The lesson this week is on the subject of the fruits of the Spirit. It is, arguably, the loveliest lesson of the whole quarter for it reminds us that, while traveling along the Christian way, the Holy Spirit works to produce in believers certain qualities of character that make it possible, even enjoyable, for them all to live together in happy association. Truth is, we are all made with individual personalities, with our own senses of being. These are things that make us unique as individuals. And they come to us by way of creation and redemption, for just as we have individuality by creative design, we have it also by re-birth. And those differences, while they are necessary and make life diverse, they are also the source of difficulty. We rub against each other because of our differences.
One does not have to be around a church community for too long in order to discover that some of these rubbings together can be harsh. Church communities are known for their capacity to engage in conflict. (Actually, the reasons for this are clear. People are dealing with the understanding of ultimate things. Such opinions matter a great deal). In order for believers to live peaceably together, something has to be done to facilitate that. Among other things, it is the production of the various fruits of the Spirit.
Several things about the fruits of the Spirit should come up for consideration. First, they are all beautiful, lovely things. That is not to say they are all soft, but they are all beautiful. They are enduring, like the mountains. And where they are in abundance in the lives of believers, it may be truly said that their church is spirit-filled!
It is often the case that these fruits are produced in silence, and in the process of living. In other words, the fruits of the Spirit are usually not produced in some spectacular venue. They grow quietly in the lives of believers as they go about the business of walking with God. It can be said that they first appear in people’s lives because the Holy Spirit put them there. But they show up in near-embryonic form. As they are tended and used, they grow. As occasions arise in which they are called into use, they grow. Over the whole of a life, they mature until, in aggregate, they have the effect of producing a person who exhibits wonderful qualitites of character, who is formed after the similitude of Christ.
A further note about the growth of the fruits of the Spirit seems in order. Situations that make them grow can often be trying. Patience is grown when having to deal with aggravating circumstances or people. Faith is grown when assurance is needed by not readily available. Hope is called for when prospects look dim. If you pray for the fruits of the Spirit, don’t be surprised if you find yourself caught in struggle.
Take some time to study the various fruits listed in Galatians 5:22, 23. Give some time to discussing the parameters of each one of them:
Love: In its finest sense, love is principled. It is a kindly loyalty to a person that sustains whatever the circumstance. It rises above emotions and operates in spite of them. Love is the greatest of virtues.
Joy: Joy is an inner contentment that comes from knowing that God is good and, in His hands, we will be alright no matter the circumstances. Joy is a state of mind that cannot be taken. It does not always produce happy feelings.
Peace: Peace is similar to joy. It is a deeply abiding contentment that cannot be easily disrupted. It comes from being confident in God.
Long-suffering: This is a long and enduring patience in the face of aggravation. It has elements of endurance, constancy, steadfastness, and slowness in avenging wrongs. It rows from the realization that God has been long-suffering with us.
Gentleness: This is a quality like kindness. It is the absence of harshness. It is the capacity of the strong to be kind and not rough, to exercise self-restraint..
Goodness: This is a moral quality that is the opposite of evil. Goodness refers to the quality of staying away from, having no desire to be involved with, evil.
Faith: Faith is the willingness to believe even against great odds. It is built on evidence and recognizes that evidence is seldom coercive. Faith is trust.
Question for Discussion:
- How do you think we can help grow the fruits of the Spirit in our lives?
- Do you have a story that would illustrate the power of a Holy Spirit fruit to bless humanity?
- Which of the fruits of the Spirit do you think is the hardest one to grow?