First, let me state that I’m no theologian. I’ve taken a college Overview of the Bible class and a single seminary course, Overview of the Old Testament. I read voraciously. I love to study! If I knowingly quote someone, I will do my best to cite them, or at least admit I don’t know who said/wrote it first, in a footnote. Some thoughts have been in my life for years, maybe even decades. Who has cited everything in their entire spiritual life? I know I haven’t! So, please, forgive my failings in this area. If you know who I should be citing, leave me a comment, and I’ll get it fixed.
Galatians 5:22, 23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (ESV)
One of the key words here is “fruit.” It happens. So, if we are truly regenerated, the Spirit living in us, we will have fruit. Now, to be sure, there are some things that can make the soil more fertile and fruit more abundant, but nevertheless, it happens to one degree or another.
Another thing to consider is that fruit doesn’t pop up fully mature overnight. It’s a process! Every season there’s a new crop. Sometimes a fruit tree goes dormant and rests, then there are little bitty buds, then the blossoms, then the fruit begins to appear only to take its time maturing. Then after the harvest most trees are pruned – OUCH! Same thing in the Christian life, I think. Seasons and cycles, resting, growing, reaping and pruning.
As God was preparing us for full-time missions, I remember a specific day in my life, sometime during February 1989. I know it was before Valentine’s Day, because I had a general goal of having all the rose bushes – over 40 of them! – pruned by Valentine’s Day. It was good timing for Southern California. And this was the year for heavy pruning. I mean, pretty much getting back to just one stick coming out of the ground.
It had been an emotionally tough winter. I don’t remember exactly why, but I do remember feeling like everything was being stripped away from me. I couldn’t understand it! Why?! But, as I slowly and methodically cut back my roses, God kept bringing back John 15:5-8 to me:
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (ESV)
It dawned on me: all this discontent, everything changing, being stripped away, it was God’s pruning of my life. Things that kept me from fully abiding in the love of Christ were being stripped away. He was preparing me for the calling He had given us and hadn’t shown clearly to us quite yet. He was pruning so the fruit would be the best fruit, not scraggly stuff.
The first year after the hard prunings, the roses would have such long, graceful stems. The most beautiful roses that ever grew on those bushes. The next year I wouldn’t prune back quite as far, and although the roses were still beautiful, their stems weren’t so long and graceful. Seems to me that it takes a lot of energy to grow those long, beautiful stems. And the more that’s on the bush, the less energy for each individual rose. I’m not a horticulturist, but this is the way I envision it.
So, I relate this whole story to point out that, even though we have some spiritual fruit: some love, some joy, some peace, some patience, some kindness, some goodness, some faithfulness, some gentleness, some self-control; we can be pruned and fertilized to bring forth more fruit. I think God allows us to examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5), confess our sins (pruning) and get into His Word (fertilizing) so we, through the power of His Spirit, produce excellent fruit that brings glory to Him.
http://www.pinterest.compin153615037262279129 accessed 2 Jan 2015
The Sword Project Open Source Bible Software [Software]. (2007). Bangkok: Thailand Bible Society.