The Fruit of Trying Harder

February 10, 2022  - By Jessica Thompson

The Fruit of Trying Harder-an Article from Well-Watered Women

[Editor’s Note: This article is adapted from Jessica Thompson’s new book, How God Loves Us: 40 Days to Discovering His Character in the Fruit of the Spirit.]

The phrase “fruit of the Spirit” may conjure up a pithy kid’s song you learned in Sunday school or a list of words that you would never use to describe yourself. Maybe you think of a to-do list or roll your eyes because you always fall short. Are you going through the list right now (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness) and measuring your personal growth? Maybe you have never heard the phrase before in your life. Or maybe you are like me, and somehow your brain takes you to a very weird place and you start thinking of “Fruit of the Loom” instead. Our brains can be strange places.

No matter where your mind takes you, I am positive that we all want to see more of these fruit in our lives. The problem is, of course, how do we get there? The power to change doesn’t come from looking inward. When we see that we fall short, we must let that inward look lead to an upward look because the power to change comes from outside of us. That’s why the biblical phrase is “the fruit of the Spirit,” not “the fruit of trying harder.

Falling Short in Fruit

A fruit of the Spirit that I continually fall short in is patience. Just last night, I yelled at my dog because he was excited to see me and wouldn’t calm down when I told him to. I cringe even writing that, but I really shouldn’t be surprised. I have a track record of impatience. My family, friends, and even complete strangers (other drivers who happen to be in MY WAY) would be able to attest to my impatience as well. Thus, I need that work from outside of me to change because the guilt and shame I feel when I realize how impatient I have been are just not doing the trick.

I need to hear that God has been patient with me. I need 1 Timothy 1:16, “But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate his extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in him for eternal life” (CSB).

According to the Oxford Dictionary, patience is defined as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” Reading that makes me feel anxious, and I wonder if I have ever been truly patient in my life. Sure, there are times that I have acted patiently. But accepting or tolerating uncomfortable situations without getting angry or upset seems impossible. I suppose because if my only tool is to try harder, it is impossible.

The Worst of Sinners

In 1 Timothy 1:16, the apostle Paul is recounting his salvation story. In the previous verses, he talked about what type of life he was living before the mercy of God came crashing in and saved him. You may or may not know about this man who wrote the majority of the New Testament. But before he became a Christ-follower, he was a Christ-hater.

He didn’t just hate Christ in an abstract or apathetic way; he hated Christ in an active way. Paul would murder anyone who agreed that Christ was the Son of God. He would work to get Christians thrown into jail and would torture those that loved Jesus. Then in Acts 9, Jesus paid him a visit and had a conversation with him that turned his life around. Paul went from being the one that would persecute others because of their faith in Christ to the one being persecuted for his faith in Christ. Paul’s own admission was that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I am the worst of them.” (1 Tim. 1:15 CSB).

The Patience of Christ

So why in the world would God choose to save Paul? Why would he take the “worst of sinners,” a blasphemer and a hater, and make him his own? Paul answers that very question with, “so that…Christ Jesus might demonstrate his extraordinary patience” (1 Tim. 1:16 CSB). Truly Jesus perfectly fulfilled that definition of patience in his relationship with Paul. He accepted and tolerated all the evil that Paul did towards him and his people, and he tolerated it without repaying what Paul deserved. Instead of retaliating against Paul, he turned to him in mercy and kindness and loved him right into his family. Jesus looked at Paul in all of his anger and hatred and decided that he would be one of the ones that Jesus would love into life.

Jesus did this so that we could have assurance that no one is out of the reach of his love, kindness, and mercy. His patience stretches to the outermost hater of God. There is no one that Jesus looks at and says, “Nope, not enough patience for their shenanigans.” He takes the worst of us—he even took me—and he takes you, and he showers us with mercy and grace just because he loves to display how patient he is. 

His extraordinary patience wasn’t just for Paul—it's for you and me. He wants us to know that no matter our past, no matter our present, he's willing to forgive and welcome. God doesn’t forgive and welcome in a begrudging way; he forgives and welcomes in a celebratory way. Indeed, he celebrates his own good character, and he celebrates you. He celebrates your homecoming.

Remember Your Story and Bear Fruit

Today might be a good day to recount your own salvation story. Remember all the times he displayed his patience toward you. Remember who and how you were apart from him. Celebrate who and how you are now because of his renewing work in your life. Then, see what fruit it produces in your life. When trying harder fails, you might just find yourself becoming more patient by the loving work of Christ.

Meet the Author

Jessica Thompson is an author of several books, including her latest, How God Loves Us: 40 Days to Discovering His Character in the Fruit of the Spirit, and is a frequent conference speaker. She is part of the podcast Front Porch with the Fitzes and is the director of church life at RISEN Church in San Diego, California.


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