I remember when we moved into our house and getting so excited about having a yard. We went out and bought all types of flowers, vegetable plants and even a lemon tree.
Out of all of the things we planted, I always had a hard time getting that lemon tree to grow. I heard all kinds of suggestions — such as where to plant it, protecting it from the wind and the amount of water it should receive. Even with all of this, my poor little tree never grew.
After some investigation, I found that in order to have a healthy fruit tree, you have to take into account many factors. Reading about these factors, I started to draw a strong connection to our Christian walk and our fruitfulness for His kingdom.
One factor is that the age of the tree will determine the amount of fruit it will bear. Some trees take up to four years to start bearing fruit. Going back to my poor lemon tree, I wanted it to grow and start spitting out little lemons immediately. 2 Peter 3:18 says, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Our salvation is immediate, but our knowledge is increased daily as long as we walk and talk with our Savior.
Another factor is that certain types of trees will only grow in certain climates. I think this speaks to the environment in which you are worshiping God each Sunday. Are you in a place that is providing you with the “climate” that gives you the best opportunity to grow? What type of soil are you growing in? Are the sermons you are hearing at your church enabling you to grow, or are you starting to wither?
The last factor I want to discuss is probably the most difficult for us to accept; pruning. Regularly pruned trees produce the best fruit. Cutting off limbs doesn’t seem to make sense in dealing with something we want to grow. The pruning actually stimulates and promotes growth. When Almighty God prunes us, it usually isn’t pleasant. He may call us to leave things we enjoy to do or relationships that aren’t beneficial to our growth. How we respond to His pruning tells a lot about our relationship with Him. Do we respond with joy and thanksgiving or in resentment or bitterness?
If we look at just a few of the factors it takes to grow a tree that is fruitful, let us remember one thing. Although we may be a fruit tree, it doesn’t mean we are fruitful. We can be planted among hundreds of other trees, yet when it comes time to bear fruit, our limbs are empty. We may have all sorts of excuses as to why, but ultimately it is our relationship with God that will affect our growth. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:17-20, “A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” Notice that He says that even a bad tree can produce fruit, but it is still bad fruit.
I want to challenge you to examine your own tree. What type of fruit are you bearing? Would your tree be one that is cared for or would it be cut down and thrown into the fire? Galatians 5:22-23 “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Aren’t these attributes we need to see more of in this world? I pray that we would be filled with Holy Spirit fruit!