I like to see a return on investment, don’t you? When I put my time and effort into a project, I want to know that something positive will come of it. A friendship that deepens into a partnership is a thing of delight, isn’t it? When we plant a garden, the best part is when we get to enjoy the produce from that plot of ground that we have sweated over for months.
God is looking for a return from us. Jesus calls that ‘fruitfulness.’ “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” . . . . My true disciples produce much fruit. This brings great glory to my Father.” (John 15:5,8, NLT) What is this fruit of which He speaks? It is the character and likeness of Christ Jesus in us, the qualities of the Kingdom worked in this world through us by the Spirit; “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22)
Is the Lord pleased with the quality and quantity of the fruit of the Spirit in your life? We cannot be spiritually fruitful apart from the LIFE of the Spirit operating in us, anymore than a dead apple tree can produce apples! While the Spirit makes the fruit possible, there is a part that we play. Our life must be open to the flow of the Spirit, our daily inclination towards an obedient love of the Father. Jesus spoke of the Father as the Gardener who ‘prunes every branch so that it will be even more fruitful.’ Yes, He uses His Word and our experience to bring us closer to Him, to cut away the things that keep us from the abundant life He desires. And yet, we know that unlike a tree in an orchard, we have the ability to reject His plan, to resist His work, to become unfruitful by choking off the nourishing work of the Holy Spirit.
I love another story that Jesus told because it reveals the Father’s patience and persistence for us. “Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ ”‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9, NIV)
Are there situations that are making you face your need, hard things that are confronting you with a call to change, circumstances greater than you can manage that create a sense of desperation? These are some of the ways that the Spirit digs around our hearts, opening the ground for nutrients! He pours on grace; words from the Word that show us the Truth, encouragement from a friend that helps us to turn around, moments of revelation that clearly show us His way. Will we receive His work, letting the fertilizer do what He intends – increase our fruitfulness?
Jesus’ story has another possible ending which we cannot ignore. The tree that does not respond to the digging and fertilizer can be cut down! “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:1-2, NIV) It is hard to even think of the possibility of being ‘cut off’ because of our refusal to receive the gift of His life, isn’t it?
Is the Spirit making you fruitful in the things of God, increasingly bearing the image of Christ Jesus? He desires that very thing from us and does all that is necessary for fruit to grow.
Meditate on this word from the Word, prayerfully today. “As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive his own glory and goodness! And by that same mighty power, he has given us all of his rich and wonderful promises. He has promised that you will escape the decadence all around you caused by evil desires and that you will share in his divine nature. So make every effort to apply the benefits of these promises to your life. Then your faith will produce a life of moral excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3-5, NLT)
Lord, increase our fruitfulness as we live in You and through You. Amen.
(Matt Maher sings of the work of the grace of God.
Worship along with him today.)
Great is Your faithfulness O God
You wrestle with the sinner’s restless heart
You lead us by still waters into mercy
And nothing can keep us apart
(So) remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise O God
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me
Great is Your love and justice God of Jacob
You use the weak to lead the strong
You lead us in the song of Your salvation
And all Your people sing along
Yeah Your grace is enough
Heaven reaches out to us
Your grace is enough for me
God I sing Your grace is enough
I’m covered in Your love
Your grace is enough for me for me
Matt Maher © 2003 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) spiritandsong.com CCLI License # 810055