Galatians 5:22-25 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
Last week as I preached on the invitations of Jesus I shared that God wants us to live a satisfied life. In John 7:37-38 Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit as being like “Rivers of Living Water” that would flow through people to not only cleanse them, but like a current moves objects along, the Holy Spirit would move us along in Christ towards maturity, wholeness, completeness. That is why I also said, “The closer we are to Christ, through His Spirit, the most satisfied life we will live.” As we mature in Christ it becomes less about us. As we mature in Christ it becomes less about the things of this world. As we mature in Christ our eternal perspective increases and our earthly perspective decreases. Our heart’s passions shift from earthly to eternal. Our mind’s preoccupations shift from this world to the world to come. And as that happens, we have an increasing satisfaction, fulfillment and contentment.
Those thoughts captured my mind’s attention and stayed with me this week. It is more obvious than ever to me that the only way to grow up and out of myself is to grow up into Christ. If I don’t ever outgrow myself, but I stay tied to my wants, my desires, my way, my agenda, my comfort, my, my, my, I will never experience the true satisfaction, contentment and fulfillment that is promised to me through the Holy Spirit.
And as I ruminated on all of those ideas, I thought, “If God wants us to be content, the place where we most obviously see contentment or a lack of contentment is in our relationships with other people. Husbands and wives, parents and children, siblings with one another, extended family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc. How are your your relationships in your life right now? Are they producing contentment in your life?
The Lord took me to our text for today in Galatians 5:22-25 where we see not just how the Holy Spirit produces fruit in our lives for our individual benefit, but for the benefit of our relationships with other people which turns out to be for our benefit as well! The Fruit of the Spirit, as listed in this passage, isn’t just produced in us so that we can say we are becoming persons of character, but it is being produced in us so that as we possess this fruit it will be shared in relationship with other people in order to make the quality of our relationships the kind of relationships that will bring increased satisfaction into our lives! Yes, we are satisfied in Christ and by His Spirit, but He satisfies us in order that we can experience satisfaction in relationships with others as well! That is part of the abundant life Christ offers us.
If your relationships are draining, one-sided, two-faced, and drama-filled, if they are filled with anger, sarcasm, rejection, and disappointment, you aren’t going to experience satisfaction and abundant life.
You know how fruit can look good on the outside, but on the inside the core is rotten? How it may look like it would be sweet and juicy and when you take a bit it is hard and flavorless? Maybe some of our relationships look good on the outside. Maybe we can say the right things. Maybe other people would never know we lack contentment, but we know something isn’t right on the inside. We know we are edgy, selfish, controlling, unfulfilled, sad, disappointed, hurt, stingy, and disconnected whether with a spouse, our family or friends. I believe the Holy Spirit wants to do a work this morning on our core so that as His fruit flows in our lives, our relationships with others will produce lasting contentment and fulfillment in our lives.
When we think about the problems that plague our society like addictions and violence, we point to those behaviors as the problem. However, those behaviors are really the result of not having the Fruit of the Spirit at work in our lives. Without the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives, we will be self-focused instead of Spirit-led. When we are self-focused we will be selfish and self-centered. When that happens, we treat people poorly. When we treat people poorly and pain results in their lives they look for ways to escape from pain and to retaliate out of hurt and anger. Think of what could happen for each of us personally if we were dominated by the Fruit of the Spirit. How would it change us? Would we be so easily offended? Would bitterness have a chance to take root in our lives? How much easier would it be to forgive people? How would it lessen the impact when someone lets us down or intentionally try to cause us a problem? What I am proposing is that if the Fruit of the Spirit is growing in our lives we will see a huge reduction of all that is wrong in our world!
As we move through the message I don’t want you to think about the people you are in relationship with and how their fruit looks at the core. I don’t want you to evaluate where your family and friends may be lacking, where their fruit is rotten, but I challenge you to look at your own fruit and to honestly ask if you are sharing the Fruit of the Spirit with them! Let’s look at them one at a time.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfOcqlFkQvw (through 21 seconds)
But the fruit of the Spirit is LOVE. Remember, after the nine-fold fruit is listed, we are told to “keep in step with the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is a “River of Living Water” trying to move us to love better and more effectively. How is the fruit of love growing in your life, and how do you share that with other people? How could some of your relationships be transformed if you shared more love with people? Does your spouse know you love them? Do your children, your siblings, your best friends?
Love is probably the part of the Fruit of the Spirit that is best demonstrated in our closest relationships. It should abound in our homes. In a recent study of 750 couples with marital difficulties, the most commonly reported problem was a partner who was in love with himself or herself. (http://www.fifmi.org/content/fruit-spirit-marriage-workplace-and-business) Love has nothing to do with serving ourselves. It has to do with serving someone else.
True love is a “just because” kind of thing. When you express true love, you give to someone just because you love them with no hidden agenda, no strings attached. Christ demonstrated the perfect love of God the Father who died to demonstrate and prove His love to all who would receive it. Many people don’t. Maybe some of us won’t ever receive His love, however, He still acted toward us and gave His life for us. That is true love.
Too many marriages are relationships which look a lot like a game. People strategize ways to get their spouse to do what they want, and sometimes their gifts and acts of love toward one another are tarnished and shallow as a result. People may give, but there is a hidden agenda. That’s not love.
True love is an endearing kind of thing. When true love is expressed it builds people up. Relationships that are filled with criticism and sarcasm aren’t place where the fruit of Love is growing. Even when we have to say something tough, something challenging, we do so with a Spirit of Love (Eph. 4:15). Love makes people better. It is endearing when someone expresses love. It is endearing when someone speaks words of affirmation and encouragement. Words of appreciation, too, go a long way in communicating true love. Did you thank your spouse for anything this past week? Don’t you want to give more and do more when it is appreciated? It is even endearing when someone tells us what we need to hear when they do it with a spirit of genuine Love.
True love is not only endearing, but it is enduring as well. Our cultural aversion to commitment and our “easy come easy go” attitude is a real threat to marriages. In our disposable society, many spouses can walk on egg shells out of fear that if they do something wrong or don’t please the other spouse perfectly they will be done away with. While I do accept that there are many marriages that end in divorce due to an inability to get past betrayal, rejection, and all kinds of marital unfaithfulness, abuse, and addictions, we must take the “’til death do us part” vows seriously and do our part to reassure our spouse that we are in it for the long haul.
For those of you who are married here today, perhaps today you could ask your spouse, “How could I tell and show you more effectively that I love you?”
Love is the GREATEST force ever. The Bible says that “Love never fails.” (I Cor. 13:8) When two people are in a relationship and they love the way God loves us it will not fail. What a powerful example of how possessing and demonstrating the Fruit of the Spirit called love can transform your most intimate relationships.
I love that song! Couldn’t the world use some more happy people? Shouldn’t Christians be the most joyful of all? The second part of the fruit is JOY. Just as true love is possible because Christ has first loved us and demonstrated how we should love others, JOY flows through our lives because of Christ’s work in us as well. “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Does anyone remember the song “The Joy of the Lord is my Strength?” The second verse said, “He gives me Living Water, and I thirst no more!” There is a connection between being filled with the Spirit of God which is the Living Water Jesus talked about and experiencing strength that can help you still live with a sense of joy. When we have an anchor to the Holy Spirit we can have joy in the midst of life’s difficulties. When that happens, people say about us that we are strong people.
You see, joy isn’t dependent upon everything being butterflies and daisies. It hinges on us staying connected to what the Lord wants to do in and through us during all kinds of circumstances. Happiness is a feeling, but joy is an attitude and condition of our hearts. That’s why I may feel sad about a circumstance, but deep down I can be anchored to joy all at the same time.
What if we demonstrated that kind of joy all of the time? How could it impact our relationships? Ask yourself now, “Am I a ‘Debby Downer?’” Is it always about you and how bad things are? I’m not suggesting you should never be upset, hurt, frustrated or disappointed, but do complaining or worse yet, whining, do they characterize your life? Do they dominate your conversations?
Joy is attractive. Joy is contagious. Joy makes a home or workplace a desirable place to be. Joy puts other people at ease. Lots of people think they can expect someone else to make them happy, and that is why they get into certain relationships. That strategy isn’t a good because it is dependent on someone else. True joy comes from the Holy Spirit and is on the inside of us in order that we can live joyfully whether those around us make a positive contribution to our lives or not. Joy starts with God’s work in us. If we lose our joy because someone is late from work, forgot to do what we asked, or didn’t remember our birthday whose fault is that? Our response to other people is our responsibility, and I am learning as I am growing in Christ that I don’t have to lose my joy because of someone else’s actions.
Couldn’t I just get over something and keep my joy? Couldn’t I give grace and realize everyone makes mistakes and just hold on to my joy? Couldn’t I forgive and not let bitterness grow in my heart so that it strangles my joy? You know Satan is an assassin. (John 10:10) If he can’t get you to renounce Christ and to choose the way of evil and darkness, his next tactic is to try to make you miserable. He wants to rob and steal from you, and one way he does that is by trying to steal your joy.
Christians, this is one area of testing we may not even think about. We may be aware that Satan tries to get us to disconnect from Christ or to lie or cheat or to steal or make us jealous or tries to entice us toward a sexual sin or addictive behavior, but we may never consider one way he tries to steal from us it by stirring up drama in our relationships in an effort to steal our joy. Why? Because once you lose your joy, you aren’t very fun to live with. And when you aren’t very fun to live with other people start to seem more fun. And if Satan can steal your joy, he can put your marital relationship in jeopardy which he apparently loves to do. He can do the same thing in friendships. Be on your guard. A lack of joy in your life will really compromise all kinds of relationships.
You know a fast way to try to lose your joy is to try to change someone else. We want to change them into people who can make us happy. And then when we try to change them, and they don’t change we lose our joy. We blame other people because we aren’t “happy.” Listen, the person who stares back at you in the mirror is the only person you can fix.
How would it transform our relationships if we quit expecting others to make us happy and we lived to share our joy with other people instead? What if you adopted the mindset every morning that your goal was to share your joy with as many people as possible each day? How about choosing to smile? What about dwelling on the things we have to be thankful for? What about praising and worshipping God all throughout the week? How about complimenting others or doing something nice for others even when we are going through a rough time ourselves? As we share our joy, it multiplies. It’s a spiritual phenomenon. We gain more joy by giving it away!
Let me show you something. John 15 is the whole chapter about how Jesus is the Vine, and we are the branches. Jesus has a whole discourse for His disciples about how they are to stay connected to Him, abiding in Him, learning from Him, imitating Him, etc. He says that when they do, they will “bear much fruit.” (John 15:8) He then goes on in verse 11 to list one of the fruit that will grow in our lives if we stay connected to Him. Listen to John 15:11: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
It is God’s will that His joy, perfect joy, be in us. Joy will help us be satisfied and complete. We won’t have to count on someone else to bring us presents, tell us we look pretty, call us a certain number of times per week or take us somewhere special. We will just be joyful because we are abiding in Christ. Let me tell you, when you possess the fruit of joy, other people will want to get to know you. They will be drawn to you because you won’t just be up one day and down the next. Your joy will give other people confidence in you. You see, joy gives you steady energy and strength that you can use to invest in your marriage relationship or in friendship with others.
I think there are many unsaid words in marriages today because one person is afraid of how the other person will react if something is brought up that needs to be discussed. Because their spouse is happy one day and angry the next, there is no predictability and therefore a lack of trust in the maturity of the spouse. But when someone allows the Holy Spirit to develop joy in their lives which testifies they can handle some tough stuff and still be someone you can live with, the spouse who needs to bring something up isn’t afraid to do so.
If you are married, maybe ask your spouse today, “Is there anything you are uneasy to bring up that we should talk about?”
Let me share this lyric with you:
Peace, peace. Wonderful peace coming down from the Father above.
Sweep over my spirit forever I pray in fathomless billows of love.
Love that song because it reminds me that peace isn’t something I can obtain on my own, but I possess through a gift of God’s Spirit. Maybe if the writer of “What the World Needs Now” was writing a new song the title would be, “What the World Needs Now is Peace.” Our homes need peace. Our schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces need peace. Our world needs peace.
How could it transform our relationships if our goal was to be at peace with all people? Are you a peacemaker in your home? I’m not saying you should be a doormat. I’m not saying you should accept disrespect or abuse. I’m not saying you should enable bad behavior to keep someone happy or to avoid conflict. Peace isn’t just an internal posture of our souls, but it is an approach we can take to life.
I offer this definition of peace: Peace is the absence of worry and drama. Does anyone need less of those things? Peace flows out of truth and trust. When I live in God’s truth and trust His intentions and direction for my life, I can live in peace. In your marriages and friendships if you can be honest and trust the other person has your best interest at heart, you can live in peace. You can offer peace to your friends and spouse when you choose to walk in truth and extend trust. Relationships, whether marital or friendships or even working relationships can be compromised when people aren’t willing to be honest and when people intentionally hide or falsify information. Are you honest with your friends and family? With your spouse?
When there isn’t honest, loving communication in a marriage there will be fear. People will be on edge. Fighting, keeping score, and demanding your way will become instinct rather than exercising the fruit of the Spirit which involves patience, gentleness and self-control which we will talk about in the coming weeks.
When there isn’t peace in the workplace there is gossip and a lack of teamwork. Peace produces common ground when it comes to decision-making. When there is peace, co-workers trust and support one another.
People who possess the Fruit of Peace are committed to being part of solutions rather than problems. They are willing to overlook some idiosyncrasies and habits. They don’t need to be right or win an argument, but they seek to understand where others are coming from.
If there is yelling and screaming going on in our homes, we are lacking the fruit of peace in our lives. It doesn’t matter how “wrong” we perceive someone is. We may be totally right about them being totally wrong. Rude, disrespectful, inflammatory words, swearing, punching walls, slamming doors, storming out of rooms are not Christ-like. Beyond that, though they happen in an instant, they leave a lasting impression and contribute to instability, fear, and worry which rob others of their peace. All part of Satan’s plan.
Can we learn to give people the benefit of the doubt some more? Can we quit rushing to judgment and jumping to conclusions? You know what often robs us of our peace? Trying to predict how other people will act or react to something. Some of you know what I am talking about because Thanksgiving Dinner with extended family raises your blood pressure when you try to predict who will say what and who will upset whom.
Can we let the Holy Spirit take control of the volume of our voices and the animated way we respond to people? Can we pray about more and ask God to give us His peace in every circumstance? How would it change the tough conversations we sometimes have to have with a friend, a co-worker, or a spouse if we prayed, “God produce your peace, lasting peace in this situation and as a result of this upcoming conversation, and will You use me to be a peacemaker?”
Just like love and joy come from abiding in Christ, so does peace. Do you have peace with God? If you do, then your desire should be peace with other people.
If you are married, I encourage you to ask your spouse, “How would you rate the peacefulness in our home on a scale of one to ten?”
You see, if we are growing up into Christ, that is, if we are growing in the Holy Spirit, it is going to impact our relationships first. If you need more love, more joy, or more peace, the Holy Spirit is here to offer you fruit that will transform not only you, but all of your relationships as well.
God wants you to experience contentment in your earthly relationships. Will you join me today in praying for transformation in our homes, schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces?