It’s the middle of January and it may seem to be too early to think about gardening, but I have already received a dozen or more seed and garden catalogues. The fruit and vegetables always look so delicious in the photos. There’s one particular fruit tree catalogue I love. The apples and pears are appealing but it’s the peaches that make my mouth water. There is nothing quite like biting into a peach, ripe off your own tree, with the juice running down to your elbow while you’re still out in the yard.
Years ago I planted several peach trees and every summer it’s a joyful day when the first peach is ripe and ready to eat. It always amazes me how a few trees can produce so many peaches.
There’s no way to eat them all fresh, but we enjoy as many as possible right off the tree. We usually freeze buckets of them and give some away. Invariably, however, there are some we don’t get to soon enough; they get too ripe and fall to the ground and rot.
The Fruit of the Spirit
In thinking of the fruitfulness of my peach trees this past summer, I was reminded of Paul’s exhortation on the “fruit of the Spirit” to the Christian church in Galatia. He writes,
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, 23, KJV)
Just as my fruit trees are prolific in producing peaches, so, too, the Holy Spirit is prolific in producing spiritual fruit.
This fruit of the Spirit is not the result of human will, personal opinion, or self-anointed spiritual mindedness. It’s not the product of man-made or man-approved theological dogmas, ceremonies, and rituals. Just as the fruit of a peach tree must be a peach, the fruit of the Spirit must be spiritual. It comes directly from God, not man.
The ultimate reason a peach tree produces fruit is to reproduce itself through the pits inside the peaches. Usually when preachers sermonize about the fruit of the Spirit, the focus is on imbibing the Spirit, which then bears the fruit of love, joy, etc., in your life. They never talk about the seeds inside.
But just as the peach has a seed, so do the fruits of the Spirit. When God causes the fruit of love to grow in your heart, there is a seed in that love that will grow and bear more love in the future. This is true with all the fruits of the Spirit.
For example, when long-suffering reigns in you and you are patient with a friend, the seed of long-suffering gets planted right there in the middle of things. You are not just sharing the fruit of patience with another person, you are also giving them a seed, which will grow and produce more patience in them.
This is true with all nine fruits of of the Spirit. Each one always has a “seed within itself” to perpetuate eternally the availability of this fruit. Take a minute to think about how God, in giving you the fruit of the Spirit, has also planted the seeds of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance in you and others.
When the fruit of the Spirit is plentiful
In some seasons of our lives, the fruit of the Spirit is so abundant we can’t help but share it freely with everyone possible. When I have a bumper crop of peaches and have eaten and preserved as many as I can for future use, there’s a special joy that comes in sharing my bounty with others. If you have an abundance of good in your life and feel the overflow of God’s gifts of the Spirit, it is only natural to share this joy with others.
Have you ever felt God poured blessings on you, has given you abundant fruits of the Spirit, but you just couldn’t take them all in? Perhaps you haven’t nurtured and taken advantage of the fruits of the Spirit as much as you should have? Or maybe you didn’t realize something was a gift from God until much later. Or perhaps you’ve missed opportunities that God sent your way and they slipped through your fingers? Or maybe you reacted too quickly or waited too long when God presented an opportunity, a blessing, or guidance?
There have been times in my life, too many to count, when I did not follow God’s leadings and I lost an opportunity to bless someone. Other times I have been so enthusiastic to accomplish a task that I acted prematurely and made a mess of things. But you just can’t peel back the petals of a peach blossom before it’s ready to bloom and expect to end up with a tasty piece of fruit. Nor do you pick the rotten fruit off the ground and put it in a serving bowl on your dining room table.
Sometimes the wind knocks a few peaches to the ground when they’re still green. And sometimes I get so busy that I don’t get all the ripe fruit picked before it falls to the ground and rots. Last summer I got pretty stern with myself for wasting all that potential fruit. I ended up raking up that rotten mess out from under the tree and putting it in the compost pile. I did the same with unripe fruit that fell from the tree because of high winds.
So all the unripe and over-ripe fruit went into the compost pile and in the end did not go completely to waste. As the composted fruit decomposes along with all the other garden trimmings, the resulting compost will serve to nourish this coming year’s garden.
Your spiritual compost pile
It never ceases to amaze me how my garden provides countless metaphors for life and spirituality. As with the under-ripe and over-ripe peaches, if we “harvest” the fruit of the Spirit too soon or too late, when we miss an opportunity God gives us, it is unfortunate, but it’s not the end of the world.
Be grateful for the opportunities you have embraced and acted upon. But when you don’t connect with all the gifts God gives you, put these spoiled opportunities in your “spiritual compost pile.”
If you just lost your temper with someone, try to bring a little love to the situation. When someone else, for the second time, gets the promotion at work instead of you and you’re feeling depressed, root around in your heart for a little joy. Find a quiet place to regain your peace when the petty dramas of life run rampant and you just lost your cool. Be gentle the next time you want to criticize. Do something good for someone who did you wrong, instead of getting even with them. Hold tight to your faith when the waves crash in. Instead of acting prideful, let meekness rule your heart you when accomplish something wonderful. And be temperate. If you loose your mental and spiritual control because of what others are doing, make an effort to learn from the experience and do better next time. And you’ll always have a new opportunity to express more patience.
Oh, I know, it’s easy to say all these things. Sometimes we do them and sometimes we fail. But when you haven’t lived up to you highest ideals, learn from your shortcomings. Put them in the compost pile. Let mistakes and hard lessons break down into their primal elements of love, humility, and your desire to do what’s right. In a future season you can apply a healthy amount of this spiritual compost to new opportunities and it will nurture immense spiritual growth.
And you’ll be ready to receive more of God’s fruit of the Spirit in your life and use the opportunities that He sends your way.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share in the comments below.
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