From Elder, Jeff Lane.
Spring is here and for many, that means garden and lawn cultivation. Even those who lack a green thumb—like myself—can appreciate a well maintained back yard or the fresh flavors and smells of produce at a farmer’s market. Gardeners and farmers possess a special skillset and discipline to work with dirt, water, and sunlight for weeks until they literally see the fruit of their labor.
The Bible is actually full of references to farming so it isn’t surprising when Paul refers to the evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit as “fruit”.
Galatians 5:22-23(NIV): “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
So let’s get our hands dirty and look at how this kind of fruit grows.
This may seem basic, but it’s important to remember: Like edible fruit, spiritual fruit requires attention if it is to grow in any meaningful quantity. Farmers don’t just walk out at harvest time to see what came up. They put in the effort during the growing season to see that their plants are healthy. They think about what can be adjusted to improve their yield and protect their crop.
Now there is such a thing as wild fruit that grows on its own, but it’s hard to live when you are just foraging for food. And you can forget about having enough to give to others.
It is an easy habit to just for a quick dose of joy or peace to sustain the moment. Often, when I’m drained, usually low on gentleness or kindness, it’s because I have been relying on the spiritual fruit of others or trying to make the Sunday morning service stretch through the week, without seeking God on my own time. But when I am intentional about seeking God, it’s amazing to see how faithful He is. Instead of being on a rollercoaster of spiritual ups and downs, there is a consistent supply of spiritual nourishment and even some to share.
Clear the field
The first step to intentional cultivation is to clear the field. As it is hard to plant crops in a field filled with weeds and rocks, it’s important to have room in your life for the fruit of the spirit to grow.
What I mean is this: If you are constantly rushing from one appointment to another, it is going to be hard for patience to grow. If you don’t make time for people, your love for others is not going to grow. If your budget is always out of control, generosity is not going to grow (I know generosity is technically a “spiritual gift” but you get the idea).
Jesus, in the parable of the sower talks about thorns representing the cares of the world that spring up and choke out the young plant that desperately wants to bear fruit. Here’s the interesting thing about the thorns– they don’t actually kill the plant. The seed that falls on the path is eaten by birds, the plants that grow in the rocks wither, but the thorns just keep the plant “unfruitful”.
So many of us feel okay because we’re not “dead”. We believe in Jesus and even go to church but we can’t understand why the spiritual fruit is sparse. The problem is we have too many thorns taking up space in the field. To grow healthy fruit, we must pull the weeds that steal nutrients and block the sun. Make time. Make relationships a priority. Designate money for giving. It’s a simple idea that is difficult to live out in our “have it all” culture that celebrates busyness. Clear some good soil for the Holy Spirit to do his work.
The Holy Spirit makes fruit grow
A gardener can water, care for, and watch his plants all he wants, but he can’t make them produce fruit. As in our salvation, we seek the work of the Holy Spirit but He ultimately brings about the growth. Paul emphasizes this in 1 Corinthians 3:6 when he talks about his ministry being used by, and ultimately depending on, the activity of God to bring about growth in believers.
When the church was a community of people literally living together and sharing everything in Acts 2, it was God who added to their numbers every day. They put on display the Spirit’s amazing fruit to the world, by the love that they had for one another.
So, imagine the church like an enormous market full of lush produce that is all free for a hungry world and we are farmers of the fields of our lives. Let’s commit to cultivating our lives, pulling the weeds that stunt our produce, so that the Spirit can cause growth and make his church a place full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control for the world to see.