Considering that I’ve been a believer for three decades, I wish I could say that the fruit of the Spirit was more developed in my heart and life. But I’m continually embarrassed by my lack of patience and gentleness with my children, lack of self-control with eating junk food, lack of peace when I’m worrying about all the what-ifs…and on and on. Honestly, I don’t feel like I have much of the fruit of the Spirit at all. It makes me want to try harder, but I inevitably fail. I know that the fruit of the Spirit comes from God (and not our own efforts), and in our sinful state we can’t perfectly embody them. But I feel as if I should at least be growing in these areas as a part of my spiritual walk with the Lord, and I’m just not. How can I pursue the development of spiritual fruit?
We bought a fixer-upper on two acres and there is a wooded area at the back of the yard. When cleaning out overgrown brush, we discovered a hidden apple tree, looking the worse for wear. Like the house, it had been neglected over the years, and as a result, was bearing no fruit. The first summer after we happened upon it, I spent the months leading up to harvest time hoping that just giving it breathing room would be enough to watch it make apples.
It was not.
I have come to realize that if my neglected apple tree is going to make a comeback, it’s going to require more attention than I’ve given. Come to find out, an apple tree should be pruned annually during its dormant months, and since this has not happened to my tree for who knows how long, a more severe pruning is in order.
Then there’s apple tree training, which includes tying branches together to help the tree keep its shape and grow in a healthy direction. There are also diseases to treat and bugs to spray.
So one could say that growing an apple tree that will actually bear apples requires a certain amount of care. The same is true for spiritual fruit.
You’ll note I did not initiate a conversation with my tree about getting its act together and working harder to make apples. I don’t think that would really help. In the same way, willing yourself to bear spiritual fruit will only frustrate you and will not get you any closer to where you want to be. I am caring for my apple tree, giving it what it needs to grow, and letting God handle the fruit bearing. So should you.
Pruning. This should happen periodically. Spend time with the Lord and ask him to reveal where you’re dragging along dead branches that need to be pruned. You can’t bear fruit if you have a bunch of dead branches weighing you down.
Training. Are you yielding yourself to the master gardener? As he ties your healthy branches to direct their growth, are you surrendering to his discipline or are you fighting him?
Care. In the same way that the apple tree needs sun, food, and water, the health of your spiritual life depends on time spent with God. Don’t fight him, but allow him to be the leader of your life daily.
Bottom line, don’t worry about the fruit. If you care for your spiritual self like I’m caring for my apple tree, you will bear fruit. Are you finding this hard to believe? Believe it. Fruit is not to be your concern – when you care for your spiritual self, fruit will come.
And as a side note, you are likely bearing more fruit than you give yourself credit for. And I bet that if you went through the list in Galatians 5:22, looking for how he has blessed you rather than standing over yourself with a hammer, you’d see it, too. Who doesn’t lose patience with their children? Who doesn’t struggle with indiscriminate eating? Give your spiritual self the loving care you deserve. Daily surrender to God’s leadership as your master gardener, and let him handle the fruit bearing.
But 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)