“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” — Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)
By 2013, everything I had begun fell to nothing.
In 2003 I took a leap of faith and stepped into my first leadership responsibility at church. In that small rural congregation I discovered the gifts of the Holy Spirit and began to understand what it means to live by the fruit of the Spirit. My heart heard the Lord and embraced ideas that would later become dreams in my heart.
Six years later I took a step of faith entering into full-time vocational ministry at a growing mega-church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I worked there for three years administrating the work of ministry and helping others find freedom in Christ. I also began to see God define and shape my purpose and calling in life.
This became the season that would begin to take my roots deep and give me understanding about what it means to live my life dependent upon God and His ability to speak to me. Call it sanctification or preparation — this season of three years pressed me hard to grow, to submit and learn, and to be quiet in order to discover my voice.
I also learned how to dream with God during this season.
In the third year on staff, I sensed God pulling at my heart to give up the security of a full-time job in ministry and once again take a leap of faith. I found myself pursuing a dream, making a journey and encountering the bumps and hazards that come with the risk … and experienced a reward of knowing I was called to live beyond the reality I’d known. I had been cut back and I had flourished.
Within the first year of living the dream, bankruptcy became my only option because I had regular weekly steroid injections for a chronic pain issue related to degenerative disc disease in my back. I had begun and given up my own radio program. I had lost much of the momentum that led me to make the drastic changes a year earlier.
Yet, in the midst of all this pain, God delivered a dream I had asked Him for when I left my previous position.
This morning I tap out this message from a little stone cottage on a lake in rural North Texas. I’m far from the things I dreamed of a few years ago. I’ve returned part-time to vocational ministry through the local church and I am still living my dream. I’ve not realized the fullness of it in my reality, but I have learned my God is both unstoppable and everything I need. It doesn’t look the way I thought it would, but my life is full and my heart is at rest as I follow Him.
I realize today I could have never sustained the dreams of my heart nearly four years ago. I didn’t have the discipline or the ability to steward all God wanted to do in and through my life.
I had to learn that living life fully is not just about getting what God promised me — it is about allowing His promises to come alive through me.
I had to allow Him to convict me of His righteousness and raise me up in a new community where I have friends who long to live boldly for Jesus alongside of me. They recognize and call out the greatness God in my life. They make room for my gifts and call me up to a higher, more fulfilling life in Christ.
This is the heart of the dream I’ve been dreaming for the last 12 years.
If I operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but I fail to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit — then something in my life is off.
You see, it is easy to want that platform to speak into other people’s lives — but it is harder to get down in the trenches with them and love them through the messiness and muck of life. I wanted the greatness without the sacrifice. I wanted the reach without the character to support it. I wanted the grace for the moment without the favor to carry it forward. What I didn’t realize is that God’s favor doesn’t precede His fruit, it follows after it. In other words, I had to die to my own desires about the vision of my dream so I could realize something much richer, much more real than anything I could have accomplished three years ago when I set out on this journey.
In recent months I’ve found my heart at rest while discerning deeply concerning spiritual issues.
- I’ve learned to love difficult people where they are — not just hoping they’ll change.
- I’ve learned to press down my emotional responses in favor of self control — and this abiding and growing in the character and nature of God, has given me influence and opportunity to speak, pray and lead others into the heart of God.
- He teaches me that just because I have “a word” for someone does not mean I should give it.
- Just because I discern something negative going on with someone or something going on in their life doesn’t mean I have to expose it. I don’t have to be the one with all the answers all the time.
- If I don’t have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control — the fullness of Christ’s nature — at work in me, everything I could or would say in any given moment will do nothing more than fall empty to the ground because His grace is not on it.
I encourage you today as you pursue the heart and purpose of God in your own life, don’t pursue the gifts of the Spirit unless first you love. And if you cannot find joy in the moments or if you must verbally vomit discernment on someone, you might ask the Lord what He would like to show you first. You will only accomplish His will when you’ve demonstrated His fruit.
When you lay your life out before Him in humility He will give you the desires and dreams of your heart.