God not only calls us to walk in truth but He also wants us to walk in love and the rest of the fruit of the Spirit: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (see Galatians 5:22–23). We are called to stand on life-giving truth but also be gracious in how we share that truth and interact with other people.
The fruit of the Spirit are called that because they are a result of God working in us. So, these fruits come into our lives in a greater way as we grow in a greater connection to Christ. The Bible also calls us to work toward these areas—to aim for them—over and over again. It tells us to work toward peace, to walk in love, and to be kind.
Early in my ministry, I had the mistaken idea that spiritual maturity looked like intensity, but now I’ve come to understand it looks a lot more like graciousness and the fruit of the Spirit.
Imagine a person with a whole lot of love, a whole lot of joy, a whole lot of peace, and a whole lot of kindness. Who doesn’t want to be around a person like that? People are drawn to such a person. I’ve never met an encourager who didn’t have any friends. People will be drawn to us when we grow in these ways. We will also gain influence with the world around us—our families, neighborhoods, workplaces, our world—that will help us point them to the truth of the gospel.
Our world needs to see more of this in us. It’s been said that Christians have become known more for what they are against than for what they are for. Part of the problem is that we are the first generation of Christians in history to have an “online megaphone” through social media, where we can post our thoughts about everything that is going on in the world, with hundreds or thousands of people, without thinking too hard about how we are representing our faith. It’s more important than ever for us to learn the important balance of life-giving truth and remarkable love. We need to learn to influence our world the way Jesus does.
The fruit of the Spirit are not simply cardboard cutouts we learned about in Sunday School, but rather are powerful life traits that have the capacity to change and transform every aspect and relationship in our lives. Love is the beginning and the cornerstone of the fruit of the Spirit, and then joy follows.
God not only calls us to truth; He also calls us to joy. One of the exciting results of receiving Christ into our lives is the great joy we experience. Joy is essential in the life of a Christian. As Paul states in Philippians 4:4, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (NLT).
But obstacles can arise that try to steal our joy in Christ. Some of these include:
· The temptation to compare ourselves to others
· Loss or suffering and the uncertainty that it brings
· Toxic attitudes in those around us
· Busyness and stress
· Lack of true connection and community
But ultimately, our lack of joy will come from distance between us and Christ—whether this is as a result of unrepentant sin, unforgiveness, complacency, or failure to spend time with God. The closer we get to Jesus, the more joy we will experience.
We need to move away from whatever it is that steals our joy in Christ and move toward our simple joy and love for the Lord and for others. When we lean into the joy Jesus gives us, we will gain influence with people around us: our family, our neighborhood, our workplace, and our world.
Think about the experience you had when you first met Christ. Who influenced your decision to follow Him? What in that person’s life drew you to seek a relationship with Jesus?
What obstacles cause you to lose your joy? How do these create distance in your relationship with Jesus? What steps can you take to move closer to Him?
Who in your life needs to experience genuine joy? How can you point them to Christ?