When we lived in California, we had many fruit trees in our yard. Some produced better than others. The lemon tree in our front yard had some really strange looking lemons. We were told it was because we were not giving the tree enough water. Neglect had produced a less than superior product.
In our back yard, we had the most prolific fig tree I have ever seen. When we moved into our house, that fig tree was practically a stump because it had been pruned so much. I remember wondering if it would produce any fruit at all. Since it was in an area where we planted grass and watered regularly, that particular tree was not neglected. It produced the most amazingly bountiful crop of figs. Attention to that tree brought the desired results.
It is like that in our spiritual lives. As Christians, those of us who desire to produce fruit in our lives must pay attention to how we are living. The fruit of the Spirit, present in every believer, may lie dormant from neglect, but when the Spirit is allowed to nurture what is already there, there is an obvious difference in productivity.
Life is full of stresses – some good, some bad – but we sometimes allow those stresses to rob us of the joy of the Lord and the peace that comes with knowing Him. Instead we feel frazzled or stressed out.
So often we measure ourselves – or others measure us – by what we do. Our measurement should be God’s standards. Paul gives a list of the elements of the fruit of the Spirit of Christ. That fruit is measured not by what we do, but our character, who we are in Christ. God does desire that we produce tangible fruit, but it is His character that will produce good works, not ours.
How is it possible to keep from being frazzled or completely stressed by cares of life? Act and react in love. An action is something you originate. A reaction is how you respond to other’s actions. When we act and react in His love, God will do through us what we cannot accomplish in our own strength.
Paul describes some elements of a frazzled or stressed lifestyle just before he lists the fruit of the Spirit. Immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, etc. – not one of these deeds of the flesh brings to mind a calm and fruitful person who is trusting in God. They are, in fact, opposites.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul describes the cure for a frazzled and stressed out lifestyle by his next words.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law…If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23, 25 NAS).