Written by Lucas Perry
I often wonder how I could better exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in my life. But when we worry about our ability, actually we are just showing we misunderstand the nature of these nine attributes. Each fruit of the Spirit is not an accolade to be achieved – each is the product of the inner presence of Christ in our lives.
When we actually try to exhibit love, joy, peace and so on, we are forced to realize how they contradict the desires of the flesh. We shouldn’t really be surprised about this – Scripture clearly articulates the contrasting natures of the Spirit and the flesh.
Yet I think a lot of us struggle to display these virtues. How can we get better at this?
Struggling to display the fruit of the Spirit implies a positive concern to live the way that Scripture intends. But if I constantly feel the weight of such a standard, if I constantly feel unable to do what’s expected of me, it just goes to show that I am attempting to overcome my natural tendencies by my own power. Simply put, I am trying to overcome the flesh by the power of the flesh.
Let’s consider peace as a fruit of the Spirit. I assume we all have a general understanding of what peace is, or what peace looks like. We might say peace is the absence of violence, or a calm, quiet atmosphere. Thus, we could likely attempt to exhibit a level of peace by our own power.
This past summer I became a youth pastor. Within my first week, I was called to the hospital to visit a young girl who had been battling anxiety for several months. As I entered the hospital room, I became increasingly aware of my own inability to offer what she was looking for. As a pastor in his first week of ministry I was highly inexperienced and felt highly unequipped to deal with such a situation. If it had been necessary to create an atmosphere of peace by my own power, I’m sure I would’ve failed miserably.
Fortunately, the peace she was looking for was not the absence of violence. It wasn’t an external experience of calm or quietness. What she needed most in that moment was for something, or someone, to tame the inner turmoil of her mind.
The only thing I could provide that day wasn’t rooted in my education, or my practical ability as a pastor, because at this point I really had none. What helped me in that situation wasn’t my ability exhibit a characteristic, but it was my freedom to express an inner reality in my life, and explain that the same inner reality can be found in hers as well.
This past Sunday I had the privilege of watching as the young girl I mentioned, walked to the altar for prayer. At the same time the congregation had begun to sing the familiar words: “As peace like a river attendeth my way.”
The peace she needed, and the peace we all need, is not something we can manufacture — it’s the result of our efforts to orient ourselves towards Christ and receive the power of His presence – the power of His Spirit.
This is the same for every fruit of the Spirit. They are planted within us by the presence of Christ, and produced as we continue to seek Him.
In a world where violence reigns around us and where the need for internal peace of mind seems to be increasing exponentially, I am grateful there is a source of peace that does not rely on my circumstance or my own ability to create it. That same source will provide the power necessary to live a life I have been called to.
I am reminded of the words of an old song that simply and clearly articulates the source of our every longing: “He is our peace, who has broken down every wall, He is our peace, HE is our peace.”