Fruit in the Christian life is essential. We read our Bibles, pray, do good works, love others—Christians exhibit fruit. The produce of the Holy Spirit is guaranteed. God does the work in us, through us, with us. And this is where our struggles with assurance of salvation and frustrations in sanctification crop up. We forget two essential lessons about fruit.
- Fruit is incredibly slow.
- Fruit is seasonal.
So are we. Our Lord picked agricultural analogies for a reason. Our spiritual growth is slow and seasonal. Physical fruit takes weeks, months, and even years to arrive on the tree. Farmers don't panic at this stage. They know what's been planted. Spiritual fruit takes serious time before it's detectable. And that's okay. Keep going. Don't let your local grocery store fool you—strawberries actually have seasons. And if you've ever had a strawberry in-season and out-of-season, boy can you taste the difference. Our spiritual life has boons of fruit, and then we have seasons where the Lord is doing a lot of soil work, rootwork, and under-the-surface work that is readying us for the next season. Or maybe God is growing other fruit we just don't notice.
The nature of spiritual fruit as fruit reminds us to celebrate what we see. Let me illustrate with an occasional meditation on my lime tree. The Puritans taught two kinds of meditation: deliberate and occasional. Deliberate is when you are sitting with God's word and meditating on it, like I wrote on Psalm 134. Occasional meditation is when something in life hits you, and you pause and reflect and mediate on it, extracting a spiritual lesson. "Look at the birds...Look at the ants...etc."
Look at this Lime Tree
Years ago, my wife and I transplanted a struggling baby lime tree from a pot to the earth, hoping it’d give birth to some limes. It was in primo soil. Some of the softest earth I’ve ever dug. Digging the hole for this lime tree was like taking a cookie cutter through a stick of butter that’s been on the counter all week.
After weeks and weeks of no limes, no signs of life, and wondering if the thing bit the dust—I noticed something on the tree. A lime. I was so excited and announced to my family, “There’s a lime on the lime tree!” I wasn’t expecting lemons or radiators on the tree; I knew it’d make limes. I was excited to see growth.
Now, let me tell you about these limes. They were small. Not impressive. If they were grapes, they'd be obese, but as limes, they were teeny. But I didn’t care about their heft, it was their presence that excited me. Evidence of fruit is a big deal. The tree wasn't dead —it’s alive.
Fruit is Fruit
Those limes got me thinking about the spiritual fruit in our lives. Most of the time, and most of us, we are like the dinky limes in my backyard. So, don’t get discouraged. We don't become sprawling apple trees after talking theology with friends, one year of discipleship in community, or a semester of steady spiritual disciplines. Growth takes time. God is here for it.
Tiny limes mean we are alive. Fruit, no matter its mass, is a reason to celebrate. You really are a new creation. Christ is at work in you. The Holy Spirit is bearing fruit. Every little act of service, those small moments of deferring to someone else, honoring others, or a moment of honest prayer, may seem small and not appear to move the scale that’s next to the broccoli, but don’t be fooled. The presence of any fruit is a reason to rejoice. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and all varieties of Christlikeness in our lives are reasons to rejoice in God's work in us.
Maybe you've heard that patience is a virtue, well, it turns out it's also a fruit of the Spirit. We can even bear fruit while waiting for fruit. How about that? When strawberries are out of season, kiwis are in. Bananas are always in season—so is love, it never ends. Praise God for mustard seeds and tiny limes.