God allows us to be in places or in situations where we would prefer not to be, but he sovereignly allows them knowing that these things may be the only way to cultivate the virtues; for Christians to grow and mature in the fruit of the Spirit. Next time you find yourself stuck in a traffic jam, or being abused by others, or having people speaking ill of you, or not getting that job or pay rise that you so desired, keep in mind that God may be behind such things. God is so very much concerned to develop our Christian character. And if that means allowing us to get into rather unpleasant situations, then so be it.
Christians want to be (or should want to be) better believers, and to be better people. In other words, they want to be more Christlike. That is a major calling for the Christian: to grow in maturity as a believer. It is not about just being happy but about being moulded into the likeness and image of our Lord.
The New Testament is full of these ways of thinking of course. And while we have our own obligations and duties in this regard, at the end of the day it is God at work in us developing Christian character and spiritual maturity. Consider for example the importance of the fruit of the spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 offers us a list of nine items: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
Four general things can be said about them first, before looking at the fruit in a bit more detail. One, this is not about how to be a better person, or how to pick yourself up by your own bootstraps. These are fruit of the SPIRIT, and if you do not have the Holy Spirit, you will not have these fruit – at least to any real and substantial degree.
Yes, a non-Christian can sometimes be a nice person or good person or a patient person. But to see these fruit fully on display in your life as God intended, you must be connected to the source of that fruit. And that comes from God alone. As Jesus put it in John 15:1-6:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
Two, these fruit stand in opposition to the works of the flesh. There are some 15 of these listed in Galatians 5:16-22:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Three, I am hardly a role model here when it comes to the fruit of the Spirit. So when I write devotional and hortatory pieces like this, I am of course including myself in what is being said.