As I spent this week studying more about the fruits of the Spirit, as always, a very simple question came to mind that may help us in our study about the importance of our fruit. That question was; why are they called the fruits of the Spirit and not the vegetables? Now you laugh, and at first I did too, but since I believe that question came from the Spirit, I looked at it a little closer and I want to share a few things with you today about some of the characteristics of fruit, and how those might relate to the next three fruits on our list.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness,...Galatians 5:22a NKJV
Now if you remember from last week, the first three fruits are directed towards, and are an outgrowth of, our relationship with God. The second three fruits are directed towards, and should characterize, our relationships with others. This is where my thoughts on fruit come in. I grew up in Southern California where fruit trees were common and plentiful. In fact, there were orchards just a few houses away where I used to play and when in season, help myself to the fruit hanging on the trees. So here are a few random observations about fruit that I think might shed some light on our question.
Fruit only grows in a favorable climate. (cold kills)
Fruit production is a result of what it takes in. (cultivation and care)
Fruit on a tree can be seen from a distance (fruitless trees don't attract)
Fruit trees produce at eye level. (you want what you can reach)
Fruit must be eaten to experience the goodness (fruit is sweet)
A memory I will always have is waking up at night when the wind machines would turn on in the orchards to protect the fruit from freezing. If you are not familiar with that, many orchards have large propellers mounted on poles high above the trees. When the temperature would approach freezing, these would turn on to circulate the air and prevent frost from forming on the trees. Imagine living next to an airport when 20 or so airplanes start their engines at the same time and you will begin to understand what I experienced. The "outward" fruits are a result of believers growing in the warmth of God's love. The closer you are to God, the greater the warmth and the more you grow.
My uncle was an orchardist, and I remember accompanying him often while he drove around to different orchards resetting sprinklers and taking care of business. (with five kids, this was probably my mother's answer to daycare) Although it didn't occur to me then, not only did his work require a lot of physical effort, it was necessary for the trees to get the proper amount of water to produce their fruit. A result of a healthy relationship with God is growth by making the effort to take in the knowledge to be found in His Word which He has provided for us. As a result, our "fruit" will grow in proportion to what we take in.
let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22 NKJV
There is nothing so beautiful as a tree full of fruit ready for harvest. As a kid, I always looked forward to seeing the hills turn orange when all the oranges on the trees would begin to turn color. It is the same now living where I do. When the apples begin to turn color as they ripen, the entire orchard changes color. If you have never seen an apple or orange tree full of fruit ready for picking you have really missed something. I have always been amazed by just how much fruit one tree can produce, and how obvious it is when the fruit is ripe. The three fruits of the Spirit, longsuffering, kindness, and goodness are ones I would describe as "demonstrative". They describe just how we as believers exhibit our relationship with God by how we interact with others. People should be able to see us practicing these three gifts, and be attracted by them.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16 NKJV
Now that I live in the Northwest, the fruit tree of choice around here is the apple tree. Now I will readily admit I know next to nothing about proper tree care. We have an apple tree in our yard and my experience with it has been humbling to say the least. The first year we had lots of apples, but each year after that the crop began to shrink, until eventually we only were getting a few for harvest. It was about that time I was told that pruning was an important part of taking care of a tree. (I told you I knew nothing) So I sought out some advice, and one of the interesting things I was told was to prune in such a way as to keep the tree producing at around eye level so the fruit would be within reach at harvest time. As believers, shouldn't our fruit should be kept at eye level so those to whom we are reaching out can easily see and experience what the Spirit has to offer? We do that by using these three gifts to any and all to whom the Spirit may lead us, not to just a select few.
For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. Acts 22:15 NKJV
If you have never had the opportunity to pick a fruit from a tree and eat it immediately I truly feel sorry for you. In a way, it really is the only way to know what that fruit is supposed to taste like. I can remember my girls asking me when they were young why the apples on our tree tasted so much better than the ones in the store. I have been able to eat quite a few different things right off the tree or vine and there is no doubt that the taste is so much better when it's fresh. So how do we keep our fruit fresh? Have you ever had someone do something for you and you knew they were doing it out of obligation? They maybe were doing it because it was their job, or out of pity, or some other motivation? I bet it didn't leave a favorable taste in your mouth did it? When we as believers exhibit these three demonstrative gifts as a result of our relationship with God, (love, joy, peace), people will know and feel (taste) the difference. We then will have an opportunity to explain why it is different, and hopefully introduce them to God as the one who produces that fruit.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD [is] good; Blessed [is] the man [who] trusts in Him! Psalms 34:8 NKJV
Who isn't attracted by the sight of ripe fruit? Who doesn't enjoy the sweet taste?
It's called fruit for a reason!