Figs From Thistles

If you’ve ever done any gardening, you’ll know how similar seeds can look. If one were to, say, spill opened seed packets of zucchini and pumpkin. . .

Well. One would have quite a mess of identical-looking, flat, off-white seeds. The only recourse would be to plant them and wait to see what sprouted.

And while our fictitious gardening klutz may not know where to expect zucchini and where to expect pumpkins, she can at least be certain none of her mixed-up seeds will produce oranges.

This is one way I used to introduce the “Fruit of the Spirit Project” to my photography students, complete with samples of the seeds. But the lesson portion isn’t just for students of photography. It’s one I learned from the Master Teacher, Himself (that would be the Holy Spirit), and I wanted to share it with you.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

Many of us read Galatians 5:22-23 as if it were a checklist of character traits to work on. Today, I need to try to be more patient. Tomorrow, I’ll cultivate kindness or set my mind to being more gentle.

I used to do the same. What I learned from my endeavors is that trying to produce these attributes on my own is as practical as trying to grow a unicorn tree or teach my puppy finite math.

Instead, we ought to consider those nine characteristics as evidence.

In truth, we are utterly incapable of growing the fruit of the Spirit with even our most valiant efforts. Why? Because it’s the fruit of the Spirit.

It isn’t a list of things we can work on; it’s the proof of the work of the Spirit in us.

Just like our fictional horticultural friend from earlier will discover where her pumpkin seeds were planted by the evidence of pumpkins, so the fruit of the Spirit is evidence that the Holy Spirit is “planted” in us.

This is not to say we will have a full harvest of completely mature, perfectly ripened fruit all at once. It simply means if we are not continually growing in love, joy, peace, patience, and so on, the evidence points to a lack of the Holy Spirit in us. If these traits are increasing in our lives – even if they are very wee and not much to boast about – well, growth is growth. God will give the increase.

Or as our Lord put it:

You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.

Matthew 7:16-17

The fruit of the Spirit is evidence of the work God is doing within us. If you lack it, don’t despair. Ask God to give you His Spirit, then ask for help hearing and obeying His voice. Let Him do the growing. Just be sure make your life fertile ground.

Tuesday Prayer: Fruit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

Great Vinedresser, we know that You are the one who does the needed work of pruning in our lives so we can bear much fruit for You. We cannot bear fruit on our own but must remain connected to the Vine – to Jesus, the living Word of God who is Himself the embodiment of the truth of Scripture. He is our Savior who is also the Way, the Truth, the Life, the living Water, and the Bread of Life. In all ways, Jesus is our sustenance and our strength. 

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

John 15:1-2

Because of this, we give thanks for Jesus and for Your Holy Spirit who causes His fruit to grow in us. Thank You for pruning our hearts no matter how painful it may be at the time, so that we can bear more fruit. Thank You, too, for the solemn warning that any branch which fails to bear fruit will be taken away. You are good and wise, and we trust You even when a time of pruning doesn’t make sense to us. 

We also pray to You, Father, and ask that You will make us to bear much fruit. Since attributes such as love, joy, peace, and so on are the fruit of the Spirit, we recognize that we cannot manufacture them on our own but must ask for the Spirit to make them grow in us. Yet we cannot only pray for it then sit back with folded hands as if our duty is done. Time and time and time again, we also need to obey for it. 

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.

Acts 7:51

So it is that we ask You to open our eyes to see each opportunity You provide and open our ears to hear Your voice as we respond to each divine appointment. Guide us in being mindful of the gentle nudges of Your Spirit so we become more and more attuned to sensing His leading. Help us not to tune Him out but teach us to listen intently and diligently in all our days.

Please, Lord, let this year be one in which Your fruit grows so plentifully in our lives that we are radically and permanently changed. Make us to truly be plantings for the display of Your splendor and teach us to give You glory as it happens, amen.