How to Ripen Your Fruits of the Spirit for Effective Leadership
By Marge Franzen
Have you ever savored a home-grown tomato? Watched it grow in your backyard? That small, hard green tomato grows into an appetizing, ripe fruit because it stays connected to the plant. If the green tomato ever falls off the vine, it never develops.
Jesus uses the picture of the vine and branches for our spiritual life:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Just like the tomato automatically grows and ripens if it stays connected to the plant, we will also bear spiritual fruit if we stay connected by faith to the Vine—Jesus.
We learn more about the fruit that develops in Galatians 5:16-25. Here the apostle Paul tells us how the Holy Spirit brings transformation. First Paul talks about what develops in our lives when we are disconnected from the Vine, “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21)
Then Paul contrasts that with the fruit that forms when we are connected to Jesus:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Of course, we could never make such a turn around on our own will power or determination to reform. Verses 24-25 tell us that our past selves have died in Christ and the Spirit connects our dead branch to the life-giving Vine Jesus.
“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:24-25)
We can rejoice that the Spirit is transforming us by grace through faith. And it all starts with God’s love. The truth that we are connected is proof of the love God has for us. As we experience this connection to the Vine Jesus we develop all the varieties of His love; joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
THE FRUIT BASKET
Here’s a quick tour of the fruit basket:
JOY is rejoicing love, joy of the Lord that is independent of the situation. It best presents in joy that celebrates another as the focus of God’s love.
PEACE is reconciling love that values relationship over the details of conflict. Rooted in shalom, it moderates our coming and going. As we are reconciled with God we can bring wholeness to our relationships with others.
PATIENCE is enduring love. The root is literally holding back anger. With patience we combine determination and mercy to moderate our actions, both immediate and long term.
KINDNESS is amiable love. We give value to another by showing interest, listening, remembering details. We see them with God’s loving eyes.
GOODNESS is correcting love, not for the sake of being correct, but to bring about healing change in another’s life. Only by striving for God’s standards can we be sure we’re on the right course.
FAITHFULNESS is reliable love. We find that reliability in large and small things proves our commitment to people. We become trustworthy and true relationship can grow. One way to walk this path is through the faithful use of our Spiritual Gifts.
GENTLENESS is humble love. Rather than insisting on our own ability to be our own god we submit to God’s saving love for us. When His gentleness moves us into the sphere of another person we are more tolerant. We graciously refrain from using force and humbly join another’s journey.
SELF-CONTROL is disciplined love. We turn from the Then of our past habits and enter the Now of Spirit grown restraint and moderation. We are able to serve other people better.
Reviewing that fruit inventory may leave you disheartened about missing fruit in your life. I encourage you to review it with a friend or two. This gives you each the opportunity to affirm the fruit that is budding, growing, and ripening in each other. You may be surprised at the fruit they see in you.
But don’t ignore the conviction you have about missing fruit. Take time to meet with the Spirit. You may find these steps helpful as He leads you to grow and mature in spiritual fruit.
- Narrow your focus down to one fruit and go on a long journey with the Holy
- Spirit and your small circle of friends.
- Study that fruit in scripture.
- Make the connection of how it appears and impacts a relationship.
- Recognize the damage inflicted by the lack of a particular fruit.
- Don’t try harder in your own strength. But pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is revealing and moving you to be through His connection with you in the means of grace.
- Follow through and hold each other accountable.
- Celebrate each sign of growth the Spirit brings.
Click here to download a free booklet to use as a discussion guide and journal.
Now think again of that home-grown tomato and its life cycle. First you notice a little round bud at the base of a fertilized flower. Next you watch that green ball grow larger and larger. Then there’s the gradual ripening from green to mouth-watering red. Finally, that tomato nourishes you with vitamin C and minerals in a delicious taste treat. The Holy Spirit’s work in your life has the same stages as He grows each fruit on Paul’s list. First there’s just a little bud of Spirit-inspired patience or kindness that’s barely noticeable. Growth through contact with God’s Word brings more notice. Ripening can come through our experience as the Holy Spirit walks us through the highs and lows of life and we are encouraged by our faith community. Finally, our fruit fills its purpose – not to nourish us, but to nourish others with a faithful replica of God’s love.
About the Author: Marge Franzen, as Leader for Equipping Ministries at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lisle has lengthy experience in Bible study and adult discipleship. She is excited by a teaching approach that uses history and culture to bring the Word of God alive in people’s lives today. She enjoys finding and developing new teachers and coaching leaders, but the best part of all is watching God directly affect people through His Word. She has found that God delivers on his promise to “equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:21 Marge has a degree in education from Concordia University Chicago, and in theology from Concordia University Wisconsin and is certified as a Lay Minister with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, but the credential nearest to her heart is Grandma.
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