February 8th

Growing Good Fruit

16You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Therefore by their fruits you will know them.  Matthew 7:16-20 NKJV 

My wife and I attempted to grow tomatoes in our back yard last year.  (by the way, tomatoes are fruit)  When we first planted them, it seemed like things would go easily. The plants grew quickly, and there was little sign of opposing pests.  

As summer moved forward, our plants started showing signs of weakening from parasites and lack of nutrients. From pesticide to fertilizer, we did everything we could think of to keep them healthy.  The plants stabilized somewhat, and tomatoes started to form.  We thought we were doing well until they started to ripen, as they began to split open, giving flies a juicy home.  Some of the fruit also developed strange holes related to some sort of parasite.  Out of the dozen or so tomatoes that ripened, we were able to eat about three.  The rest had to be thrown away. 

As I recently bit into a store-bought tomato, and pondered the demise of my home-grown tomatoes.   I realized that there are many things that go into producing good fruit.  The soil must have the right nutrients and be relatively soft.  Watering must occur regularly and pests need to be controlled.  The plant needs the right amount of sunlight.  The final ingredient needed along with all of the above is time to grow.  

God reminded me of the spiritual applications of growing fruit.  Jesus explained that good trees bear good fruit and bad trees bear bad fruit.  Each of us is called to bear good fruit in our lives.  This doesn’t happen overnight, and just as with growing good plants, we’ve got to tend our lives to ensure that our “spiritual plant” is healthy. That will in turn ensure that our fruit is good.  

To complete the analogy, here are some parallels to help us grow spiritually healthy: 

Good soil: Our “spiritual soil” condition is greatly influenced by the word of God (Matt. 13:23).  A daily input of Bible study will help ensure our soil is rich and faith-filled, because faith comes by the hearing of God’s word.  Faith in turn gives us endurance to walk with God.  Practicing habitual sin will harden our mind and heart to the truth, making it difficult for the word to take root in our hearts (Hebrews 3:13). 

Water: The Holy Spirit is often symbolized by water.  Just as plants can’t live without water, so we can’t live for God without the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11). The Holy Spirit causes rivers of “living water” to well up in our hearts (John 7:37-38).  When we turn to riches, worldly pleasures, or any ungodly source for life, we’re drinking polluted water.  It weakens us and does not quench our thirst.  

Weed & Pest control: The cares of the world will try to choke us (desire for riches, lusts, materialism, etc).  Also, the evil one tries to snatch the word from our hearts through doubt and distraction (Matt. 13:19,22).  To protect against these attacks, we must remain vigilantly planted in God’s word each day and responsive to the Spirit’s convictions. Weeds and pests must be killed…not tolerated! If the Spirit tells us to stop what we are doing, we must stop! 

Sunlight: The deceitfulness of our sin can blind us to God’s truth and light (Hebrews 3:13).  Its hard shell will block the light of truth from getting through.  We can further block the light by keeping our sins hidden. Confession to God and fellow Christians lets the light in. 

Time: In order for faithfulness to be faithful, time is required.  Our efforts to ensure all of the above ingredients are present over a period of time will ensure the development of good fruit. 

Thankfully, God is a loving and forgiving Master Gardener.  Even if we may have grown as sickly plants, through the blood of Jesus we can start over.  Just as new plants are planted in the Spring, so we can make a new start, ensuring our plants have what they need to grow healthy and strong.  

Questions for further thought:

Prayer:

“Heavenly Father, thank you for the wonderful truth of your word.  Thank you for the powerful analogies you give us, so that we can understand life fully.  Father, I confess the deficiencies I have allowed in my “spiritual plant growth” ______(list them).  Please forgive me for not tending my plant properly.  I commit to taking these corrective actions: ____________(list).  Father, please strengthen me to be faithful in making these changes from this point forward.  I pray for healthy and abundant fruit.  I praise you now and forever Lord God. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”