Galatians 5:22-23a “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Early in college, I did an extended devotional study of the Fruit of the Spirit. I have a strong memory of one particular morning, working through that devotional material, that I became very discouraged. As I studied and reflected, I felt a building frustration that the fruit mentioned in the scripture didn’t seem more evident in my life the way I felt it should. I was still a young believer, just a number of years into my relationship with Jesus. But I felt that I was growing and maturing. I felt there should be more evidence in my life of the patience, gentleness, and self-control about which I was reading. Just as it says in Romans 7:19 “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing.”
I decided that, looking ahead, I would be committed to focusing on displaying the fruit more intentionally in my life. Surely, if I just worked at it a bit more, I could show more of these qualities. I set off each day to display all those virtues listed in Galatians 5. Then, I ended each day utterly disappointed in myself that I had not been able to display the characteristics the way I had hoped.
This frustration built until one morning, while I continued to wrestle the Scriptures, something clicked. God’s Word says that our words and actions come from the heart (Matthew 15:8a and Luke 6:45). It is only by the work of the Holy Spirit within us that we can reflect the Fruit of the Spirit in all life’s situations.
Fruit is the spontaneous product of the Spirit of Christ within us. Matthew 7:16 says a tree is recognized by the fruit it bears. The fruit of God’s spirit in my life is evidence that His Holy Spirit is living and working within me.
That understanding was a revelation to me and I felt relief as I realized that I simply needed to draw into the Lord and let his Spirit be evident in my life. I released myself to stop concentrating my effort on acting a certain way, but to instead draw close to the Spirit and ask him to transform me.
Parenting the Fruit
Fast forward some years to my life as a mom, and I find myself making the same mistake when I un-intentionally communicate to my kids that it is by our human effort that we can direct how we display the Lord. I say things like, “Sweetheart, you must calm down. Use your self-control and be in charge of your emotions. Let’s try harder to honor God with our reactions.”
Yeah, so, it is no secret to those in our lives that my children tend toward one end of the emotion spectrum. They are pretty certain that every angst or frustration that they feel should be shared with others. I wouldn’t say dramatic exactly….okay, yes, I would say dramatic. Exactly. It is hard for me to blame them because they come by it honestly. I mean, I guess you could say that I feel and express things at full capacity. When my kids become teenagers, they will probably get tee-shirts made that say, “I got my drama from my mama!” Just pray for my steady and even-keeled husband. He is the only hope for sanity in our house.
But, as a parent, there are so many times that I find myself speaking to my kid’s behavior, not their heart. Of course, it is important, especially for those of us with younger children that we help our kids identify behavior and give them language and examples of what God honoring behavior looks like. We even need to help them practice living out the fruit in everyday situations. But our most important task is to help them draw into the spirit and recognize His presence and work within them.
Many of us share the desire that our children will have a close relationship with the Lord, make decisions based on His word, draw into the Holy Spirit, and reflect His nature in their lives. But what does that look like? How do we teach them about the virtues listed in Galatians…but not confuse them to think that it is by their own effort that their lives with reflect the Lord?
As our church begins this study on the Fruit of the Spirit, it is our hope that you will study the scriptures together as a family. We are excited for you to hear from other families at our church about they way they are helping their kids understand the characteristics listed in Galatians. We hope there are many suggestions for how the fruit is practiced at home and how other moms and dads are kids the language to recognize the work of the Spirit. There is so much we can learn from each other.
Scripture to study together at home
Consider printing these verses and displaying them around your home, posting them on your fridge or writing them on a chalkboard so you and your kids can study them together. Maybe read one each day this week as you travel in the car with your kids. Or put them on index cards in the middle of your dinner table. Work together, as a family, to begin memorizing Galatians 5:22-23a.
For a free, printable version of these scriptures to display in your home, click here.
John 15:4-5 "Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “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."
Romans 12:1-2 "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
Luke 6:45 "A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."
Don't miss the opportunity to study the Fruit of the Spirit as a family at home. Use this poster for weekly activity prompts.
Enjoy this Fruit of the Spirit song written by the NCC Worship team just for families like you!
Nina Schmidgall serves as Director of Family Ministry at National Community Church. She has overseen the family ministry department at NCC since 2001. Nina and her husband, Joel, live on Capitol Hill with their three young kids: Eloise, Ezekiel, and Lorenza.