When God promises us peace, he doesn’t mean that he will make all our problems go away. In fact, when Jesus told his disciples that he was giving them his peace, he also said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Good soil. Good fruit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. – Gal 5:22-23
Just as trees don’t produce fruit overnight, we don’t become perfect human beings as soon as we begin following Christ. The growth of the fruit of the Spirit in us is a process. And while this process is going on, we experience the struggle described in Gal 5:17 – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit opposing each other so that we sometimes want the wrong things and at other times want good things but fail to do them.
So, how do we walk in the Spirit and get the fruit of the Spirit growing in us? The first thing to remember is that we can’t produce this fruit in us by our own effort. It is something that the Holy Spirit does in us. But, as the parable of the sower reminds us, the environment that we are in has an impact on our bearing fruit. In that parable, only the seed that fell on good soil grew to produce fruit. The plants that grew in rocky and thorny soil died before reaching the fruit-bearing stage. We need to ensure that we are staying in an environment that promotes the growth of the fruit of the Spirit.
In the parable of the sower, the two barriers to fruitfulness were a lack of roots (rocky soil) and a preoccupation with the world (thorny soil). We develop roots by investing in knowing God more and deepening our relationship with him. Christianity is about a relationship with God, not following a bunch of rules. We shouldn’t be content with remaining baby Christians who just know a little bit about God. We should seek to get to know him better. And being in a relationship with God means being preoccupied with Him rather than with the world, which was the thorny soil problem. We shouldn’t be running after wealth, status, power or the other things that the world runs after, but we’re to be seeking to please God. That change in priorities is a reflection of the new nature that we are given when we come to Christ.
Over time, Christians have found certain practices or spiritual disciplines that help keep us in a good environment to grow. The book “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster lists the following disciplines.
- Inward disciplines : prayer, fasting, meditation, study
- Outward disciplines : simplicity, solitude, submission, service
- Corporate disciplines : confession, worship, guidance, celebration
As Foster says in the book, “By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done. They are God’s means of grace. The inner righteousness we seek is not something that is poured out on our heads. God has ordained the disciplines of the spiritual life as the means by which we place ourselves where he can bless us…. The grace of God is unearned and unearnable, but if we ever expect to grow in grace, we must pay the price of a consciously chosen course of action which involves both individual and group life. Spiritual growth is the purpose of the Disciplines”
Do we take pains to cultivate a good environment where the fruit of the Spirit can grow in our lives?