As I was praying through some Scripture this morning, a verse lept out at me in a new way. The passage was Colossians 1:10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
As I prayed through verse 10, it struck me that Paul does not say "bearing the fruit of every good work." Isn't that how we usually view service to the Lord - fruit equals what I do and my works? "A tree is known by its fruit," we say, "and the fruit for a Christian is what we do."
But Paul tells us that in the midst of doing good works (which God has created us to do and prepared for us in advance, according to Ephesians 2:10), we are to baer fruit. And this gets down to the issue of the heart - when I am serving someone, am I bearing love and kindness, or am I bearing self-righteousness and duty. When I am taking time from my everyday life and want to focus on God's Kingdom and love people in hard places, am I bearing the fruit of joy or the fruit of joyless service?
GAL 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
These are the things to bear in the midst of good works. It is so easy as Christians to think that the works are the most important thing, no matter the attitude or heart. Discipline, sacrifice, cross-bearing are important concepts in many evangelical circles. And yet Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that to do works without bearing the fruit of love makes us a gong or a cymbal, makes our works impotent. To divorce the concepts of sacrifice and discipline from the fruit of the Spirit (rather than having those empowered and enabled by the Spirit) is to regress into being people under law, not the freedom of Christ.
May we, you and I, be a people who do not grow weary in doing good, and as we do good, may we bear the fruit of the Spirit, that God might be glorified and seen, not our works themselves.