It’s been said that stressed vines make the best wine, meaning the harder the vine works to produce fruit, the more vibrant the flavor. In similar fashion, God uses difficult times to produce within us a vibrant faith, making us more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, generous, and self-controlled. The Bible calls this the “fruit of the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-23) Given the stress of the past several months, it’s an opportune time to consider whether your walk with the Lord has proven more fruitful, or less? Here’s three reasons why:
1. Fruit is the evidence of Christ in us
All life (physical and spiritual) is from God. A farmer or gardener, for instance, is simply harnessing the power God has already instilled into his creation. The same is true for creating human life. In the same vein, spiritual fruit is a byproduct of our life in Christ, an operation of God, and grasping this truth leads one to say, as did the apostle Paul, “I live, yet not I, but Christ!” (Galatians 2:20)
Paul contrasts the fruit of the spirit with the “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5. In Scripture, “works” implies that which is achieved by human effort under the influence of our sinful nature (flesh), whereas fruit is an operation of God so that “the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4:11) Man’s fallen nature produces only death and decay. When man builds, he’s working with dead materials and produces “dead works.” (Hebrews 9:14)
2. Fruit is evidence of spiritual growth
Bearing good fruit, whether in plants, trees, or vines, involves the process of cultivation—as does spiritual growth. Preparing the soil with nutrients and in the right conditions is necessary to insure proper growth and development. Spiritually, this would involve the Word of God and prayer, fellowship with other believers, and serving others in ministry.
Spiritual fruit is a byproduct of our life in Christ. Failure to bear any fruit at all may indicate no spiritual life exists
Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” The fruit of the Spirit growing in us depends on the vital connection we have with Christ by faith because “apart from him we can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Neglecting the cultivation of our inner man, failing to bear much spiritual fruit, inevitably invites corrective measures. For “every branch that does bear fruit he (the Father) prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2)
Could it be that the various stress points in our lives these days is God’s way of stimulating our spiritual growth? Could COVID-19 be his pruning shears to cut away those things keeping us unfruitful? I certainly think so. On the other hand, failure to bear any fruit at all may indicate no spiritual life exists.
3. Fruit is a means of spiritual nourishment
The fruit metaphor also implies sustenance, and God intends the spiritual fruit he produces in us to bless and meet the needs of others. People are hungry for God’s love, joy, and peace, and that which God does in us by his Spirit satisfies not just our own spiritual hunger but blesses others as well. We receive grace so that we might extend it to others. Spiritual growth is never an end; it’s constantly becoming more like Jesus and a means to greater service for God and others.
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Remember, weeds need no cultivation. They spring up quite naturally in the sinful soil of our hearts. It’s the beautiful things that require cultivation. Perhaps you have sensed the hand of the heavenly Vinedresser amid these stressful times? The Lord just might be working to make you more fruitful, more like Christ, and a greater blessing to others.