Devotional June 3, 2020
Over the course of the past few months, one thing that I have taken notice of that I never really thought of before, is the manner in which the trees go from the leafless branches of winter to the full green of late spring. In the past I have just been busy with life and never stopped to think about it. The past couple months, I have made the habit of walking around my neighborhood and have taken note of this process by which the trees have reached their full green splendor.
It didn’t happen overnight. For many of the trees in this area, they first bloomed into flowering branches. Then, the flowering blooms fell off and were replaced by the green that we now see. This whole process reminded me of spiritual growth. So many places in Scripture compare our growth as believers to the growth of trees. Sometimes the Word speaks of our roots and foundation, sometimes our leaves, but one of the most prevalent is the fruit that we bear as followers of Christ.
The simple truth is that an apple tree cannot bear oranges. An orange tree does not bring forth bananas. In the same manner, the Bible speaks of the fruit that we bear as believers. Do we bear the fruit of the flesh? Or do we bear the fruit of the Spirit? A tree’s fruit lets us know what kind of tree it is. In the same manner, our spiritual growth is seen through the fruit that we bear naturally as we grow in our relationship with Jesus. These are very different from spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines, things like reading the Bible, prayer, fasting, service, giving, etc. are things that we can do to strengthen our spiritual walk. It is similar to training for a race. You don’t just walk out the door expecting to be able to run a marathon, but you train in smaller increments and build up toward the end goal. The fruit one bears is not about how hard you work, but about how healthy you are spiritually.
Just like a tree will bear fruit according to the nature of the tree, a Christian will bear fruit on some level because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in their life. Paul refers to these as the fruit of the Spirit and he lists some of them in Galatians 5 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 These are not traits that you really train yourself to possess. It is hard to will yourself to have peace in difficult circumstances, or joy when life is difficult. These are things that are the result of the Holy Spirit changing the heart of a person who places their faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation.
Do you see evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in your life? Don’t be discouraged if they are not easily identifiable. Remember the process of a tree sprouting leaves, or in this case bearing fruit. The fruit starts off small and then grows and ripens over time. The evidence of the fruit of the Spirit might still be in the sprouting stage in your walk with the Lord. The important thing is that there is evidence of fruit somewhere.
Which leads us to another question. How do we help to facilitate the growth of this fruit in our hearts and lives? Well, how does a tree bear healthy fruit. Here are a few items that are needed but this is by no means an exhaustive list. A tree needs to have a solid root system. In the same way, we as believers need a solid foundation. The roots feed off the soil and water that is nearby in order to provide nutrients to the tree. Our foundation is the Word of God. Spending regular time in the Word will strengthen our foundation and allow us to experience healthy growth. Another need is good soil. How we spend our days is important. If we spend our time, energy, and resources pursuing the things of the world instead of the things of the Lord, how do we expect to see healthy and sustained growth? We need to pursue and surround ourselves with things that honor and glorify the Lord. Another need for many trees is exposure to the sun. The sun provides a different set of nutrients from the soil and the water but still necessary for healthy growth. This seems to coincide very well with prayer. Our exposure to the Son is found in the time we spend communing with Him through prayer.
This is how the spiritual disciplines play a role in our spiritual growth and our ability to bear fruit. We can’t sit and look in the mirror and will ourselves to bear the fruit of the Spirit, but we can look honestly at our walk with the Lord and evaluate whether we are bearing fruit, then take steps to create a healthier relationship with our Lord and Savior which will result in the bearing of more and more fruit in our lives.