We have been told of the many benefits we will enjoy if we follow this regime, as well as the serious health conditions we may avoid.
The Bible talks less of the fruit that we should be putting into our bodies and more about the fruit we, as Christians, should be displaying in our lives.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
This is a very challenging verse. This “fruit” is defined as a list of desirable qualities that should be evidence of the Spirit living and working in us.
We can’t think of love without immediately being reminded of the One who personifies love. “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and His Son displayed God’s love for all to see, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:16).
His life shows us the all-encompassing nature of love. No one was exempt from benefitting. He healed, helped, forgave and served.
His death shows us the sacrificial nature of love, “but God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). There was nothing in us to deserve God’s love and yet Christ gave Himself willingly.
We can show God’s love to others in the way that we love those around us, in the way that we serve others and in sacrificing our own desires, time or resources. The everyday tasks that we perform can become labours of love, given freely without expecting anything in return – washing, drying and folding clothes; dropping off and collecting our children; preparing and cooking meals.
Small acts of kindness can be signposts to the much greater love of our Saviour – a “thinking of you” message to a friend; shopping for an elderly neighbour; a meal handed in to someone who is ill.
His perfect example is what we are commanded to imitate: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
We all feel unhappy at times. Life can be difficult. The joy mentioned here is not a happy feeling; it is not dependent on circumstances or even feelings. Instead, joy is an attitude which is firmly rooted in our faith in Christ.
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). In these words of Christ we see that He alone is the source of our joy and that we may experience “fullness of joy” by keeping His commandments. Therefore displaying the characteristic of love will result in the characteristic of joy being evident in our lives.
Psalm 16:11 reveals that spending time in God’s presence will also bring us joy: “In Your presence is fullness of joy.” Reading and studying the Bible, discussing spiritual matters and praying can help us stay close to the source of joy which will ultimately help us to demonstrate this quality.
Joy can also be found in the trials of life: “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2). Understanding that God is working in us to produce Christlikeness can turn our thoughts away from our difficult circumstances and towards the knowledge of His perfect plan for us, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:28-29).
Life in our busy household is often hectic. We might think that peace can only be felt when little ones are tucked up in bed and we have those precious moments of quietness. Peace is usually thought of as an absence of noise and busyness or a tranquil state of surroundings or mind but the peace in view here is shown in our attitudes and reactions despite what is going on around us.
As Christians, we experienced peace with God at the moment we were saved, “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). His finished work at Calvary has secured our forgiveness and restored our relationship with God.
Displaying peace thereafter is not characterised by lack of activity or a quiet environment – the Christian life is often busy with service. However peace should always be evident, even in the busyness of life. When going through difficult times, Jesus promises, “in Me, you . . . have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We can rest totally on Him, knowing He is ultimately in control. Not only that, but we can face the future with confidence. He said, “My peace I give to you . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
As a mum of five children, longsuffering, often translated as patience, is something that I should have plenty of practice in, but it is frequently lacking in the day-to-day grievances of my life! Patience is not waiting for something good to happen but rather enduring the difficult times. We should be slow to anger and quick to forgive. We should be willing to put up with people who naturally annoy or frustrate us, and with our circumstances, whether it is our everyday, regular battles, like ensuring our children eat healthily or dealing with illness or suffering. These trials, that we have already come across when thinking of joy, have the ultimate goal in producing patience and making us well-rounded Christians, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:3-4).
In today’s society there is a popular phrase, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” This should be especially true of us, as Christians. We can look at the Lord’s perfect life as our example and see the kindness and compassion that He impartially showed to all. He did not turn any away; no one was exempt from His love and mercy. He taught that we should not judge others but that we should treat others the way that we would like to be treated: “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
It might be easy to show kindness to those whom we like or those who share our values and beliefs, but we should treat everyone with kindness. We must be ready to listen without judging, willing to forgive and not hold a grudge. We are not only to excuse wrong that has been done to us but to repay it with kindness (Romans 12:20). We must try to discipline our children with a soft, calm voice; act with grace to someone who has spoken harshly to us; and refuse to retaliate to unjust accusations or hurtful actions. This might seem like an impossible task until we view it in the knowledge of what we have been forgiven from and the many blessings that we have received in Christ!
The Bible speaks of goodness as the opposite of evil, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
As Christians, we are constantly battling against sin, the flesh and the devil. We should avoid all evil thoughts and actions and guard ourselves against evil things. We can do this most effectively by thinking and doing things that are good. Philippians 4:8 encourages us to fill our minds with things that are good and true and pure. Spending time reading and meditating on God’s Word has a cleansing effect on our minds and this will be shown out in our actions.
This leads on to the instruction we are given in Galatians 6:10 to “do good to all.” We should be known as those who are always willing to help and to go the extra mile for others. We should be looking for opportunities to be helpful and useful. Reaching out to mums who are shy or struggling; spending time getting to know families who are experiencing hardship; and speaking a kind word to people who are marginalized are just some of the ways we can display goodness. In doing so, we are also teaching our children what goodness looks like and encouraging them to behave in the same way.
God’s faithfulness is a known reality in our experience as Christians but how can we show faithfulness in our everyday lives? We should be those that can be trusted and counted on for doing what we said we would do. If we say that we will visit someone or pray for them, then we should do it. When we take on responsibilities, we should fulfil them every time. We must keep to our word so that our reputation amongst those who know us should be one of honesty and trustworthiness. It should be surprising if we don’t turn up or we miss out on doing something we have committed to.
We can be encouraged by the Lord’s words recorded in Luke 16:10 that just doing the little things and doing them regularly and well is enough: “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much.”
In 1 Peter 3:4, wives are encouraged to show a “gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” It is not popular in today’s society, particularly for women, to quietly help others and stay out of the limelight; it is expected that we should promote ourselves. However, God’s standards are very different to those of the world. We should endeavour to think of others before ourselves and foster a pleasant atmosphere ensuring the happiness of everyone else.
Gentleness should not be mistaken for weakness; rather, it is power used to serve others. Paul describes disciplining in the “spirit of gentleness” in 1 Corinthians 4:21 as an alternative to using a rod. It was necessary for him to correct the Christians in Corinth who were dishonouring God but he could choose the right way to do it. It is tempting to let our children get away with things that we know are wrong and overlook things for an easy life! On the other hand, it is also easy to lose our tempers and be too harsh. We should be ready to correct them when necessary, but in a gentle way, which shows our love for them.
The final quality in the list is that of self-control. We are instructed to keep our fleshly desires in check and exercise discipline over every craving – sleep, food, lust, even caffeine! Paul uses the analogy of an athlete in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 to illustrate just how much effort is required to keep our bodies under control. Just like an athlete, we need to train ourselves to say “No!” to the things which will impede our progress. It is a difficult and time-consuming task which we need to practise regularly. I struggle to stay on track for any more than a few weeks with an exercise and healthy eating regime, but this spiritual exercise is so much more important.
As we have seen already, many of these qualities are intertwined. Controlling ourselves will allow many of the other qualities to flourish in our lives. For example, ensuring we have the right amount of sleep will help us to be more patient which in turn might help us to show kindness, goodness and gentleness! The opposite is also true – indulging in the things of the flesh can hinder the growth of some of these characteristics. I have certainly proved that sleep deprivation can result in irritability and frustration! Living a life in which our impulses are under control can guard us from “being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8 ESV).
As Christians, our desire should be to strive towards enabling the fruit of the Spirit to grow and flourish. The presence or absence of these features in our life can give us a quick spiritual health review, allowing us to address any deficiencies that we may have. They should be the evidence of us ‘walking in the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:16) and allowing Him full control of our lives. Just as my children have tried to keep in time with my steps while we have been walking, we should aim to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25 ESV). We must allow Him to set the pace and direction of our walk and in doing so help us towards our ultimate goal of bringing glory to God and making us more like our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.