"I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me, and I in him, produces much fruit."
— John 15:5
During his four missionary voyages, the apostle Paul visited several of the burgeoning churches scattered throughout the Mediterranean region, preaching the gospel of salvation and encouraging new Christians. The congregations in Galatia (modern-day Turkey) were among the first he visited during his primary voyage. Following his departure, a group of dissidents began leading believers astray by claiming that following the law of Moses was still an essential component of salvation.
When word of this reached Paul's ears, he responded with his epistle to the Galatians. The letter's six short chapters are an in-depth look at the nature of salvation and how Christ's death and resurrection freed God's children from the law rather than keeping them chained to it. In Chapter Five, Paul discusses walking in the Spirit and how to differentiate the will of the Spirit from the wiles of the flesh. Read on to learn more about the fruits of the Spirit and how you can practice them in your spiritual life.
"For I rarely understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but what I hate... I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do." — Romans 7:15 & 19
Paul understood the spiritual war that's waged every day within the heart, mind and soul of the believer. At times, perhaps you feel you're being tested at every turn, "for the flesh desires what is against the Spirit and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don't do what you want." (Galatians 5:17)
The call to follow in the footsteps of Christ is no easy task; there are no shortcuts or detours to living a godly life. Jesus himself said, "If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24) Paul knew the dichotomy of this struggle because he experienced this internal conflict between the Spirit and the flesh every day, as all believers do. Furthermore, he understood the confusion that accompanies this struggle and how difficult it can sometimes be to discern between the call of the Spirit and the lure of the flesh.
In writing to the Galatians, Paul reminded them of Jesus's words in Matthew 12:33. "A tree is known by its fruit." To this day, Galatians 5 serves as a reminder to believers across generations of what the true nature of the Spirit is by outlining the fruit it yields.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." — Galatians 5:22-23a
If you're unsure whether you should trust someone in your personal life, chances are you'll find yourself questioning the motives behind their words and actions in order to ascertain if their intentions are pure or selfish. Paul directs Christians to use this same mentality as a standard of measurement in moments of spiritual conflict or confusion.
Perhaps a major decision in your life has left you feeling torn because you were unsure of what God's will was for you. In morally "gray" scenarios, there may not be a clear solution as to how to proceed in accordance with the Spirit. In such situations, Paul challenges you to look deeper and question the motives behind potential choices. If the impetus behind a certain decision nourishes your soul with joy and "the peace that surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4:7), you can trust that this inclination is coming from the Spirit of God and is meant to deepen your relationship with him.
On the other hand, if you feel drawn towards a decision that, upon closer examination, is born of impatience, rage or lack of faith, it's safe to say this is probably not God's will for you. Remember, the Spirit yields fruits of love, patience, gentleness and faithfulness. If your motives are of the opposite nature, this isn't the Spirit leading you but rather the desires of your own flesh. The best thing to do in this situation is to take some time for prayer, meditation and self-reflection; get your mind right and find the place of compassion and self-control the Spirit wants you to move from.
Perhaps most importantly, remember to carry one another's burdens. Paul immediately follows his discourse on the fruit of the Spirit with this admonition in the beginning of Galatians 6: "If someone is overtaken in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual, restore them with a gentle spirit... carry one another's burdens; in this way, you fulfill the law of Christ."
Remember that the spiritual journey is not meant to be undertaken alone. At Bethesda Gardens assisted living in Glendale, our supportive staff is here with open ears and arms to support our residents' spiritual health as well as their physical and cognitive health in whatever way they can. Don't be afraid to reach out to those around you in times of need.
"I give you a new command: love one another just as I have loved you." — John 13:34