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 5:22-23 (The Message)
It was one of the funnest days of boyhood! I cherish the memory of those few summer hours in the sun! We were two blessed boys gifted for a day with a Radio Shack metal detector on a quest for buried treasure! And we were not disappointed as our treasure was great that day: one Indian Head penny, a cache of fishing hooks, a pocket knife with a broken blade, and an empty chewing tobacco tin in almost mint condition! Imagine our joy each time as we watched the needle on the metal detector jump, indicating we were closing in on treasure.
I have often wished for a “will of God detector” for telling me when I was moving with God’s will or from it. If only there were some special indicator for letting me know if am headed in the right or wrong direction. I have come to believe and to rely on “the fruit of the Spirit”, set forth in today’s text, as God’s built in GPS for pointing us in God’s way.
In the broader context of Galatians 5 the Apostle Paul is contrasting the Spirit’s working in us with what he calls the “flesh” (the Greek word sarx refers not to our bodies but what we are apart from God). Paul says we can discern the two by what they generate in us. The “works of the flesh” are: “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these”.
In marked contrast, Paul says that the fruit of the Spirit is: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The above text from The Message is a contemporary description of the fruit of the Spirit.
These manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit indicate the guidance of God’s Spirit in us. God’s fruit tells us we are living “God’s way”. So when we are experiencing “things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity”, etc., we can know we are headed in a right direction.
On the other hand, the absence of “love, joy peace, patience, kindness”, etc., indicate that we are moving from God’s way. The fruit of the Spirit does not mean that we live on a perpetual high, but that there is a growing, abiding, quiet joy, peace, and love for others.
In the history of Christian spirituality this moving with God’s way, and moving from God’s way, have been described as consolation and desolation, respectively. These are terms from the Latin root, meaning “with the sun” (con-sol), and “away from the sun” (de-sol). These movements of consolation and desolation are illustrated in a green plant as it flourishes moving “with the sun”, and as it withers moving “from the sun”. Similarly, you and I experience God’s fruit growing in us as we move “with” God, and we experience desolation as we move “from” Him.
You are headed with God in the right direction for your life when love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are growing. Likewise, you want to turn away from those things that stir in you anxiety, fear, lack of faith, lack of love, wanting to control others, etc… We do well to pay attention to the things stirring within us! Pay attention to our Inner GPS!
Consider the following—
When we are moving “with” God, the Spirit:
- Generates in us an outward focus beyond ourselves.
- Binds us more closely to the human community.
- Enlarges our hearts so that we can see the joy and sorrows of others.
- Restores balance and refreshes vision.
- Releases new energy and creativity.
When we are moving “from” God:
- We focus inward on ourselves.
- We distance from the human community.
- We spiral downward into negative feelings.
- We lose balance and vision for the future.
- We are drained of energy and creativity.
There is great treasure buried in every new day! Let us move with God towards those things that grow joy and love for God and others!
Grace and peace,
photo by Fiona Shields