By April Motl, Crosswalk.com
You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain… John 15:16
As Christian families, I think most of us would really like to be defined as fruitful in Christ.
We’d like the neighbors to think of us as joyful and loving rather than squabbling and always late. We want our kids to think of their home life as safe, peaceful, and good more than a place of correction or stress.
When coworkers and extended family think about our marriage, we want our testimony to be one that reflects love, kindness, and faithfulness. Yet getting from being a family that goes to church and says grace together to becoming a family that experiences God and bears the fruit of His Holy Spirit can feel daunting.
As a wife and mom, I can readily admit the seasons our family hasn’t been able to hang on to the habits or characteristics we value. Instead, in those blinding moments, God faithfully hung on to us.
There are times when we can’t seem to do more than survive the day. When we are so tired we fall asleep every time we sit down to pray or read our Bibles.
There are times when our hearts are so wracked in pain we don’t know what to say to the Lord or anyone else.
However, regardless of the season we find ourselves in, we were designed by God to bear fruit to His glory.
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What Does It Mean to Bear Fruit?
Galatians explains the fruit we are meant for: 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
This list in Galatians describes the evidence of the spirit at work in our lives and earlier in the text, the evidence of the flesh. They are set before us as two categories of evidence or results.
And both category requires the development or cultivation of certain attitudes and behaviors before they “bear fruit.”
We can’t just say, “I really love my husband” and expect that saying it or thinking it will bear the fruit of it.
Love is HARD! It’s even complicated! Think about how easy it is to love amiss and end up enabling a destructive habit or maybe you want to lovingly support someone through a challenging time but all your efforts fall short of the real way they actually need support.
Yes! Love is hard and complex; it is beyond us to do it well or rightly. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Moving from our own messy attempts at love (and all the rest) into God’s promised territory functions a bit like gardening.
If someone planted a garden haphazardly, maybe they didn’t prepare the soil evenly or purposefully, they didn’t fertilize, they watered when they felt like it or just when they remembered, and they didn’t read the seed packets before tossing them to the ground we would all agree that isn’t a method of gardening, it’s just a foolish waste of time and energy.
A pursuit like gardening requires intentionality. So how much more purposefulness does our family need to reap a harvest of spiritual fruit?
We either sow to the Spirit, thus inviting God to work in our midst, or we sow to the flesh and end up inviting the enemy and our sinful nature to work.
When we see anger erupt in our family, we’ve sown to our flesh. We’ve allowed sin to take up soul-space and now it is bearing fruit.
Conversely, when we exercise patience in our relationship, we quench our natures and make space for the Holy Spirit to come, work, and bear fruit.
Here are 4 practices or habits you can implement into your family life to prepare your “heart soil” for God’s work and fruitfulness.
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1. Pray for Personal Awareness
We need to become aware when we feel, speak, think, and act in opposition to the work of the Lord.
If His will is for all His children individually to bear fruit (John 15:16) then it’s reasonable to say it is also His will for our family life corporately to bear the evidence of His work in us (even if our families aren’t made up of fellow Christians, it’s crucial that our relationships display Christ as a witness for our unbelieving family).
Many times, the moment of decision to either yield to the Holy Spirit or the flesh came before the big blowout argument.
Hurt feelings, resentment, and the like don’t simply appear out of nowhere. They were cultivated.
Just as the fruit of the Spirit is cultivated through repeatedly honoring the Lord’s ways above our own, the fruit of the flesh can be cultivated by ignoring His heart and will for us in favor of what comes naturally to us.
As we pray for that personal awareness, we need to be honest about it when God sheds light on our “stuff.”
When the Holy Spirit stirs in us the conviction that we were selfish toward our spouse or unkind toward our kids, we need to own it inside our hearts by confessing it to God. We also ought to go one step further and confess it to our family members as well.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. James 5:16
In our family, we regularly ask each other for forgiveness and own up to our crummy behavior, words, and attitudes.
If you could implement one single habit that could make space for the Lord’s work in a relationship, I think this is it. Being in truth about our own failings, weakness, sin, mistakes (whatever word you want to call it) is the first step to freedom!
“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32
Regularly praying for God to make us aware, individually first but also as a family, of anything in our hearts that opposes His ways and the work of His spirit is the first step in cultivating a spiritually fruitful family dynamic.
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2. Process Emotions with Scripture
When I was a younger Christian, I spent a little over a year studying emotions in the Bible. My emotions were running my life and creating a “soul-sieve” to all the good things God was pouring in.
I needed to process this heaped-up stack of memories and emotions with God’s truth for His peace and joy to take root, instead of just falling through the broken cracks in my heart.
Processing those emotions and memories with God’s truth meant agreeing with Him about them. When you really dig into what the Bible says about anger, wow! It’s more toxic than the nastiest chemical compound known to man.
And if you agree with Him about it, you have to get “done” with it and not cherish your right to it. This is the case for many of the things we struggle with.
Our hearts weren’t designed to carry anger, bitterness, worries, jealousy, etc. And when we turn each of those things over in the light of Scripture, if we are committed to agreeing with God and seeing them as He sees them, it changes their power in our hearts.
It changes how much we feel entitled to them. It changes how much room we want to give them in our hearts.
If we do this individually, we are more able to do it together as a family.
If I see my husband or son’s frustrations or anger as a fleshly response that could get a spiritual stronghold in his life (Ephesians 4:26-27), I don’t act defensively toward him.
I get on my knees in prayer for them. And the same goes for them toward me.
When we start to see one another’s emotional responses to life as flags waving spiritual signals, instead of taking them personally, we can actually minister much more effectively to each other.
And this is truly our hearts’ desire isn’t it? That our family life would be a safe place where we can come for help, comfort, and support?
Going to God with our emotions and the emotions of our family gives the Spirit opportunity to sow seeds of peace within our hearts and to turn us back to the truth of God’s love in every situation.
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3. Position Our Identity in Christ
Practically speaking, this for me has meant daily washing my sense of who I am in how Scripture proclaims God sees His children.
And if there is one emotional/spiritual need your family members have, this one has got to make the top of the list!
We need our family to remind us who we are to God because the world hurls a different message at us constantly.
When our identity is anchored to God’s Word about who we are to Him, it alleviates the insecurities that get us into all manner of trouble. When we walk around with our identities rooted in our abilities, reputation, or other personal achievements, our security runs thin.
We constantly need to refill our assurance. And that one thing right there leads us to so many crazy-making attitudes, behaviors, and thought patterns!
Praying for your family members to see themselves as God sees them and being a vessel of that truth for them is a special, sacred privilege.
For us to know and experience the fruits of the Spirit the way we are designed to, it is crucial for us to know who we are and whose we are in Christ.
And when we believe we are sons and daughters of the Most High, we start to act like it. The fruits of the Spirit become an overflow of who we see ourselves as, and consequentially who we also know our family to be.
What is your identity in? How can you encourage your family to live in their God-given identity?
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4. Pray to Experience God Personally
When we seek the fruit of the Spirit in our family life, we aren’t setting out to just try really hard to love better or work to be patient harder. We are seeking to remove the stuff that hinders God’s work in our lives and then watch the Spirit’s work come to fruition among us; manifesting as love and patience.
When He says love ought to flourish in our hearts, this isn’t a love that we pull out from the depths of our own souls. It is HIS love.
So, as a family, when the patience has grown weary and the kindness is low, we are invited to ask God for more of Himself!
This is beautiful, wonderful news!
We aren’t expected to have this stuff in us. It comes from our Lord, alone! As individuals and as a family, we can ask God to stir up and remind us of how we’ve experienced His love, peace, patience, etc in the past.
But we can also say to Him, “Lord, I don’t think I’ve ever truly tasted Your goodness like David speaks of it the Psalms. Please, show that part of Yourself to me and open my eyes to Your goodness.” And He will meet us!
I hope these 4 practices find their way into your family life and that they prepare the way for the work God desires to do in the life of your family!
If you’d like to study more about the Fruit of the Spirit or practical ways to process emotions and memories with Scripture, check out these resources:
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