Friday, October 8, 2021

The Fruit of the Spirit in a Writing Career (Part 1)


by Joshua J. Masters @JoshuaJMasters

When we think of a fruitful writing career, we usually weigh our success with the number of books we’ve published, how many articles we’ve had printed, or the quantity of paperbacks we’ve sold. But for Christian writers, the development of our character should be of greater concern than the success of our career as an author. But developing Christian character is the greatest thing we can do for our writing.

In the book of Galatians, God describes the fruit we should see in our lives when we live in the power and direction of the Holy Spirit:

… the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT)

HERE IS THE QUESTION FOR CHRISTIAN WRITERS:

If God has called me to write—if His purpose in creating me is crafting words to glorify His name, then should I not experience the Fruit of the Spirit in my writing career?

The hard truth is, the closer I am in my relationship with God, the more I should experience love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control in my writing experience. But the more I turn my writing into an idol to be worshipped rather than a way to connect with God, the less fruit I will see in my life, career, and craft.

So, how should these nine traits reveal themselves in my writing? We’ll look at the first four today and the rest in next month’s column.

LOVE
When religious leaders asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was (see Mark 12:28-31), His answer was love—loving God with all that you are and loving others. And while that’s a paraphrase, His message was simple. Love should be the hallmark attribute of a Christ follower.

One of the quotes that inspires my writing has nothing to do with writing—it’s about running. In the movie based on the life of 1924 Olympian Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire, Eric says, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” 

Liddell’s gift was relational. He was more connected to the source of his talent than the talent itself. 

Do you feel God’s pleasure when you write? Does writing give you a greater love for God, reveal His love for you, and fill you with compassionate love for your readers? If not, spend time with God and rekindle that connection. God created you for a purpose and He wants you to experience His love when you’re walking in that purpose. 

JOY
Do we find joy in our writing, or do we drag ourselves to the keyboard with dread? I’ve seen well-meaning Christians post memes that say, “Choose Joy,” but that’s nearly impossible. That’s because joy isn’t an emotion; it’s a state of being. We can’t rely on ourselves to summon a particular emotion in every trial, but we can learn to live in joy of Christ despite our circumstances. 

Too often we chase an emotion rather than surrendering to the joy of the Spirit. If we’re honest, that’s a control issue. We’d rather roll the weighted dice of our emotions than trust Christ with the outcome of our efforts. But it’s living in the release of that control that allows us to experience the freedom of joy, knowing God is directing all things for our spiritual growth and ultimate good (see Romans 8:28). 

PEACE
It’s difficult to feel peaceful when you’re waiting to hear from an agent reviewing your book proposal, isn’t it? Peace isn’t our natural response to the unknown, but the writing industry is filled with uncertainty. In fact, the only thing guaranteed in a writing career is rejection. So, without the Fruit of the Spirit, we can easily devolve into a daily routine of self-doubt and anxiety.

Peace is another sign of how healthy our relationship with Christ has become. As we grow in His love and joy, we learn to experience peace—even when that rejection email comes. That doesn’t mean we’re never disappointed, but it does mean those disappointments no longer affect our identity.

When describing suffering far greater than an unpublished manuscript, Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). Peace comes from experiencing Christ’s victory in your life because living in His eternal triumph will overshadow daily, human defeat. 

PATIENCE
Do I really need to express the necessity of patience in the life of an author? I’ll admit this particular bud on the tree of spiritual growth hasn’t flourished as much as I’d like in my life, but I’m getting there.

Maybe the first act of patience we need to practice is with ourselves. God refines our relationship with Him over time and we can’t expect a perfect harvest of fruit immediately. Paul wrote, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6 NLT).” That means we’re looking for progress, not perfection.

It’s easy for an author’s heart to read an article like this and beat themselves up for underachieving. But nothing about that will bear greater fruit in your life. It will only poison the tree. As we evaluate the love, joy, peace, and patience God wants us to experience in our writing, it gives us the opportunity to seek a deeper connection with the One who first called us to write.

But what about kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Here’s another opportunity to practice patience. Look for Part 2 of this column on Friday, November 12.

TWEETABLE

Joshua J. Masters is a pastor, author, and speaker with a heart for encouraging others. His book on prayer, AMERICAN PSALMS, was a Serious Writer’s Book of the Decade finalist. He’s been featured on CBN Television, HIS Radio, the Light Radio Network, and worked in the film industry as a member of SAG-AFTRA performer. He is a regular teacher and speaker for large groups. A self-proclaimed sci-fi and comic book geek, Josh loves film, pop culture and is known in some circles as THE BAT PASTOR. Joshua was raised in the White Mountains of New England and now serves as a pastor in South Carolina where he lives with his wife, Gina, and their miniature poodle, FRANKLIN THE PUP, who is the subject of his latest book. Josh would love to connect with you on his website, JOSHUAJMASTERS.COM

8 comments:

  1. Great post, Josh. I like the reminder that growing in Christ is a process. There will be growing pains. Even if we are doing it right.
    Thanks for this post and I look forward to the next.

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    1. Well said, Tim. May we all continue to grow in Christ together.

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  2. Thank you Josh for this wonderful way to see our writing journey. Look forward to tomorrow's post. Blessings!

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  3. You're welcome, Lisa. I hope you were encouraged by it.

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  4. Thank you so much for these convicting yet encouraging words, Joshua. It reminds me that I'm not alone in struggling with these. Why do we always feel like we're the only ones who don't have it together? I'm eager to read part 2.

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  5. Thank you for this wonderful reminder about the Fruit of the Spirit. Chariots of Fire is one of my favorite movies and I love the Eric Liddell quote. (I also feel God's pleasure when I run even though He didn't make me fast.)

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  6. Thank you for these thoughts. I am journaling about the Fruit of the Spirit at present. I intend to use some of the scriptures related to them on my blog in 2022.

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  7. Very well spoken and grounding. Thank you Joshua. Looking forward to Part two but will continuing to ponder Part one. Blessings to you and yours!

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