Did you grow up in a family that “worked a garden” to supplement the grocery bill or assure the family of good nutrition and delicious flavors due to freshness? Maybe your gardening experience was connected to the summer stay at your grandparent’s farm.
Or maybe you are one who has never experienced the joy and sweat and heat of preparing the soil, sowing the seed, weeding, cultivating, side dressing, watering, dusting, and waiting for the first fruits of labor. The investment of enduring the heat, spending aching muscles and fighting nature as well as working with it -- causes one to really anticipate seeing the garden bearing fruit.
When are those tomatoes going to finally ripen on the vine and when are those immature peppers and beans going to be ready for pulling? When one has
Invested so much, it’s difficult for to wait for the garden to bear fruit.
What does it mean to “bear fruit”? Jesus uses this term at least half a dozen times in the Gospels with his agrarian listeners when He uses the analogy of a plant to illustrate the life of a productive believer.
In fact, in the Gospel of John, Jesus says that the purpose of His choosing us is so that we can bear fruit. John 15:16.
So what does that mean? It seems to me that several related aspects of faithfully following Jesus are involved in “bearing fruit”.
The first is that we will be people who rely upon an intensive prayer life so that the ultimate power of God’s love will bring about the multiplication of believers. Surely to “bear fruit” means the propagation of the Good News of Jesus Christ by word and deed, in reliance upon the power of The Holy Spirit to bring people to saving faith.
It means then prayer accompanied by a personal and corporate marination of the disciple in the Holy Scriptures. Inseparable is an authentic prayer life and the study of Holy Scripture. Both are enabled through the work of and our reliance upon God’s Holy Spirit.
To “bear fruit” then means individual and corporate worship in the Church of Jesus Christ. When one is strengthened through the disciplined acts of personal piety, including worship, one is then empowered to carry the Gospel outside the walls of the Church and to persevere in a climate that may be antagonistic to Jesus Christ. That not only means to carry the WORD out into the bloody streets of the world, it means to persevere, to endure. To “bear fruit” one must have staying power.
To “bear fruit” means an intense focus of one’s very being as grounded upon Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It is to strive to work in and toward God’s intent for life and that is to be transformed into the very image of Jesus Christ, to have His mind and His spirit now and forever.
Finally to “bear fruit” means to be genuinely happy, to have the joy and peace of Christ that passes all understanding. Real happiness is contagious and it is that attractive attribute of Christians which entices the unbeliever to give it a try.
I know a man who is battling cancer. He has had extensive surgery and radiation and chemotherapy, the aftereffects which have severely debilitated him. Yet he has an unwavering optimism that positively affects everyone who inquires of his health. I suppose an essential ingredient of the happiness a Christian knows is optimism such as his, an optimism that sees beyond the contingencies of life—even death—and holds to the joy bequeathed us in Jesus Christ.
That is what “bearing fruit” is all about. Thanks be to God.
-THOMAS Q. ROBBINS