What works for me is using the fruit of the Spirit as a tempature gauge of my heart. Am I being patient, gentle, self-controlled? Am I filled with joy, peace? If not then it is obvious that I am not being empowered and controlled by the Holy Spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit is not something we can conjur up out of trying real hard to be a good Christian. We can't truly be patient and self-controlled in all things. (Which I actually thought I was a pretty patient person until I had two strong-willed boys a year apart) Fruit only grows as it stays connected to the vine. The same with us, we only bear fruit-the character of God if we stay connected to Him. God's part is to bear the fruit in our hearts which falls out of mouths. Our part is to live yielded to Him.
Have you had a time where you've seen God's heart or attitude about something come out you? It is pretty cool. In 2000 I went on a missions trip to Nepal. I had done all that I knew to do to raise the money to go and I was $2,000 short. $2,000!! I knew God wanted me to go. (Which is a whole other topic that I love talking about. There is a helpful resource called Discerning God's Will under the Life on Mission tab.) The people leading the trip told me that I could ride to the airport but if the money didn't come in by the time we got to the airport I couldn't go. I was at a 3 month missionary training program before that in Montana, so I had no idea how I would get home if I was left at the airport not able to go to Nepal with the team. (Have I ever told you I am awful at logistically details.)
Well, within 5 minutes as we were getting on the bus, $2,100 got turned in for me! Woah!! I had always wanted some really cool story of how God came through at the last minute, and He gave one!
And let me tell you about the $100 extra. The week before I found $100 in my room. Someone had secretly left it there. I had still needed a lot of money but didn't want to assume I was suppose to keep it. So I asked God if it was for me or if I was suppose to give it away. I couldn't get it out of my mind to give it to this other girl down the hall from the middle east. And look what God did! He provided $100 over what I needed. He is just so awesome isn't He!!
Not only did God come through circumstancially but He showed Himself as the fruit bearer in my heart. Instead of being totally stressed the weeks approaching the trip, as I yielded to Him, He gave me peace. Peace that went beyond my understanding. I just love how intimately He is involved with every aspect of things.
Oh Lord, thank you for giving us Your perspective and attitude as we turn to and trust You. And Lord, thank you so much for my great You came through with $2,000 in 5 minutes story. It's one of my favorites that You've done in my life. And I can't wait to see what else You're going to do!
How to let God bear His fruit in our lives
Below is a resource by Campus Crusade that is helpful for understanding how to see God's fruit come out of us. It can also be found in the Life on Mission Tab under the Spirit Filled Life link.