Betty has been bugging me for some time to publish nine short stories based on the nine fruit of the Spirit. Those stories were the first fruits of what God was growing in me and what has become Lambchow. They were written in December 2003 and early 2004. I’ve been putting it off mostly because I see how rough around the edges they are. Each story portrays one of the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23 and how they can be given away. As we enter this series on the fruit of the Spirit, it is time to revisit them again.
Writing and teaching about the Fruit of the Spirit is like preaching on John 3:16. It’s a familiar set of verses that most everyone has encountered or been taught about at some point in time, probably more than once. There are innumerable books and Bible studies using the nine fruit as their outline. I think that the difference between this series of articles that we are about to embark on is the focus. Many teachings and studies look at growing the fruit in our lives for our use. We all want more love, more joy, more peace, more patience..more self-control. This series will look at the fruit from a different perspective – how can we grow fruit to give away.
One of the joys of growing something is giving it to someone. I love to give away my apples each fall. My father-in-law loved to give away his sweet corn when it came ready. The same applies to the nine fruit. I believe the context leads us to this outward facing, fruit giving away, purpose. Paul compares and contrasts the “deeds of the flesh” with the “fruit of the Spirit.” Paul writes, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19–21, NASB95) These “deeds of the flesh” are evident. they can be seen and felt as they burst out of the heart to affect others. Is it then so much of a stretch to see the fruit of the Spirit – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” – as also being deeds that are evident as they burst out of our heart?
There are a few others verses that speak of this thought of fruit-bearing. The psalmist writes of those that delight in God’s law, “He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:3, NASB95) Fruit happens. With the right environment fruit just happens, an apple tree can’t help but produce apples if the conditions are right. If our spiritual walk seems unfruitful, we may need to check out where we are planted. By that, I don’t mean what church family you’re in, but each moment by moment choice you make. Even then, it may just be a matter of time; each fruit comes in its season, at its own time. Think about it, strawberries come ready in mid to late spring, raspberries, and blackberries in mid-summer. Depending on the variety, apples can be ready anywhere from late summer to late fall. Each fruit in its season. Jesus also reminds us that fruit-bearing is part of our relationship with Him. In fact, we can’t even bear fruit apart from Him. Jesus taught, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1–2, NASB95) And, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NASB95) We can get stressed out about fruit. We look at our lives and we just don’t see it. Relax. As long as you stay connected to Jesus fruit happens.
This series of articles will unfold in reverse order. Meaning, we are going to start with self-control and work towards love. Paul doesn’t indicate why he ordered things they way he did. Love is obviously important and in many ways contains the rest of the nine fruit. But in practical matters, while all the fruit is growing in us, the first-fruit we bear is often self-control. I don’t mean that we are fully there but that a few “apples” of self-control quickly ripen after we accept Jesus. Our habits, perhaps even our words, change seemingly overnight as we begin to lay down the old life and begin to live in our new life. This is not a hard and fast rule but a general observation. For each fruit, we will look at how we can encourage it to grow, what the real fruit looks and tastes like, and how we can give it away to others. As a bonus, there will be a link at the bottom of each article to the corresponding short-story from 2004 that I spoke about at the top of this introduction. My hope and prayer are that this study and those old stories will bless you and encourage the ripening of more fruit in our lives.