Summary: The absolute guiding principle of operating in God's anointing and spiritual gifts is starting from the foundation of love and the natural growth of the Fruit of the Spirit.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Gal 5:22-23 NIV)
Many years ago, I purchased an older ranch style home that needed fixing up. It had lots of potential and the charm of acres of multiple fruit trees, a fantastic Bonsai Garden with a massive Koi pond. All it needed to be brought back to its full glory was time and money. Seeing as how I didn't have much money or extra time, things continued on their 'natural' course.
In the back yard, next to the patio area, there was this knurled old tree with multiple branches that looked like dead driftwood someone had stuck into the ground. I put it on my growing 'to do' list to take care of it - eventually...
About a year later, we had a rainstorm that was so intense it washed out roads and homes along the river. Our basement had filled with so much water it needed to be pumped out continuously for days. Eventually, the rain stopped, and things settled back to normal.
A few months later, as I was making one of my rare journeys into the back yard, I noticed that some leaves were forming on that old tree. I was amazed and figured the rains we had were the reason. I also felt a little guilty for assuming it was dead because it looked so old and decrepit and that I had thought there was no hope for it.
Within a few weeks, the tree had fully blossomed, and the most incredible thing happened - peaches began appearing on its branches and using my 'amazing' deductive logic, I realized it was a peach tree! The peaches were giant and sweet to the taste - truly the best I had ever had.
Since God never lets a good life lesson opportunity go by, I began to get schooled in the Fruit of the Spirit, so here are the top four things I learned from that tree.
- First, I should never assume that a person's outward appearance is truly reflective of the potential they have for bearing fruit.
- Second, sometimes the storms of life can bring out the best in people.
- Third, I should never neglect to water others with the Word of God and with words of encouragement, hope, and peace.
- Fourth, I should cultivate the ground (life circumstances) people find themselves in and build them up with the gifts of grace God has given me no matter how hardened they have become.
The Fruit of Love
I am one of those that believe that there is just one 'fruit' of the Spirit, which is love. All the other eight so-called 'fruits' listed are its manifestations. The Fruit of the Spirit abides in every Born-Again Christian, but the bearing of the fruit requires the watering of the Word and cultivation through love. Every Born-Again Christian is to first and foremost: "Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts" (1 Cor 14:1 NASB).
Love ("Agape" in Greek) is divine love that is unconditional, strong, passionate, committed, enthusiastic, tender and devoted to the well-being of another, wanting only the best for them. By its definition, it is impossible to manifest without the Holy Spirit's working in a person's life.
Without the fruit of love, the gifts become corrupted. Love is THE gift. Without it, joy doesn't work; peace doesn't come; patience isn't bearable, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are hard work.
Joy ("Chara" in Greek) is defined as constant and stable emotional excitement, gladness, and delight over blessings personally received or expected for others. It is far deeper than emotional experience because it is rooted in God and comes directly from Him as a byproduct of exercising trusting-faith (See Ps 30:11; Rom 14:17, 15:13; Phil 1:25).
Peace ("Eirene" in Greek) is defined as the state of quietness, rest, repose, harmony, contentment, order, and security in the midst of turmoil, strife, and temptations. Jesus is the Prince of peace.
A person does not need to have an emotional or "mystical" encounter with Jesus Christ to experience His peace. Christians are to:
"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." (Col 3:15 NIV)
It is His peace that "transcends all understanding" and will "guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil 4:7 NIV). It is not a state of being or a feeling.
In the Greek language, the word for "peace" is “eirene” which comes from the verb "eiro," and means to join or bind together that which has been separated. God's peace incorporates both an attitude of trusting-faith, which brings rest and security through a covenant with God.