On my 13th birthday, I had to dig a sewer line for the barn into which my family was about to move. The job was supposed to be a rite of passage. Some tribes make young men go out in the desert, some make them fast in a deep pit or get bitten by killer ants, but mine decided to combine all these things into one, man-making experience. If this didn’t put hair on my chest, nothing would (it did burn the hair on my nostrils but that’s a different story).
The pole-barn-home had no restrooms to speak of, unless you wanted to take a walk into the woods, and we were too far out in the country to access any kind of city water tower. This meant our only option was to get access to a conduit, a source, that would flush the negativity from our lives. So, armed with my Sony Walkman and a fresh sense of resolve, I got to digging.
This digging process is how most of us approach the fruit of the spirit — i.e. the virtues that exhibit Christlikeness. We know we need something to move the negativity from our lives, but we’re in the worldly wilderness; so most of us do what we know: we start digging, searching, and praying for those virtuous attributes so we can navigate our day and work-life in a godly manner.
But here’s the rub:
We want the fruit of the Spirit.
We need the fruit of the Spirit.
Often times, though, we do not feel as if we have a good grasp on the fruit of the Spirit.
That’s what I want to talk about today.
In my experience, there are seven “growth spurts” we go through before we truly exhibit a nature that looks like Christ. Consider them mini revelations. Lowercase R.
I want to share them with you because I believe they have the power to transform how we see the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). Most important though, they let us walk in grace at our jobs.
Okay, let’s jump in. I think you’re going to enjoy this.
Consider Galatians 5. This is our proof text.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
1st Revelation — Asking & Producing
In most circles, we identify being a good Christian with the fruit of the spirit. Perhaps that’s no surprise. We know that If we have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, or self-control than we can infer that we must be doing something right.
In this way, we see the virtues as a “beatitude barometer.”
It’s how we measure whether we are in-tune with the Christian walk.
When work is hard, when we get stressed, or when the boss yells at us, we start asking God for “the fruit” instead of producing “the fruit” — in part, because we know a good Christian is supposed to act “Christian.”
Needles to say, this thinking, while well-meaning, won’t get us very far.
Asking for the virtues or trying to produce the virtues will only leave you drained. So drained you might not even feel like trying anymore if the situation is intense enough.
2nd Revelation — Law Making
Notice the end of Galatians 23: “Against such things there is no law.” When we try to produce these virtuous attributes by forcing them, we make the fruit of the Spirit a law for ourselves, contradicting scripture (against such things there is no law). This is the crux of it all. This approach actually gets in the way mentally of living out the virtues.
Consider this: if you focus your energy on whether you have “spiritual fruit” you will end up feeling condemned; you will tell yourself you don’t measure up. You will ask yourself why you are not more virtuous than you are presently.
This is true of asking for virtue as well. Asking God for virtue, while not evil, is not effectual. He doesn’t want grin-and-bear-it workers who’s only real connection to him is whether they are virtuous. That’s not a relationship. Of course, that’s not to say he doesn’t want us to live a moral life. He does. But the approach is what’s important.
Asking God for virtue, while not evil, is not effectual. He doesn’t want grin-and-bear-it workers who’s only real connection to him is whether they are virtuous.
When we abide in Christ, the true vine, there is only one natural outcome: the fruit of the Spirit. When we don’t abide with him, we spend our entire Christian life trying to be good instead of letting good work flow through us.
Said another way, the “sap” of the Savior is what gives ongoing life to your calling. See John 15:5. We can’t turn the fruit of the spirit into a spiritual law. It just won’t work.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
3rd Revelation — Ends and Means
I think we all get that…but it presents another problem.
Joy can’t pour concrete. Self-control can’t give a sales presentation. Goodness won’t get the job done.
And this is the heart of the problem.
We tend to think (almost subconsciously) that both the means and the end of the fruit of the Spirit is the fruit itself. Meaning, if we are virtuous, we’re winning. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Spiritual fruit, which is the evidence of the Holy Spirit, is the residue of God-connected life and work.
4th Revelation — Good Work, Good Fruit, Good Testimony
This cart-and-horse mentality is the reason Christian testimony will often fail in the workplace.
We’re actually supposed to be focused on the work!
Which, granted, can feel counter intuitive.
Let me explain: most Christians strive to demonstrate God is within them by their virtue (just trying to be kind or gentle), but then the actual work they do does not testify to knowing God. Their daily work ends up being lack luster because they’re pre-occupied with being a good Christian (forgetting that good work only comes from the wisdom of God and insight from the Holy Spirit).
Consider this analogy: If we think of our relationship between virtue and vocation as a car, the work you do is actually the engine. Not the fruit. Rather, the fruit of the Spirit is the paint job on the vehicle’s body. (Hold on..don’t stone me for heresy yet… 😉 )
The virtues make your daily life and work attractive to those outside the car.
But…if you’ve ever tried to drive a car without an engine, it doesn’t matter how good-looking or attractive the vehicle is.
The car cannot take you where you might want to go. Even if you wish it could.
This is exactly what many non-christians think of the Christian lifestyle. They don’t understand how the Christian virtues make that much day-to-day difference. And without those spirit-filled activities demonstrating the power of the Christian walk, you can see how they sort-of have a point.
Someone who doesn’t know the Lord can only measure what they know.
They don’t have a grid for the Christian life. But they sure do for daily work.
5th Revelation — Fruitful Work
From an outside perspective, Christian testimony often falls short.
To the lost, there may be something attractive about Christianity, but the stuff under the hood, the work we do, can often lack excellence; let alone be Godlike.
So believe it or not, it is hard for people to take the “church stuff” seriously.
And here are the facts: we aren’t a light if the light in us can’t illuminate, with revelation, the daily work in front of us to do.
For that matter, if our focus is on virtue, on trying to have a peaceful, patient, joyful disposition here’s what will happen:
You will communicate to the world that you’re trying to be a good Christian. And no one wants you to try and be a good Christian.
You end up looking like a washcloth wrung for water. There’s nothing left to drip out.
6th Revelation — Divine Inspiration
So how do we let the fruit of the Spirit come as a result of testimony? And not a burden or barometer? Consider what God says about himself:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
There’s something under the surface of this verse. Simply put: God has a completely different perspective about our work than we do. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways (his approach) higher (more insightful) than ours.
He has wondrously different wisdom, knowledge, and perspective about how to go about daily life and work.
But normally, we don’t ask him.
Or we only bring him into the situation when we feel anxious.
This isn’t really “abiding” as scripture encourages us to do.
7th Revelation — Abide With God
So how then, do you abide with God at work? How do you stay in the vine, so-to-speak?
Two ways: 1) Ask God for his ways (i.e. his approach) towards how he would help you go about your work. 2) Then, ask God what his thoughts are concerning your work.
How does he see you and this particular work situation in light of what he’s called you to do, and the way in which he wants you to love other people? Remember James 1:5:
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.
This is the key!
In Christ, you have full access to God’s ways and perspective and he is more than happy to help you with practical, day-to-day stuff. You can receive his divine revelation on how to do you work when you cast your cares to him and intimately involve him. You are sharing your life with him after all.
AND THEN what will happen?
You can’t help but be peaceful. You have a plan.
You can’t help but be joyful. You know how to do the job.
You can’t help but be kind. You’re a better leader than everyone in the room because you have empathy for a situation which only God could have shown you.
As scripture says: “Against such things there is no law.” Against such testimony of divinely inspired work, so full of both the wisdom and the way of God, there is no objection. There is no condemnation. There is no judgement. Your work is a self-evident truth and testimony to the nature of God!
Hey guys! If you’d like to grow more in your calling and discover the specific work that God has for you, I want you check out my new book Calling: Awaken to The Purpose of Your Work. You’ll unwrap the hidden work God has for you to do, the calling on your life, and you’ll also hear how I left the barn (physically and spiritually).