"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23
A man I know once asked his pastor how we can distinguish between God's will and our own. How do we know, he wondered, when what we want to do is really God's plan for us or merely our own will at work?
The pastor, Dr. Mark Shimer, considered the question and replied, "Consider the fruit."
In other words, who will benefit? How will they benefit? Is the fruit of your labor sweet and healthy, or is it sour and poisonous? Will God be glorified or vilified? Does the action you're considering make the world a better place, or does it make the world a better place just for you at someone else's expense?
When you bring forth good fruit, you spread love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If what you want to do doesn't bring about these fruits, then it isn't of God.
When an impulse to do something, to say something, to encourage someone comes upon us, considering the fruit helps us stay true to the kingdom path. At times, considering the fruit is pretty straightforward. Other times, it's tough and conflicted and we sometimes delude ourselves into thinking that God wants what we want. For examples, think of historical justifications for slavery, or think of recent justifications for threatening a mosque in Tennessee or for pulling sponsorship of starving children worldwide because World Vision decided to allow married gay people to work for them.
What is the fruit of that deed? Will it result in love? Or will it foster hate? Will it bring peace? Or will it bring war? Is it kindness? Or is it cruel? Does it inspire faithfulness? Or does it drive people away from Christ?
Consider the fruit. Good fruit draws non-believers to God. Good fruit fosters community and understanding. Good fruit brings God's kingdom closer to fruition.
How's your harvest?
Have you considered your fruit? Has there been a time when you realized your fruit wasn't good? How did you respond to that awareness? When have you produced excellent fruit? What were the results of that? Did the experience change you?