One of the questions we confront time and time again is, “How do we know this is from God?” or “Is this the Spirit’s leading?” These questions vex us as we face situations where there are no easy answers, and things are not black and white. I mostly find myself maneuvering in shades of gray these days, very little is black or white.
Certainly one way we can discern where something is of God is to hold it up to Scripture for consistency. As we read the Bible repetitively, the Word seems to lodge in our soul. As that begins to happen, one develops an ability to discern if what we are hearing is consistent with Scripture.
My old friend Dave Daubert is one of the better theological minds I know. He offers practical advice. “If you want to see the Spirit at work, look for the fruit laying on the ground, because the fruit never falls far from the tree.” He then quotes from Galatians 5:22-23:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Just one simple sentence, but it says so much. My wife, Genie, loves to cross stitch. She stitched this verse into a frame and hung it on our wall probably 25 years ago. I must say I have looked at it hundreds of times, maybe thousands. But, I never thought about it like this until Dave made the point.
I probably never gave the verse much credence because it was so much not like me. For most of my life, those terms would not be the adjectives most people would have used to describe me. In my most generous moments, they are not terms I would have used to describe myself.
I was an entrepreneur, brash, impatient, loud, hard-charging, not shy about anything, not gentle in any way. I was trying to prove myself, and those adjectives in Galatians are not the way to make a name for yourself in the business world. So, I mostly thought the verse to be a quaint saying, but it never got too much traction in my life. The one place that deeply resonated was the yearning for a sense of peace.
I began meditation in the early 1980’s, and this yearning began to be a focus of that practice. I used this promise of Jesus in John 14:27:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
In my meditation, I would repeat as I inhaled a breath, “My peace I give you.” As I exhaled, I would repeat, “Jesus, give me your peace.” Slowly, over many years, my faith grew and a sense of peace began to dawn in my life. But, during my career days, not much else from the Galatians verse rang true.
Now, twelve years after I sold my business and left the marketplace, I see things differently. As I committed to discipleship, I began a more intentional focus on prayer, meditation, and reading the Bible. As more of the Scripture has lodged in me, I begin to see the fruit of the Spirit throughout the New Testament.
As I make more space in my life to listen for God, I find myself being shaped more and more into the mind of Christ. As such, the verse in Galatians has become very aspirational for me. I now yearn for that fruit to fall from my tree. (I am a Burch, after all.) I yearn for people to see the Spirit’s work in my life, and to see my work bear such fruit. To keep it in focus, I make it part of my prayer lif
Here is part of my morning prayer:
Shape me Lord, that I may be
That which You would make of me,
As You will,
Where You will,
When You will.
Give me the strength of Your Spirit this day
to turn from my selfish ways.
I will know my progress by the fruit that grows out of my life. It is not this fruit that makes me acceptable to God. It is the fruit that grows out of my gratitude for what He’s done for me. Want to see the Spirit around you? Look for the fruit. Looking for people who can help point you towards God? Look for the fruit laying under their trees. If you see the fruit, you are seeing the Spirit at work. Simple as that. Thanks, Dave, for helping me see it.