We have many names for it, and everybody wants it. I’m talking about peace… contentment… happiness… joy. Unfortunately, few find it. But what if I told you that you’re only one question and two steps away from finding “it?”
The Apostle Paul gives quite a list of desirable characteristics in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. That’s the “it” we’re looking for. We Christians challenge ourselves to memorize this list. But let me ask this: has your ability to name this list helped you actually cultivate these things in your life?
I’m not saying that knowing the list is bad. I’m saying knowing the list doesn’t produce the results.
So how do we get results? Start with this question: does the Apostle Paul refer to the Fruit (singular) or Fruits (plural) of The Spirit?
Do you know the answer without looking it up? (Spoiler alert: answer below)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 5:22–23 NIV)
It’s singular (fruit). Does this really matter? In a word, yes! Here’s why:
Because you can’t have a by-product without the main product!
Here’s the thing: love, joy, peace, etc… are all by-products! They are the result of the Holy Spirit living in us. This should be good news for a culture that is the most over-scheduled, over-committed crowd in history, because it means we can stop pursuing these attributes separately and focus on just one thing: cultivating the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Trying to cultivate peace, joy, love, etc. without the Holy Spirit in our lives would be the equivalent of deciding that you want apples without having an apple tree. You can buy shiny red objects that resemble apples but you’ll soon find they aren’t the real thing. They may look great, but they have no nutritional value. They will never satisfy.
Or, perhaps you know where you can get the real thing. The only problem is you’ll always be dependent on the one who sells the apples… unless, of course, you get your own tree.
I think this is why people pursue “love” through cheap, surface-level relationships… or pursue “peace” by withdrawing from the world only to discover the war and noise that live within them. Why do you think self-help authors are so successful? It’s because they market to people who are chasing by-products!
So, how do we get the real thing when it comes to Paul’s list? Try these two steps:
1. Stop chasing by-products! You can’t pursue love, peace, etc. successfully without the source. Ironically, in the United States our forefathers set us up when they call for the “Pursuit of happiness” in our Declaration of Independence. It appears the American Dream calls for the pursuit of a by-product! No wonder we’re so uptight!
2. Start focusing on the source! Cultivate the Holy Spirit living in us and through us. This doesn’t mean we have to move to a monastery or convent and drop out of the world. But it does mean we’ll need to be more intentional about making room for the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. Are you regularly reading and thinking about Scripture? How’s your prayer life? Are you listening for the Spirit in your daily activities?
This isn’t an instant fix, it takes time and intentional effort, like any relationship. But it’s worth it. Why? Because a well-cultivated Holy Spirit in your life will produce the entire list!
Dropping the “s” in Fruit makes life more simple, and more filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
How will you cultivate the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life?