My wife had an aunt who in her charismatic church was one of those people who spoke in tongues regularly in the worship services. When there was a lull and no one else stood up she often would. Then she’d deliver a message in a language no one had heard before.
Later after church when she was preparing Sunday dinner at home, I’ve been told though, that if one of the kids messed up look out. She could go off in a tirade using language that people had heard before but few used at least in polite company shall we say.
I met her a few times, when Jennifer and I were first married, and I would have to say she was not what I’d call a peaceful person.
Another snapshot was when I was in seminary. Some of the students who most stringently followed all of the spiritual and seminary rules got the best grades but frankly were the least fun to hang around.
To be honest I didn’t exactly ever fit in. Actually, I still probably wouldn’t.
I can also say though that I’ve had times when I was caught up in trying to live an exemplary life so God would bless me. And I wasn’t much fun to be around either.
So it makes me wonder about a statement Jesus made. He said, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit”*
See I think we often get caught up in trying hard to produce the fruit ourselves. Yet it seems sometimes the harder we try the worse we fail doesn’t it?
In the context in which Jesus spoke these words he was talking to religious leaders who made it a practice to follow their religious laws precisely.
Yet, when Jesus performed a miracle they rejected it because of their jealousy.
So literally Jesus is saying here you can’t give yourself the fruit but you can cultivate it.
In another place Paul writes about the spiritual fruit and he says we cultivate it in the same way we enter into a relationship with God. Simply by trusting in him for his love, care and fruit.
See when we stop thrashing around trying to give ourselves that fruit or trying to coerce God into it. We rest and magically discover his fruit growing in us.
Sure there are things we can do to encourage our faith. It’s like the preparation of fruit trees.
Yet, don’t get confused here. Those actions earn us nothing. Though they can help build our faith which results in more fruit.
And what are those spiritual fruit we’re promised? There are whole lists but they all flow out of peace, joy and love.
Frankly, I think those are enough. If I experience those with consistency I’m pretty happy.
We can cultivate a fruitful life but we can’t give it to ourselves.
What have you discovered about cultivating a fruitful life?
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*Matthew 12: 33 (NIV)