But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. (Galatians
Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. (Philippians 4:6-9)
The other day I made a comment to someone about how we go about the process of developing the “fruit of the Spirit” as Paul lays them out in his letter to the Galations (above)—in particular, patience (or “a willingness to stick with things”). I said something to the affect that when we pray for something like patience, God doesn’t usually simply dump patience into our hearts but instead we become more aware of how impatient we are and find ourselves in situations where we have the opportunity to learn how to be patient. Heh, and those aren’t typically the easiest of situations, so we need to be aware of what we are praying for.
But afterwards, I thought about how I was really focusing on the wrong thing. Our focus shouldn’t be on the fruit itself but on how the fruit comes into our lives: through our trust in God. When we are lacking in a fruit, I wonder if it's root may be that we are failing to trust God (and therefore failing to live out of his Spirit in us) in that aspect or area of our lives. As we learn to trust that God is who he says and can do what he says, then the fruit begin to grow and take over lives. How do we learn to trust God? Often, I've found it comes down to working with him in the ways he’s given us: studying the Word, considering the needs of others before our own, celebrating his goodness, paying attention, learning to recognize his work around us—all those things we’ve come to call spiritual disciplines.
Not that I think we can’t or shouldn’t concentrate on developing the ability to live with or grow certain fruit. Personally, one of my journeys continues to be learning how to live in and exhibit “serenity” (peace) and “exuberance about life” (joy) rather than anxiety. And there are several disciplines that I’ve used and continue to use in learning to experience Paul's admonition in his letter to the Philippians (above).
But I have to keep reminding myself that the bottom line isn’t attaining peace or joy—or any of the other fruit—but learning to trust that God is who he says and can do what he says. Everything comes from that because everything comes from him to begin with.