If you’ve spent much time in church, you’ve probably heard about the fruit of the spirit. You might have heard sermons about them and many of you may have memorized them.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
The challenge when dealing with such well-known Bible verses is that it’s easy for us to become overly familiar with them. We’ve heard so much about the fruit of the Spirit that we don’t take the time to meditate upon them and consider what they mean for us.
And when we become overly familiar with them, they become less present in our lives.
The reality is that when the fruit of the Spirit is present in our lives, it’s an incredible, life-changing thing.
So with that in mind, let’s freshly consider what the fruit of the Spirit is and why it's so important.
Before we get to the details, it’s essential to remember that the fruit of the Spirit is not simply a group of moral commands. It's not nine different ways to live a better life, although they certainly do result in a better life when they’re present. It is not just a call to live an upright, good, moral life. It is so much more than this.
One of the most interesting, and often misunderstood, aspects of the fruit of the Spirit is that the Bible teaches that it is one fruit with many characteristics. Adrian Rogers tells us it is “one fruit with nine flavors.” The presence of all of these characteristics (or flavors) provides evidence that a person is being controlled by the Holy Spirit.
To put it in the most obvious terms, the fruit of the Spirit is the result of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. When we come to Christ, the Holy Spirit fills us and He begins to produce good fruit in us. He begins to work in us, sanctifying us and making us more like Jesus. As we pursue God and follow after Him with our whole hearts, the Holy Spirit continues to produce more and more good fruit in us.
This means we can’t produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives through our strength. Yes, we are called to run hard after Jesus, to say, “No,” to sin, and to seek to put on love, joy, peace, patience, etc. But if we try to do this with our strength, we will fail miserably.
In John 15:5, Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
Did you catch that? Apart from Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can do nothing. We can’t truly be loving or patient. We can’t have real joy or peace in our lives.
So, as we think about growing in the fruit of the Spirit, we must remain dependent upon God to help us grow. Ultimately, He is the one who produces fruit in us. As we lean on God and depend totally on Him, fruit grows in our lives.
With that in mind, let’s now look at each of the nine characteristics of the fruit of the Holy Spirit and what they mean.
"What is this fruit? Well, it’s described in Galatians 5:22. Look at it. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control: against such there is no law.” Now, notice it doesn’t say the fruits of the Spirit are. So many people think these are nine fruits, and someone says, “Well, let’s see now. Love? Yeah, I’ve got that fruit. Joy? I’ve got that fruit. Peace? I don’t have fruit? Longsuffering? I don’t have that one. Oh, gentleness? Yeah, I’m good on that. That’s one of my fruit. Goodness? Well, yeah. Faith? Well, I’ve got that. But there’s some of the fruit I have and some of the fruit I don’t have.” Don’t kid yourself, friend. These are not nine fruits; this is one fruit with nine flavors. Look at it. It doesn’t say, “The fruits of the Spirit are.” It says, “The fruit of the Spirit is, the fruit of the Spirit is.” These are nine characteristics that are to be being made manifest in the life of every Spirit-filled believer. The fruit of the Spirit."
It’s no surprise that love is the first fruit listed. Throughout the New Testament, love is highlighted as one of the chief characteristics of Christians and there are dozens of Bible verses about love.
First, we’re called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We’re called to delight in God, pursue Him, and give all we have for Him. God is worthy of our deepest affection and highest praise.
As Jesus said in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this, all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”
Jesus commands us to love one another, both in word and deed. We’re called to serve one another, bear each other’s burdens, care for one another, and lay our lives down for one another. We should ask the Holy Spirit to help us love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, even when we don’t feel loving. He can enable us to be loving!
The second fruit is joy. Joy goes far beyond merely being happy. In fact, it’s possible to be joyful even when life is hard!
James 1:2 says, “...count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”
Our joy comes from the fact that we know the living God, all our sins are forgiven, we will live with God for eternity, and nothing can separate us from the incredible, overwhelming, never-stopping love of God. Nothing can take these things from us.
We can have joy even when we walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death because the Lord is our Shepherd. He is caring for us, guiding us, and blessing us. We can have joy when we face trials of many kinds because God Himself, the One who created the universe, is our loving Father.
If you struggle to have joy, ask the Lord to produce this fruit of the Holy Spirit in you.
Peace is a sense of rest and calm that comes from knowing God. Even when the storms of life are swirling around us, we can have true, lasting peace. How do we have this peace? By fixing our minds on God. Isaiah 26:3 puts it this way: “You keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”
When we fix our minds on God and remember that He is in control of all things, it produces deep, lasting peace in us. When we trust God, knowing that He is our good, gracious, loving Father, we can rest even though storms surround us. Our peace is not dependent upon our circumstances. Rather, our peace comes from the Holy Spirit.
Oh, how hard it is to be patient! It’s so hard to wait, especially when we’re waiting for something really important. The good news is that the Holy Spirit is working in us to produce patience.
When you’re sitting in traffic, the Holy Spirit is using that to produce patience in you. When you’re children aren’t listening to you, God is using that to produce the fruit of the Spirit in you. If you’re waiting for God to bring you a husband or wife, God is producing the beautiful fruit of patience in you.
The more we grow in patience, the more we are like God, who is always patient with us. He is patient with our weaknesses and failings and sins. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. Rather, He patiently brings us back to Himself, again and again, reminding us of how much He loves us and helping us to overcome the struggles that plague us.
Because God is patient, we too must be patient. If you struggle to be patient, simply pray, “Holy Spirit, please help me grow in patience.” It’s a prayer that God loves to answer.
We live in a world that is desperate for kindness. People increasingly treat each other with shocking amounts of unkindness, and when we are kind we reflect the abundant, overwhelming kindness of God. Titus 3:4-5 says, “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared...He saved us…”
God saved us because He is infinitely kind. Even though we're thoroughly sinful and separated from God, God looked upon us in kindness and love. His heart was filled with kindness toward us, which is why He sent His Son to die in our place so that we could be forgiven.
This is why we are called to be kind toward others. If God has been so infinitely kind toward us, shouldn’t we be kind toward others? If God has been so merciful and forgiving toward us, shouldn’t we be the same toward others? We serve an incredibly kind God who loves to bless us, and we should reflect that same kindness.
We need the Holy Spirit to help us grow in kindness. Let’s ask Him to help us grow in this fruit of the Spirit.
Goodness means much more than simply being a good person. Rather, it means actively seeking to do good to other people. We see this in how our heavenly Father treats us.
Psalm 23:6 says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
The Lord is abundantly, overwhelmingly good. He constantly does good to us, and His goodness and mercy actively pursue us. In other words, we can’t escape the goodness of God! He loves us so much it’s like He can’t help doing good to us.
In the same way, we should always seek to do good to others. We should seek to bless others, care for them, and bring good things into their lives. We should be generous with our possessions and give freely to others. Just as God pours out good things into our lives day after day, so we should ask the Holy Spirit to help us pour out good things into the lives of others.
The Bible says that it is more blessed to give than to receive. When the Holy Spirit produces goodness in us and we give to others, we experience blessing.
The seventh fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness. God is faithful. He will never leave us or forsake us. He is always near to us, even when we are brokenhearted. When we stray, He guides us back. When we struggle, He lifts us up. When we are weary, He strengthens us. In fact, the Bible says that He is faithful even when we are faithless! Psalm 33:4 says, “For the Word of the LORD is upright, and all His work is done in truth [faithfulness].”
Just as God is faithful, so we too must be faithful. First, we are called to be faithful to God. There will be times when it’s difficult to follow God. When life is really hard and we walk through trials. There may be times when it feels like we’re walking through the desert. In those times, we must be faithful to God, and we can only do this by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We must also be faithful to one another. When a fellow believer is struggling, we must faithfully care for them, encourage them, and point them back to Jesus. We must help them see that God is there for them and won’t leave them. There are few things more precious than faithful friends.
Our culture does not prize gentleness. We think that if we want to get our way, we must be loud, brash, and forceful. But the ways of God are different than the ways of the world.
As believers, we are called to be gentle toward one another. Proverbs 15:4 says, “A wholesome [gentle] tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” When we speak and act gently toward one another, without being overly aggressive or harsh, it gives life.
Consider how gentle God is toward us. He is the most holy God, the One who created all things, the King of Kings. And yet He is gentle and tender toward us. When we sin, He gently convicts us, leading us back to Himself. When we struggle, He doesn’t tell us to buck up and be tougher. Rather, He gently comforts us. When we’re brokenhearted, He is near to us.
Just as God is so gentle with us, so we must be gentle toward others. Let us pray and ask God to produce this fruit of the Spirit in us.
It’s no secret that it’s hard to be self-controlled. But self-control is one of the fruit of the Spirit and is essential for us. To be self-controlled means to be in control of one’s thoughts and actions. It’s the ability to say, “Yes,” to things that are good and, “No,” to things that are wrong.
We must be self-controlled in every area of our lives, including the things we say, what we watch on television, what we think about, how much we eat, and many other areas.
Even though self-control is difficult, when we rely on the Holy Spirit, He can help us grow in this particular fruit of the Spirit.