Originally published Monday, 15 August 2016.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 NIV
In college, I had a friend who was the absolute picture of sweetness. She completely amazed me because she was a very new Christian, but she just exuded this beautiful grace and light that was straight from the Holy Spirit. Then there was me. I was privileged to grow up attending church and having access to some great Biblical teaching. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t believe that Jesus was God’s Son who came to forgive me from my sins through His death on the cross and resurrection. But I’m pretty sure the moment I popped out into this world, heaven gasped, braced itself, and sent an extra work crew down just for me. Even as a child I was well aware of my need for forgiveness, grace, and every ounce of God’s help. In short, I’ve always been a bit of a mess!
In my messy quest to access the stuff Scripture promises us, like the fruit of the Spirit, I came across two schools of thought. One said the fruit of the Spirit is entirely the work of God in your heart, so all you need to do is sit back and watch God work in your life. Perhaps you could pray for the fruit of the Spirit, but that was about all the involvement you could have. The other school of thought said that you just needed to work harder at it. I tried both and neither was fruitful!
As I prayed and sought the Lord’s direction for how He meant for me to walk in the Spirit instead of the flesh, I came to understand that while Scripture gives us two lists that describe both modes of living, the lists were sort of like two separate destinations. It didn’t work like an on/off switch. It wasn’t like the Bible was saying, “If you don’t do witchcraft, then you will have joy” or “If you don’t go to wild drunken sex parties, then you will have peace.” Peace and joy and love were one direction I could walk towards, and the other stuff was in the opposite direction.
The hitch in my spiritual get-along centered around a tangle of unsanctified emotions. Discouragement ruled where joy should have reigned. Stress sucked the peace right out from under me. Anger and irritation zapped the patience I was meant to harvest. So God and I went on this journey to prune and weed out the emotional baggage that hindered His Spirit. And slowly, there was heart space for His harvest. Gradually, I learned to turn towards the things that made room for His work inside me instead of knee jerk impulses that crowded my heart with junk. The process involved me, yet it was entirely in spite of me! (You can join me in the Bible study Free to Flourish: Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit)
Take a moment in your devotions to write out all the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit (found in Galatians 5) in one column and then in the other list the things in your heart or life that are the opposite of those attributes. You might be able to see right off the bat that there’s a habit you need to nix because it is working against the good God has for you. Pray about it. Seek the Lord in His Word and if your spouse is a believer, ask them for their perspective and prayer. I am praying that your marriage and family life grow in the fruit of the Spirit for your fulfillment and as a witness to others around you!
This is part four of the eight part series: Walking in the Spirit for Your Family.