? Which ones will help you most in cultivating the one you chose? Which is your strongest?
Our heavenly Father, we thank you most heartily for giving us the gift of Your Spirit to guide us through this life. As we reflect on the character traits, the “fruit,” of Your Spirit, please help us to cultivate them within ourselves and to identify the fruit we most need to produce. We ask that you please help us to let go of our pride and yield ourselves completely to You in all things, following the direction of Your will and purpose for us, so that we may reflect Your character into the world. In Jesus Christ’s holy and precious name, amen.