How you know you’re doing it right?
“Don’t assume you’re the ‘good soil’” – Francis Chan
I’m the least handy male in the universe. I own a hammer so when I invite a friend over to assemble my IKEA furniture, they don’t have to bring their own. I once mounted a television in my house. Understanding my unhandy-ness my wife and I kept a close eye on that TV. When we noticed that it had begun leaning out of the wall, that 2 of the 4 anchors I had installed kindly uninstalled themselves, we took it down. After 6 months of the television being propped against my living room wall, I finally asked my dad if he would come over and mount it properly.
He borrowed my hammer.
When it comes to building things, you can tell if you’re doing it right or not.
If your house isn’t leaning to the side, you’re probably doing something right.
If your bookshelves hold books, you did it right.
If your birdhouse provides shelter for birds, you’ve done it right.
Conversely, if everything in your house tilts 10% to the left, or your bookshelves continually tip over, or birds go in but never leave your aviary death-motel, you’ve probably done it wrong.
You can tell this right/wrong dynamic in plants too. I once killed a cactus because I didn’t water it enough. Obviously I’m worthless when it comes to nature, too. But if an apple tree is producing apples, it’s doing it right. The same goes for strawberry plants, grape vines, and pumpkin patches. Do you see fruit? Something is right!
In the fifth chapter of Galatians, Paul tells his audience living for Jesus means allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our actions. Then the apostle hands us nine character traits that—if we are following Jesus correctly—should to be growing in us. You may have heard of these before, they’re called the “Fruit of the Spirit.”
Here’s the list: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22-23
This is our “doing it right” list. If we are living like Jesus, if we are allowing God to work in our lives, if we are letting the Spirit guide us, then we ought to be able to check ourselves against the kinds of fruit that Paul says we ought to be seeing. Next time you are setting personal goals, or spiritual goals, or spending time in prayer and meditation, consider asking yourself these questions:
Am I loving?
This is Christianity’s backbone. Jesus says all requirements can be summed up in loving God and loving others. It’s easy to think that we love others. But can we honestly say that those around us feel loved by us? Our family? Our friends? People we just met? Our enemies? Are we communicating it?
Am I joyful?
This doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time, like Joy from Inside Out or Richard Simmons. or Pharrell. Joy, from my perspective, is hope in all situations. No matter what happens, being able to feel positive about things like being loved by God, being His child, and knowing that you’ll spend eternity with him in heaven. Joyful people worship, and no matter the trial we’ve always got a reason to worship. Joy and peace go hand in hand, too.
Am I peaceful?
In the world of anxiety medicine, the Spirit bestows unrivaled peace. Revisiting our joy insights, we can always know we’re loved and cared for by God. Sometimes stopping to take an eternal perspective is enough to find that peace. Maybe even a 30-year perspective will do the trick. “My kids are driving me crazy and I am about to break down… stop… this is just a moment of busyness…it is okay if we’re late, it won’t matter in 30 years… it’s okay if breakfast is burnt, it won’t matter in 30 days… it won’t matter if my kitchen is a mess…” Having a God-sized perspective grants us God-sized peace.
Am I patient?
I have a newborn son, so I’m aware of my impatience potential. Maybe you’ve got a coworker, family member, or neurotic neighbor who pushes your buttons like a calculus student. The Spirit works in us to increase our patience, which often includes our patience being severely tested. If you find yourself become less patient, though, chances are you need to reconnect to the source.
Am I kind? Am I gentle?
Some of these next ones are tough to define. Kindness and gentleness seem to be correlated. When we think of gentleness, let’s not just assume that Paul meant we shouldn’t go flying around town, fisticuffs raised to brawl any takers. Leave that to Peter and Paul. But when we interact with others, when we speak with others, when we try to convince others what we believe is true, we ought to do it with kindness and gentleness. This includes compassion and empathy. We should not let our words be hurtful or abusive, it’s all too easy to use our tongues as swords. The way we love others ought to be marked with kindness and gentleness.
Am I good? Am I faithful?
Who is good? That’s a tough question to ask because nearly everyone, deep down, thinks that they are good. Faithful, though, can be fleshed out a bit more. Faithfulness can mean loyalty, keeping your promises, consistency in word and deed. Faithfulness is easily seen in romantic relationships. If you live in Indianapolis, you must be faithful to the Colts and the Pacers. If not, there’s definitely something spiritually wrong with you.
Am I self-controlled?
Finally, self-control. Someone once told me that “Self-Control is the hardest fruit to fake.” You could convince all your friends of your fruitful spiritual walk without honestly being spiritually healthy. You can stuff emotions (for a while) and pretend to be joy-filled. You can memorize a few nice thing today and practice them with people you don’t like so that you have an arsenal of rote responses that don’t actually communicate real peace or kindness, but a people-pleasing front.
Self-control is tough for a lot of us. How many times have we yelled at someone and immediately regretted it? How many diets have we started and stopped by the end of January? You can post all the look-at-my-healthy-food pictures on Instagram you want, but if you look the same 6 months later, you’re not as good as you’re pretending to be. Self-control is tough to fake. Luckily we’ve got the Holy Spirit to give us the real thing.
So the good news is we can pray for these fruit. God will increase in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He might not give us the life-changing dosage of any all at once. No tree when it’s first planted bears fruit the next day.
But if we put ourselves consistently in the path of God’s grace through prayer, study, and loving others, then we will see fruit begin to bud.
We’ll know that we’re doing it right, and we’ll have God to thank for that.
How you know you’re doing it right?