Growing Great Fruit
I ate the best strawberries in the world when I was growing up. As many of you know, I grew up in San Diego. And not five miles from my boyhood home were huge strawberry fields. When the strawberries were in season, we would not go to the store and buy them, we would go right down the fields, to a shack on the side of the road, and buy big buckets of just-picked strawberries right off the farm. They were delicious!
Of course, you would think that if I love farm-fresh strawberries as much as I do that I would have my own strawberry patch in my backyard. You would think that I would be an expert on growing the best strawberries around. But I don’t have a strawberry patch, and never have. You see, I love eating strawberries, I don’t love growing strawberries. I’m content to let someone else spend their winters preparing the ground, and spend their spring preparing the plants, and spend their summers actually picking the strawberries. I like the finished product, but not enough to go through all the work of actually growing the strawberries myself.
Many of us are tempted to look at this list of the fruits of the Spirit and feel the same way. Sure, we want to be patient, we want to be faithful, we want to be gentle and self-controlled, and we would love to love everyone and to have a life of joy. That’s the kind of life we want to have, we’re just not so excited about investing the time and effort and work it will take to develop these fruits in our lives.
We would love for God to come into our lives in a powerful way and make us instantly patient – but we’re not so excited about spending the weeks and months and years it actually takes to develop a life of patience. We love the idea of the finished product. We look at this list (Galatians 5:22-23) and we say “Yes! That’s the kind of life I want Jesus – give it to me now!” But you see, you can’t hold a strawberry seed in your hand and say “now become a ripe, juicy strawberry!” Instead, you have to take that seed, find good soil, plant it, nourish it, care for it, and in the seed’s own time, it will blossom into a plant bearing wonderful fruit.
So it is with the Holy Spirit in our lives, when we prepare good soil, when we nourish ourselves in the scriptures and in prayer, when we care for the seed by doing works of mercy and compassion, we find this wonderful fruit blossoming in our lives.
So let me ask you, what are the characteristics of Christ that the Holy Spirit is developing in you these days? If you don’t know, then it may very well be that the Holy Spirit is in fact not developing any of these in you because you are not investing the time or energy or prayer or study that developing these virtues require. The mature Christian life does not come in an instant, it is developed over a lifetime.
So let me just give you a word of comfort, and then a word of confrontation…
Take comfort in knowing that it takes time and effort to develop the fruit of the Spirit. Don’t expect to have all these characteristics down perfectly this side of Heaven. For the rest of your Christian life, the Holy Spirit will be working on you, if you will allow it. And just when you win a great victory, the Holy Spirit will point out another area in your life that needs work. Not because God is disappointed in you, but because each step you get closer to resembling Jesus Christ, the more joy and love and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness you will have. I promise you, when the Holy Spirit works on your heart, even though it can be painful at times, you will always come out the other side stronger, and healthier.
And for a word of confrontation: great fruit does not grow when the farmer sits back and invests no work in the fields. The Enemy is always around planting weeds around the fruit. There is no stage of your spiritual life, this side of heaven, where God calls you to sit back and relax, and let everyone else do the growing. You will never be an expert in prayer, you will never know the Bible well enough, you will never master all of these qualities on this side of heaven. So stop being spiritually lazy, and get to work pickin’ that spiritual fruit!
I don’t think there is anything more perfect than a bowl of red, juicy, beautiful strawberries. They are just a joy to look at. In God’s eyes, there is not anything more perfect than one of his sons or daughters who is seeking to let him have complete control of their life. Who lays their life out before him as fertile ground, for God to nourish, water, care for, and ultimately bring forth beautiful fruit.