The Upper Room Devotion for Tuesday, May 9, 2023, was written by Keith Ball of Mississippi.
16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, faction,
21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5:16-26 NRSV
A SPIRITUAL FOREST
I am from a region known for abundant pine forests that stretch for miles. But the forests did not grow overnight. The daily growth of a tree seems indiscernible, but day by day it grows nonetheless. Tiny seeds slowly become saplings; saplings become mature trees. Roots, trunks, branches, and verdant needles grow until they form a forest.
Like a forest, spiritual growth happens over time. Such growth requires regular, thoughtful focus on God’s word. Our spiritual journey needs constant effort. The world is full of distractions which can cause great anxiety. Emails demand immediate attention. Social media feeds create feelings of inadequacy, dissatisfaction, and isolation. The news cycle never ends its bombardment of stories of violence, hate, and political and economic woes.
Daily habits of spiritual growth allow us to turn off the noise of life. Just as the slow and steady growth of trees can produce an entire forest, steady growth in our spiritual lives cultivates a healthy connection with God. Pausing daily to reflect, meditate, and pray leaves us less anxious and more able to bear the fruit of God’s spirit.
Keith’s reflection offers us an encouraging and challenge task: taking ownership of our spiritual growth. I invite you to re-read Keith’s reflection, asking yourself: What do I need to do in order to deepen my relationship with God and grow spiritually?
Merciful God, we thank you for your word, which builds us up and dispels our fear. Thank you for the loving protection you provide. Amen.
- Keith Ball