Have you ever tried to pick a grape from a thorn bush? You can’t. You can’t pick an orange for that matter either. We are all expected to bear good fruit to build the Kingdom of God. Jesus told His disciples that people will be known by the fruit they bear. He further stated: “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.” As it pertains to the growth of God’s Kingdom, we must ask ourselves this deeply introspective question: “If I am to be known by the fruit I bear for the sake of the Kingdom, how then will I be known?
This past week during my morning prayer and Scripture reading, a few of the verses from Matthew’s Gospel seemed to speak directly to my soul. The verses from Mt 7:15-20 caused me to do some serious self-reflection. My hope is that by sharing this, you too will pause and take some time to reflect.
My family and I lived in Florida for many years. In many parts of Florida, it is not uncommon for people to buy an existing home with an old orange tree in the backyard. These trees have often gone for years without proper care. This prolonged lack of care ruins the trees. Their fruit is often inedible and as a result it is left to fall on the ground and rot. If you want to harvest good fruit from your own backyard, your best choice is to cut the old tree down and plant a new one.
We all know that we cannot pick grapes from thorn bushes nor can we pick figs from thistles. Knowing this, why would we ever think for a minute that we will bear good fruit for the Kingdom if we ourselves are a thorn bush?
Fruit trees must receive regular care. The University of Florida gives this recommendation to homeowners who want to have backyard oranges: “Young trees should be fertilized with light but frequent doses throughout the growing season. Apply fertilizer in a three-foot-diameter circle around the tree. After the third year, fertilize your citrus four to five times per year.”
Just like orange trees, we need regular spiritual care to bear good fruit. The recommendation stated that the fruit trees require fertilization not only when the tree is first planted, but they require frequent fertilization throughout their lifecycle. Too often as Christians, we rely solely on the spiritual training (fertilization) which we received as children to sustain our life long spiritual journey. It will not! Just like those orange trees, we need frequent spiritual nutrition throughout our life.
I must admit, there are times in my life when I fail to keep my faith well nourished. During these periods of time, I more resemble a thistle than a fruit tree. Have you ever been a thistle in God’s garden? Maybe you have recently been ignoring good spiritual care. Have you?
We need to fertilize our faith with prayer and study and we need a good Christian community if we intend to bear good fruit. Just like those homeowners who ignored the needs of the orange trees in their back yards, we often get too busy and caught up in daily life and ignore the needs of our faith. Each day we do so, we give rot and decay a chance to take hold. If we continually ignore the needs of our faith we run the risk of spiritual death. None of us wants to be a tree that the Great Gardener cuts down and casts in the fire to be burned.
Florida orange trees grow best in full sun; and likewise, our spiritual life matures best when nourished in truth and warmed by the SON of God. Let’s not put off our spiritual wellbeing. Take a moment right now to do this quick spiritual assessment.
- How is my prayer life?
- Do I set aside time for morning prayer?
- Do I pray before all meals?
- Do I do an evening examination of conscience?
- Do I attend church faithfully?
- When was the last time I went on a spiritual retreat?
- Do I spend time in silence so that God can talk to me?
- Do I fast regularly as part of my spiritual care?
- How is my spiritual study?
- What did God reveal to me about me this past week that I never knew before?
- What did God reveal to me this past week about Him that I never knew before?
- Am I spending time daily reading Scripture and other good Christian books?
- Do I take time to notice the hand of God in all of His creation?
- Am I active in a spiritual community?
- Am I active in some type of weekly gathering with other Christians for the purpose of building friendships rooted in Christ and for Christian accountability?
As I stated, Matthew’s Gospel caused me to ask myself these questions. I see some areas where I need improvement. Maybe you do too. I hope that by reflecting on these questions you and I will make any necessary adjustments which are needed to improve our spiritual health. My prayer is that this quick assessment will help us all to become good trees bearing abundant fruit in God’s Kingdom.Dear Heavenly Father, please help me to properly nourish my faith so that I can be a tree in your garden which bears abundant fruit for you, amen!