“The Fruitage of the Spirit” Glorifies God
“My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit.”—JOHN 15:8.
1, 2. (a) What opportunities do we have to encourage others? (b) What gift from Jehovah enhances our ability to serve him?
CONSIDER two scenarios: A Christian woman notices that a younger sister seems preoccupied. She makes arrangements to work with her in field service. As they are conversing between doors, the younger sister begins sharing what is troubling her. Later that day in prayer, the younger woman thanks Jehovah for the loving interest of the mature sister; it was just what she needed. In another place, a couple has recently returned from preaching in a foreign land. At a gathering, as they excitedly relate experiences, a young brother is quietly listening. Some years later, as he is preparing to leave for his own foreign assignment, he thinks of that couple and the conversation that made him want to be a missionary.
2 Perhaps those situations remind you of someone who made a difference in your life or of someone whose life you touched. Of course, rarely does a single conversation change someone’s life, but each day, we have opportunities to encourage and strengthen others. Imagine that there was something that would enhance your abilities and attributes, making them more beneficial to your brothers and more useful to God. Would that not be wonderful? Actually, Jehovah gives us just such a gift—his holy spirit. (Luke 11:13) As God’s spirit operates in our life, it produces in us beautiful qualities that enhance every aspect of our service to God. What a marvelous gift!—Read Galatians 5:22, 23.
3. (a) How does our cultivating “the fruitage of the spirit” glorify God? (b) What questions will we consider?
3 The qualities that holy spirit produces are a reflection of the very personality of the Source of that spirit, Jehovah God. (Col. 3:9, 10) Jesus indicated the foremost reason why Christians should strive to imitate God when he told his apostles: “My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit.”* (John 15:8) As we cultivate “the fruitage of the spirit,” the results are plain to see in the way we speak and act; this, in turn, brings praise to our God. (Matt. 5:16) In what ways is the spirit’s fruitage different from the traits of Satan’s world? How can we cultivate the fruitage of the spirit? Why may we find it a challenge to do so? We will consider these questions as we discuss the first three aspects of the spirit’s fruitage—love, joy, and peace.
Love Based on a Higher Principle
4. What kind of love did Jesus teach his followers to practice?
4 The love produced by holy spirit is markedly different from the sort of love that is common in the world. How so? It is based on a higher principle. Jesus highlighted this difference in the Sermon on the Mount. (Read Matthew 5:43-48.) He noted that even sinners will follow a policy of like for like, treating others as others treat them. Such “love” does not involve real sacrifice but amounts to an exchange of favors. If we want to ‘prove ourselves sons of our Father who is in the heavens,’ we must be different. Rather than treating others as they treat us, we are to view and treat others as Jehovah views and treats them. How, though, is it possible to love our enemies, as Jesus commanded?
5. How can we show love for those who persecute us?
5 Consider one Bible example. While preaching in Philippi, Paul and Silas were arrested, severely beaten, and thrown into the inner prison, where their feet were secured in stocks. In the process, they may well have been mistreated by the jailer also. When they were unexpectedly freed as a result of an earthquake, did they relish the prospect of getting even with that man? No. Their sincere concern for his welfare—their self-sacrificing love—moved them to act swiftly in his behalf, opening the way for the jailer and his entire household to become believers. (Acts 16:19-34) Many of our brothers in modern times have similarly followed a course of “blessing those who persecute.”—Rom. 12:14.
6. In what ways can we show self-sacrificing love for our brothers? (See box on page 21.)
6 Our love for fellow believers goes further. “We are under obligation to surrender our souls for our brothers.” (Read 1 John 3:16-18.) More often, though, we can show love in smaller ways. For example, if we say or do something that offends a brother, we can demonstrate love by taking the initiative to restore peace. (Matt. 5:23, 24) What if someone offends us? Are we “ready to forgive,” or are we sometimes inclined to hold a grudge? (Ps. 86:5) The intense love produced by holy spirit can help us to cover over minor transgressions, freely forgiving others “even as Jehovah freely forgave” us.—Col. 3:13, 14; 1 Pet. 4:8.
7, 8. (a) How is love for people linked with love for God? (b) How can we deepen our love for Jehovah? (See illustration below.)
7 How can we cultivate self-sacrificing love for our brothers? By deepening our love for God. (Eph. 5:1, 2; 1 John 4:9-11, 20, 21) The intimate moments we spend with Jehovah in Bible reading, meditation, and prayer nourish our hearts and nurture our love for our heavenly Father. However, we need to buy out time to draw close to God.
8 To illustrate: Imagine that it was possible to read God’s Word, meditate on it, and pray to Jehovah only during a certain hour each day. Would you not jealously guard that time slot so that nothing interfered with your personal time with Jehovah? Of course, no one can restrict our access to God in prayer, and most of us can read the Bible whenever we want to. Yet, we may need to take measures to prevent the whirlwind of daily activities from infringing on our personal time with God. Do you buy out as much time as possible each day to draw close to Jehovah?
“Joy of Holy Spirit”
9. What is a characteristic of the joy produced by holy spirit?
9 A notable characteristic of the fruitage of the spirit is its stability. Joy, the second aspect we will consider, exemplifies this resilience. Joy is like a hardy plant that can thrive even in a hostile environment. Throughout the earth, many of God’s servants have “accepted the word under much tribulation with joy of holy spirit.” (1 Thess. 1:6) Others face hardships and deprivations. Yet, Jehovah empowers them by means of his spirit “to endure fully and be long-suffering with joy.” (Col. 1:11) What is the source of this joy?
10. What is the source of our joy?
10 Unlike the “uncertain riches” of Satan’s world, the spiritual treasures we have received from Jehovah have lasting value. (1 Tim. 6:17; Matt. 6:19, 20) He holds before us the joyful prospect of an unending future. We have the joy of being part of a worldwide Christian brotherhood. Above all, our joy is founded on our relationship with God. We share the feelings expressed by David, who although forced to live as a fugitive, praised Jehovah in song, saying: “Because your loving-kindness is better than life, my own lips will commend you. Thus I shall bless you during my lifetime.” (Ps. 63:3, 4) Even when we experience hardships, joyful praise to God wells up in our hearts.
11. Why is it important that we serve Jehovah with joy?
11 The apostle Paul urged Christians: “Always rejoice in the Lord. Once more I will say, Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4) Why is it important for Christians to carry out their service to Jehovah with joy? Because of the issue Satan raised in connection with Jehovah’s sovereignty. Satan claims that no one serves God out of a willing heart. (Job 1:9-11) If we were to serve Jehovah dutifully but joylessly, our sacrifice of praise would be incomplete. We therefore endeavor to heed the psalmist’s exhortation: “Serve Jehovah with rejoicing. Come in before him with a joyful cry.” (Ps. 100:2) Service rendered from a joyful, willing heart glorifies God.
12, 13. What can we do to combat negative feelings?
12 Realistically, though, even devoted servants of Jehovah will have times when they become downhearted and struggle to maintain a positive outlook. (Phil. 2:25-30) What can help us during such times? Ephesians 5:18, 19 says: “Keep getting filled with spirit, speaking to yourselves with psalms and praises to God and spiritual songs, singing and accompanying yourselves with music in your hearts to Jehovah.” How can we apply that counsel?
13 When beset by negative feelings, we can beseech Jehovah in prayer and endeavor to meditate on praiseworthy things. (Read Philippians 4:6-9.) Some find that softly humming along with recordings of our Kingdom songs lifts their spirits and helps to rechannel their thoughts. A brother who faced an ordeal that often left him feeling frustrated and discouraged recalls: “In addition to regular heartfelt prayer, I memorized a few Kingdom songs. It brought peace to my heart to sing these beautiful praises to Jehovah either out loud or silently to myself. Also, the book Draw Close to Jehovah was released about that time. I read it twice during the following year. It was like a soothing balm for my heart. I know Jehovah blessed my efforts.”
“The Uniting Bond of Peace”
14. What is a notable feature of the peace produced by holy spirit?
14 At our international conventions, delegates from diverse backgrounds bask in the warmth of Christian fellowship. Such scenes highlight a feature of the peace enjoyed by God’s people today—our global unity. Onlookers are often astonished when they see people whom they would expect to be at enmity with one another “earnestly endeavoring to observe the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:3) This unity is truly remarkable in view of what many have had to overcome.
15, 16. (a) What was Peter’s background, and how did that pose a challenge for him? (b) How did Jehovah help Peter to adjust his attitude?
15 Uniting people who are of different backgrounds is a challenge. To help us gain insight into what must be overcome to achieve such unity, let us consider a first-century example, the apostle Peter. His attitude toward uncircumcised Gentiles can be detected in his words: “You well know how unlawful it is for a Jew to join himself to or approach a man of another race; and yet God has shown me I should call no man defiled or unclean.” (Acts 10:24-29; 11:1-3) In keeping with a viewpoint common at the time, Peter apparently grew up believing that the Law obligated him to love only fellow Jews. It may have seemed completely normal to him to view Gentiles as enemies to be hated.*
16 Just imagine the awkwardness Peter must have felt as he entered the home of Cornelius. Could a man who had previously held negative views of Gentiles ever become “harmoniously joined together” with them in “the uniting bond of peace”? (Eph. 4:3, 16) Yes, for just days earlier, God’s spirit had opened Peter’s heart, enabling him to begin to adjust his attitude and overcome his prejudice. Through a vision, Jehovah made it clear to him that God’s view of people is not determined by race or nationality. (Acts 10:10-15) Thus, Peter could tell Cornelius: “For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34, 35) Peter changed, and he became truly united with “the whole association of brothers.”—1 Pet. 2:17.
17. How is the unity enjoyed by God’s people remarkable?
17 Peter’s experience helps us to appreciate the remarkable transformation that is taking place among God’s people today. (Read Isaiah 2:3, 4.) Millions of people “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” have adjusted their thinking to conform to “the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rev. 7:9; Rom. 12:2) Many of these at one time were steeped in the hatreds, enmities, and divisiveness of Satan’s world. But through a study of God’s Word and with the help of holy spirit, they have learned to “pursue the things making for peace.” (Rom. 14:19) The resulting unity brings praise to God.
18, 19. (a) How can each of us contribute to the peace and unity of the congregation? (b) What will we consider in the next article?
18 How can each of us contribute to the peace and unity found among God’s people? Many congregations include those who have moved from a foreign land. Some may have different customs or may not speak our language well. Do we reach out to them? This is the course God’s Word recommends. Writing to the congregation in Rome, which included both Jewish and Gentile believers, Paul stated: “Welcome one another, just as the Christ also welcomed us, with glory to God in view.” (Rom. 15:7) Is there someone in your congregation whom you could get to know better?
19 What else can we do to allow holy spirit to operate in our lives? The next article will consider this question as we discuss the remaining aspects of the fruitage of the spirit.
The fruit Jesus mentioned includes both “the fruitage of the spirit” and “the fruit of lips” that Christians offer to God by means of the Kingdom-preaching work.—Heb. 13:15.
Leviticus 19:18 says: “You must not take vengeance nor have a grudge against the sons of your people; and you must love your fellow as yourself.” Jewish religious leaders held that “the sons of your people” and “your fellow” referred to Jews only. The Law required that the Israelites stay separate from other nations. However, it did not endorse the viewpoint promoted by the first-century religious leaders, namely, that all non-Jews were enemies and were to be hated as individuals.
How Would You Answer?
• How can we show self-sacrificing love for our brothers?
• Why is it important that we carry out our service to God with joy?
• How can we contribute to the peace and unity of the congregation?
[Box on page 21]
“These Are the True Christians”
The book Between Resistance and Martyrdom—Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Third Reich relates the comments of a young Jewish prisoner, in which he describes his first encounter with Jehovah’s Witnesses after he arrived at the Neuengamme concentration camp:
“As soon as we Jews from Dachau came into the block, the other Jews began to hide everything they had so that they would not have to share with us. . . . Outside [of the concentration camp], we had been there for one another. But here, in a situation of life and death, everybody’s first concern is to save himself, forgetting about the others. But imagine what the Bible Students were doing. At that time, they had to work very hard, repairing some water pipes. The weather was cold and they were standing all day long in ice-cold water. Nobody understood how they could endure this. They said Jehovah gives them the strength. They needed their bread desperately, just like we, because they were hungry. But what were they doing? They collected all the bread they had, took half of it for themselves, and the other half they gave to their fellow believers who had just arrived from Dachau. And they welcomed them and kissed them. Before they ate, they prayed. Afterwards, they all were satisfied and happy. They said that they were no longer hungry. You see, that is when I thought: These are the true Christians.”
[Pictures on page 19]
Do you buy out time each day from other activities to draw close to Jehovah?