Every fall when the weather starts to get a little chilly in Wisconsin, we take a trip to an apple orchard outside of town. We get a basket and slowly walk down each row of trees. We pass different types of apple trees: Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Fuji, Honeycrisp, and so on.
We carefully inspect each tree and each apple; passing over the unripe apples with worms, rot, and deformities.
Over the next hour, we begin to fill our basket with beautiful, shiny, red apples. Each of them produced by a healthy tree.
Do you see where we're going with this?
In the same way a healthy tree produces fruit, a healthy marriage produces fruit as well. The bible calls these "fruits of the Spirit" in Galatians 5:22-23
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things." - Galatians 5:22-23
As you prepare for marriage, take a quick inventory of the health of your "tree" (ie, your relationship). What types of fruit are you producing? Is it healthy? What areas need be to tended to in order to produce the fruit God desires?
Let's take a look at the nine fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Whew. That's a lot.
As you head into marriage, you'll quickly learn that lasting love is a choice, not a feeling. Love is the foundation upon which the rest of the fruits of the Spirit can grow. Without love, there is nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2).
"Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." - Nehemiah 8:10
You won't have a perfect marriage. In fact, you might not always be happy in your marriage or with your spouse. But the bible tells us that we find our joy in the Lord, and no matter our circumstances, He will be able to bring joy into our lives.
As you head into marriage, here are 3 ways you can display joy in your relationship:
"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." - John 16:33
Have you ever been around a couple who is constantly fighting and shouting at each other? It's incredibly uncomfortable. It's also clear that the couple is majorly lacking peace in their relationship.A couple who displays the fruits of the Spirit will be marked by peace. They'll not only bring peace to those around them, but to each other. They'll view conflict as an opportunity to serve each other and seek to get back to peace as quickly as possible.
"Be patient, therefore, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for harvest." - James 5:7-8
Patience may be the hardest fruit of the Spirit to display. It requires us to have a long-term perspective and wait even when it's not easy.
Here are three ways to build patience in your future marriage:
"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." - Ephesians 4:31-32
If someone were to describe you, would they describe you as kind?
Would your partner describe you as kind?
Kindness is the tone of a healthy marriage. As such, you should always work toward speaking kindly to each other... even in conflict.
Here are three ways to foster kindness in your marriage:
"Therefore, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." - Galatians 6:10
Goodness is probably the most abstract fruit of the Spirit. It's often easy to know when we're being kind or when we're being patient... but how do we know when we're being "good"?
Kelly Wise Valdes of the Osprey Observer sums it up well: "The word ‘good’ is used so frequently in our everyday lives that it almost loses its meaning. For example, how many times a day do we say, “good morning” and “good luck” and “good work”? But, the Bible tells us that the word ‘good’ actually means holy, pure and righteousness. Literally goodness is godliness."
When we pursue righteousness and the things and ways of God, we're pursuing goodness.
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering; for He who promised is faithful." - Hebrews 10:23
When we were thinking about faithfulness in our marriage, we came back to the word "consistency." For us, faithfulness means showing up every day with hope and anticipation. It means being consistent with what God has called you to do.
Here are a few ways you can display faithfulness in your marriage:
"A gentle answer turns away rage, but a harsh word stirs up anger." - Proverbs 15:1
Gentleness and kindness go hand-in-hand. The dictionary defines gentleness as, "the quality of being kind, tender, or mild-mannered." When we're kind, we're being gentle. When we're gentle, we're being kind.
"For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." - Titus 2:11-12
The last fruit of the Spirit is arguably the most important, yet most difficult, fruit to display. Time and time again, the Bible shows us examples of people who lack self-control.In marriage, self-control is a requirement to maintaining peace and loving your spouse well.Having a marriage that displays the fruits of the Spirit isn't easy. It requires hard work. But, if you are willing to put in the time and energy, your marriage will be a beautiful picture of God's grace.