For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. (Rom. 14:17,18)
It's the last day of August and bushes are overflowing with rich blackberries. Tim, Emily, and I celebrated the season by going blackberry picking along the Willamette River Sunday afternoon. Don't our berries look juicy? Mmm.
Do you remember long August afternoons picking blackberries till your shins were covered with scratches and your hands were covered with red juice? Lemonade days. Blackberry pie nights. Did we really need to add sugar to something that sweet?
I loved the blackberries of Delaware summer days. My girl friends, sisters and I picked them for hours in the afternoon sun. As we picked the berries, I pictured them in pies, cobblers, and bowls full of them with extra sugar on top. I popped a few into my mouth as we went along.
I could not help but look over at my friends' bowls. I wanted mine to be just as full as theirs. I was eager to win my friends' approval by matching their motions, berry for berry. When they reached for berries down low, I bent to pick some near my feet. When they reached up high, I stretched on tiptoes to get the ones barely within reach. The choice vine right in front of me was heavy with ripe berries, bowing like a servant before his queen. But I continued to look to my friends to set the standard, and concentrated on them instead.
God calls us to focus on His Kingdom, which lies within us. His righteousness is a safe place, one of protection of our hearts. His peace becomes ours when we take our eyes off others and put them on Him. Practicing the presence of God throughout the day purposes to make His calm center ours. And Jesus joy – irresistible, irreversible joy – finds no limits when we're filled to overflowing with the freedom we find only in His Spirit.
What pleases God the most? When we serve Christ with His righteousness, His peace, His joy. Bowls full of His fruit.
And that's the sweetest treat of all.