In Step with the Spirit
Open Your Bible
Galatians 5:16-26, John 14:15-17, John 15:1-15
BY Patti Sauls
One tomato. I had grand plans for our backyard garden, but all I got to show for hours of watering and weeding was one, tiny, red tomato. I wish I could wax eloquent about the satisfaction of eating the fruit of my labors. (Fun fact: Tomatoes are botanically classified as fruit.) Instead, my lone tomato humbled me as I admitted that my efforts weren’t enough to produce abundant fruit.
Today’s reading reveals garden rhythms as well. On the night before He was arrested, Jesus said to His disciples, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener” (John 15:1). Jesus comforted His friends by reminding them that God vigilantly tends to all of His creation.
Jesus’s encouragement continued as He described branches, which grew from the vine and produced fruit. These branches, representing His followers, would be healthy and fruitful as long as they were connected to the vine. “Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me” (John 15:4).
The apostle Paul further described this spiritual fruit, explaining that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). These qualities shine collectively like the facets of a sparkling diamond. Together, they illuminate a Christian’s growing inner posture of dependence and obedience toward God, as well as her outer impact on the people and world around her. To this nourishing fruit I say, “Yes, please!”
But how do we produce such fruit? Do I summon my will power and attempt to weed out my sinful nature that so quickly yields hate, jealousy, selfishness, and worse? (Galatians 5:19–21). I may try, but as soon as I pull up one ugly weed, others sprout up in its place. This scramble ends with the same result as my backyard garden—little fruit and lots of awareness of my inability to produce it.
Are we sentenced to fruitless despair? No, we are given a resource that Jesus announces and seals with a promise: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever” (John 14:16). What deep relief! God doesn’t intend for us to muster up spiritual growth on our own. Instead, the Holy Spirit is poured out on us to work in us.
Although we are dependent on the Spirit to produce fruit, we are not passive. As a sunflower turns its head to seek out the sun, so we can orient our lives toward God through prayer, Bible study, repentance, praise, and other habits. As Paul said, “If we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). We are free to put one foot in front of the other, confidently seeking faithful obedience while resting and remaining in the promise that God fuels our movement by His Spirit at work in and through us.