Last Summer, I was checking out a garden centre when something caught my attention from a distance. I walked down the aisle and stooped down to get a closer look at an interesting looking plant that I hadn’t seen before.
Being of Sri Lankan heritage, I have a tendency to be on the lookout for new ingredients to add a more fiery edge to our meals. And the sight of so many vibrant clusters of glistening peppers got me so excited!
I quickly snagged a photo and sent a text with my neat little discovery to Quinton, who was waiting in the car with our little ones. His response wasn’t surprising at all:
“What?!? Get it!!”
After taking a thorough look at all of the plants, I picked one that appeared to have a greater yield of peppers and buds, and put it in my shopping cart. I felt elated about this new addition in our garden.
I walked past a few more aisles towards the checkout counter, when a thought crossed my mind.
Pulling my cart to the side, my fingers rustled through the leaves of my pepper plant in search of the plant marker. I pried it out of the potted soil.
To my dismay, the plant marker bore the name that confirmed my suspicion:
My knowledge of ornamental horticulture is somewhat limited, but I do know that some ornamental plants don’t necessarily have the same flavour and punch as edible ones. And among those are a few that should not be eaten due to the higher concentration of chemicals used during the growing process. An employee at the garden centre verified this for me and confirmed my suspicions.
These peppers were purely for aesthetics. The tag even had a warning in fine print that these were unsafe to consume.
Sure, the peppers looked pretty. But would these peppers help me achieve my goal of satisfying all the spice-loving tastebuds in my household? Not this particular kind…
I placed the plant back in the location that I had found it, returned my cart, and headed towards the exit, empty-handed.
As I slowly walked towards the parking lot, I reflected on the concept of fruitfulness. Earlier that same week, Quinton shared a Scriptural passage with me that took on a whole new meaning for him during his devotional time.
And right there in that parking lot, my thoughts about my disappointing experience at the garden centre and what Quinton shared with me appeared to converge.
The gospel of Matthew captures a fascinating moment: a time when Jesus was hungry.
“In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, He was hungry, and He noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then He said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up.” (Matthew 21:18-19).
A fig tree must have been a pleasing sight for Jesus to behold on that roadside. He likely supposed that his hunger would soon be satisfied.
Alas, the fig tree was fruitless.
Jesus expected to see figs, but He could only find leaves. There is much debate about the possible reasons for the tree being without fruit. The fact remains that Jesus found that this fruit tree was without fruit. And He was disappointed.
Let’s take note of the following factors about this fig tree:
- Positioning – The tree was in a prominent location, right by a well-travelled route. Its position allowed for ease of access for travellers.
- Appearance – The tree had a canopy of leaves. It must have been eye-catching along that road.
- Purpose – This tree was neither a birch, nor a maple. This was a fig tree and the name implies that it should be a fruit-bearing tree.
- Season – If Jesus went over to this tree expecting to find figs, it must have been the season for figs.
So, it is possible to be at the right place, at the right time, with all the elements in place; and still miss the mark.
How does our life relate to this fig tree and the above-noted factors? As followers of Christ, Jesus expects us to be fruitful. In John 15:5-8, Jesus says that He is the vine and we are the branches. When we remain in Him and He in us, we will produce much fruit.
“If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are My true disciples. This brings great glory to My Father.” (John 15:7-8)
Amazing! Our fruit brings great glory to Our Heavenly Father. It also means that if we don’t produce fruit, the converse is true; we would bring dishonour to Our Heavenly Father.
What is the starting point to becoming fruitful? We must remain in Christ! Jesus longs for more from us than how well we are positioned in life and our appearance.
Are we truly abiding in the Lord? Are we fruitful?
(Please pause here and reflect on the aforementioned questions.)
Real Fruit from an Upright Heart
What kind of fruit does Jesus expect to see in our lives? Some assert that it is the deeds we do for the sake of the Kingdom. Yes, but first and foremost, the Lord cares about each of us and how we lead our lives. This will result in good works from the overflow of an upright heart. In this post, we will maintain focus on personal fruit; in other words, the fruit of righteousness.
Righteousness involves the condition of our heart before the Lord that will inevitably affect our conduct in life. In Luke 3:8a, John the Baptist urges us to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
A repentant, transformed heart produces good fruit. Our ability to bear good fruit is contingent upon our yielding to the Spirit of God. Communing with Him empowers us to not only bear good fruit, but to bear much good fruit.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” (Galatians 5:22-24)
Our good works matter to the Lord. Our heart, our character and our obedience matter much more to Him.
When we have aligned our lives with Heaven, there will be an abundant yield of fruit that will benefit us and others around us. For instance, a grape vine reproduces after its kind. Similarly, we can live as Jesus did and love others as He did also as we remain in Him. His nature will transform us, even our weaknesses, into His likeness and enable us to flow in His love.
Each of us must take personal responsibility to do a heart check before the Lord. These days, it is quite simple for any of us to slip into pretense and go through the motions of living for the Lord; simply playing the part.
God is calling us to a higher standard of following the narrow road to pursue His heart and turn from things that will hinder our walk with Him. This requires that we yield to Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives, and nail our passions and desires of our sinful nature to the cross.
John 15:6 is clear: “Anyone who does not remain in Me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.”
In Matthew 7:20, Jesus says “by their fruit you will recognize them.”
We can surely recognize true disciples by their fruit. After all, as Jesus said, you cannot expect to find grapes growing on thornbushes or figs growing on thistles. But, it is neither up to you nor I to go around for the sake of criticism or condemnation by labelling others as ones that bear fruit and ones that don’t. The Lord is the only One that sees the most hidden parts of our lives and knows everything about us. Whether or not we have fruit is before His eyes. He is Our Loving Father and also Our Righteous Judge. We can recognize the fruit, but He makes the final determination. It is high time that we each take responsibility for ourselves.
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.” (John 15:16)
This is a call to those who want to go to a deeper level with the Lord. God desires that we bear fruit that will be pleasing to Him. Above all, the Lord desires our heart and that we abide in Him. Fruit will come forth and grow only when it is attached to its source.
As we are on the threshold of a New Year, let’s let go of all the fruitless and faithless aspects that may have caused any part of us to wither. Allow the Lord to prune what will hinder us from bearing good fruit. When we do our part, the Lord will cause us to flourish with real, non-ornamental fruit.
What is the starting point to becoming fruitful? We must abide in Christ! Remain in His Presence and adore Him, and watch how His pleasure will manifest in your life!
Let’s go all in for the Lord!
Can He count on you?
“The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.” (Isaiah 32:17)
“For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;” (Ephesians 5:9)
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “…People judge by outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)