We can never get to know too much about the Fruit of the Spirit. As simplistic as it might sound, perhaps a good place to start is to remind ourselves that it is the Fruit of God’s Spirit, and not the Fruit of our spirit. In fact this is the key to understanding why it is unlike a tree that does not have to exert itself to bring forth its designated fruit, but simply drinks water and exposes itself to sunlight, and in time the fruit effortlessly appears. Not only does the fruit of the tree effortlessly appear, but it appears consistently – the same fruit every day – varying in quantity and perhaps even quality, but never in identity.
On the other hand, the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives frequently accompany the “works of the flesh”… and of course, that’s never good. The explanation is simple. There are two trees growing in our lives, and only one is of God. The other is of the Devil, working through our “flesh”. And that is why, unlike the tree, the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives will never be the result of effortlessly living. We have to work to resist the Devil and continue to resist him. That is the only way that he will flee from us. And if he fled from Jesus, only for a season before returning to tempt Him, I am sure that he will not treat us with greater respect.
The first tool in our toolbox of strategies is awareness. We must understand what is going on, and I just explained. With that in mind, it helps to remind ourselves that the Devil means us no good, and God means us no harm. So although the things that the Devil would have us do are quite often appealing, we know and understand that they are nothing more than baits, which when the fish bites, will bring it to its ruin at the other end of the line (James 1:15). Our desire for life and all that’s good must therefore over-ride the lure of the illusion that the Devil throws at us. And we ought not to feel guilty when our natural tendencies lean towards the Devil’s lures. Unlike the Fruit of the Spirit, sin and sinfulness is embedded in our DNA from birth. We were born in sin and shapen in iniquity (Psalm 51:5). If you teach a child from birth to appreciate bland food, he would have little tolerance for excessive sweet as he grows older. In the same way, if we have been feasting on sin and sinful thoughts, words and actions for the better part of our life, those things would become natural to us. And it is easier to do what is natural, than it is to do what is not natural. That’s all there is to our natural propensity to be attracted to what is sinful.
Following from the above, another tool in our strategy box is to work overtime at doing what is right and pleasing in God’s sight, while at the same time, saying “No!” to the lures of the Devil. This is called rewiring the brain. This is hard work, and will take time and consistent practice. That is why the Believer in Christ is pictured as an athlete who must train, and discipline his body in order to finish the race and win the prize. And following through on the analogy, the thing that can keep us motivated and enduring hardships and running the race with patience is the prize of the mark of the high calling in Jesus (Philippians 3:14)
An advance tool in the strategy toolbox is commonsense, which is anything but common. A little bit of thought, and even the most cursory observation reveals that there is never anything of even fleeting value in any of the works of the flesh. Even if there were not a life hereafter, the works of the flesh all have built into them an almost immediate punishment for their execution. In fact in most countries in the world, the Government has adapted its own national moral code and related punishments for breach thereof, to the standards set by God’s word. Stealing is always bad, and so is lying and adultery and murder. These are the commandments that have a clear visible expression in actions. The Commandments that relate to motive and thought cannot be legislated against. However, if and when these restrictions are acted on, usually a punishable offence would be the result. On the other hand, The Fruit of the Spirit may not win us national awards, but it will certainly add value to our lives on earth.
We must daily choose our preferences and declare and validate our allegiances. Here is the good news. Because of what I call the 24-hour syndrome, we can’t be equally committed to both. The time we spend cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit by obeying God and spending time with Him, will erode the time we have left to practice the Works of the Flesh.
Remember to visit RBC’s Our Daily Bread Devotional today at www.ODB.org