Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Special thanks to Peggy Graff and her guests for providing this uplifting and inspiring addition to us in her Dog Days Duets series. I pray that these weekly selections will uplift your spirits and feed your soul as much as it does mine.
Galatians 5:16-25 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Works of the Flesh
16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy,[a] drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
The Fruit of the Spirit
22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Jesus said that we will know people “by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:16)
Paul contrasted what he called “the works of the flesh” with being led by the Spirit and living lives that bear “the fruit of the Spirit.”
I invite you to think about fruitfulness and to examine the fruitfulness of your own life. What kind of fruit are you bearing?
It’s important to note that the Fruit of the Spirit is not a new list of things to do. It is, rather, a description of a life committed to following Christ and living in openness to the presence and power of God. Paul is saying that this fruit is the evidence of God’s power and presence.
Paul’s image of fruit is a way of describing what is going on in a life or family or even a community or nation. So, let me suggest a lens for looking together at the Fruit of the Spirit and what it means for us today. I want to use an analogy for paying attention to our lives.
I am a private pilot, even though I haven’t flown in a long while. A key concept in flying that a student pilot begins to learn on day one of training is also, I believe, an important concept for living our lives. It is summed up in one phrase: situational awareness. A pilot is to be constantly aware of what is going on inside the plane and outside the plane. That is situational awareness.
Now, the key to situational awareness is the scan. In the cockpit of an airplane there are a number of instruments, indicators and gauges. A habit you begin to learn on day one of training is to scan the instrument panel of the airplane and scan the airspace all around the airplane, paying attention to the nose of the plane in relationship to the horizon and looking for other aircraft. It is a critically important habit and one that requires discipline so that you don’t fixate your attention too long either inside or outside the plane or on one instrument. If you are flying in weather, the scan of the instruments becomes an even more important discipline. You need to know what the plane is doing and where you are going all the time.
All of these instruments give important information about how the flight is going and all are important. Am I on the right course? Am I at the right altitude? Am I ascending, descending or level? Is the engine happy? Do I have enough fuel? If the attitude of the plane is too steep and the airspeed drops below the stall speed of the plane, the plane will stall. If the descent and engine speed are too high, the plane may exceed the never-exceed speed on the airspeed indicator, putting the plane at risk for structural damage. A pilot can only push a plane so far and the instruments tell us what those limits are. An instrument scan, therefore, is a life-saving habit. That’s true of the scan of the airspace outside the cockpit, too. What is going on around me? Are there other aircraft in the area? All of this together is called “situational awareness.”
It seems to me that we have a set of instruments, gauges and indicators in our lives that we can pay attention to and the habit of scanning those “gauges” can save our lives, as well. For example:
- Am I on the right course?
- How much fuel do I have to sustain flight?
- Do I need to land for a while and refuel?
- What about my rate of climb?
- Am I pushing myself beyond the limits?
- Am I going beyond the never-exceed speed and in danger of damaging my life or my relationships?
- What is going on around me outside of myself?
- Am I paying attention to others?
- Am I aware enough of what is going outside of myself to recognize God’s call on my life?
Situational awareness, then is critically important for our lives, too.
So, think of each aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit as being like an instrument or gauge or indicator to enhance your situational awareness when it comes to your life and your relationships. How closely are you following in the way of Jesus? What this requires is the habit of scanning these indicators and what is going on in us and around us. In stormy weather, the scan becomes even more important.
What are those indicators? They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. How are you doing? How is our community doing? How about our nation?
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster