If you remain joined to Me and My words remain in you, ask for anything you wish, and it will be done for you. When you bear a lot of fruit, it brings glory to My Father. It shows that you are My disciples . . . You did not choose Me. Instead, I chose you. I appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit that will last. I also appointed you so that the Father will give you what you ask for. He will give you whatever you ask for in My name. (John 15:7-8,16)
John 15 is one of my favourite chapters in the Bible, not least because it speaks of Jesus calling us to be His friends. Paul Haglin* sent us a lovely reflection recently on the theme of another of the key topics in that chapter: ‘fruit’!
Reflecting on the fact that the fruit of his life consists of the seeds he has sown by his lifestyle as much if not more than by his outward achievements, Paul memorably summarised this up in words that powerfully pick up on James’s exhortation to “Consider it pure joy, [or ‘count it pure joy’] my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials test and temptations of many kinds.” (James 1:2)**
Hardships heaped on me became “manure” for growing sweeter fruit. I learned to welcome tears of disappointment as the “rain” that watered my spiritual roots. Adversities became the “winds” that strengthen my branches to protect and preserve my fruit against all life’s storms.
Since ‘fruit’ represents the cumulative expression of our life’s activities, let’s ask ourselves: does our life bear witness to the character of the Power producing it? Paul (our friend that is rather than the biblical one) mentions a number of ‘natural’ qualities associated with fruit.
- Fruit is eaten and enjoyed by others. Jesus loves it when He knows that He can trust and rely on us.
- Rather as mowing a lawn stimulates its growth, the more fruit we bear that is plucked and harvested, the more fruit grows. We can never exhaust the Lord’s capacity to grow fruit through us.
- Grafts are made not only to improve the edibility of the fruit (to make it sweeter for instance) and to increase the production of food, but also to make fruit-bearing branches more hardy against both diseases and adverse weather.
- Fruit is directly related to its own roots and cannot be different from the kind of root – unless it is grafted of course.
This made me pause and ponder the many ‘graftings’ that have happened in my life when particular people strands or streams have come into my life to strengthen, refine and enlarge my vision. As always the Lord knows when such a graft is needed. May we not fear but welcome it!
- Fruit needs time and sunlight to ripen. Speaking as one who has always been highly sensitive to SAD, I am always eager at this time of year for more sunlight. Its benefits are far more than just psychological! But fruit comes at its proper season.
No more than we would expect to find fruit on trees in the spring, the Lord does not reveal what He is going to do in Act 33 in our life while we are still in Act 32! (Yes, we might indeed compare our lives with a long running drama. Just think how He has manoeuvred the scenery, characters and surprise turns of events!) He knows what the fruit of our lives will be; already He sees the eternal consequences of the seeds we sow – just as He knows how we will be when we are in Heaven with Him. Doesn’t that make us want to serve Him all the more, so that we can enter Heaven bearing sheaves?
- He is ready to raise the curtain; He has the props, the scenarios and the outcome in mind already, and will be ready for the action to commence. So let us not grow weary and get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up. (Gal. 6:9)
- Have you noticed that when Paul (the biblical one this time!) defines the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, he describes what it is – (in the singular) rather than what they are. Clearly, he regarded them all as being indissolubly linked, with all nine fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) as being indivisibly united in expressing Christ’s character.
Whatever attribute of God we think of, He is – and to the ultimate degree. He is:
Of the increase of His government and glory there will be no end (Is. 9:6-7); may He work in such a way in our lives that there be an increase in all these fruits and qualities. Stir our hearts and plumb the depths Lord Jesus that we may bear ripe fruit for You.
There are many blights that threaten the fruit growing process. May we endure through cold snap frosts, and ward off fruit consuming critters of all kinds – the deeds of the flesh that Paul outlines in the decidedly unsavoury list of highly destructive qualities. See Galatians 5:19-21.
- Fruit in turn bears its own seeds. Those who partake of the fruit of our lives ‘consume’ the seeds that empower or drive our lives, whether for good or ill. The very words we speak come coated with the spirit that is in us.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Prov. 18:21) I checked this out to be certain and ‘it’ is indeed thought to refer to the tongue. Depending on the extent to which our hearts are filled with God and His word, the fruit of our words, as Paul Haglin reminds us, brings either life or death. ‘They either build up and heal or they wound; they stir up righteousness or they befoul and discourage.’ That is the unique power of the fruit of the spirit (for good or ill) and why Paul (we’re back with the biblical Paul again now) urges us so strongly to cultivate the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit.
Help us to keep on sowing, Lord, by every method ingenuity can devise and that You make possible!
Think back over the last few days. Can you think of times when you have enjoyed either the fruits or the penalties of how you have used your tongue? The “fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:18)
Keep on sowing your seeds!
There is a wealth of material available in our teaching and intercessory articles in the archives of the Malvern Mashal, as well as on our website. Do dip into them either by following the buttons or by exploring themes and topics on the search engine, which you can find on the top right of each blog page.
For example, I typed the phrase, ‘keep on sowing’ into the search engine box and these are some of the gems I came up with:
*For those who do not know them, Paul and Gretel Haglin came across from America to minister powerfully with us both in Chester and in our conferences back in the 1980s and 90s ‘evangelising the heart of believers.’ Gretel recently graduated home after many years of suffering from Alzheimers, and this was Paul’s first letter ‘solo’ – a major milestone to start writing again. I have woven in some of his excellent material here.
** This is how JB Phillips translates this passage.
When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence. And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God—who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty—and you may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given. But you must ask in sincere faith without secret doubts as to whether you really want God’s help or not.