Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Flowers and Fruit

 “April showers bring May flowers….”  So the saying goes.  And here we are: after those April showers, new life is springing forth everywhere we turn.  For the gardeners among us, this is a happy season indeed.  For those of us who are less enthused, we tend to bemoan the need to trim shrubs and pull weeds.  But all of us can appreciate the rhythm of the seasons with which the Lord has blessed us.  And, we can all learn and grow from it.


The seasons in our life do not always reflect the natural season outside our windows, but we, too, have seasons of cold and darkness, dormancy and rain, followed by growth and life.  


If we face a time of cold and darkness, even of trials and suffering, we can exercise perseverance and walk through it with patience, confident that the Lord works even the most acute hardship for our good: Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.   And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  (James 1:2-4).  This is faith life at its most potent: the assurance of hope and the conviction that God’s goodness is at work even if we cannot see it.  Our roots of faith must grow deeper in order to find nourishment and refreshment in a time of apparent drought.


A time of dormancy and rain can be dreary and frustrating.  Just like our trees and shrubs need time to develop and grow underground before they flower and grow above the ground, so it is sometimes the case that we must wait for the Lord’s timing before an active phase of spiritual life and ministry begins.  Jesus spent his childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood out of the public eye and then spent 40 days alone in the wilderness dealing with the temptations offered by Satan before He began His public ministry.  And just as Jesus relied on God’s Word to return those temptations back to hell from where they came, we must rely on the Word of the Lord: Christ Himself.


And then as we abide in Christ as the true vine, the time will come when we bear fruit, much fruit.  The fruit-bearing season is preceded by rapid growth and activity.  It is a time of energy and opportunity.  It is also a time of pruning: Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.  (John 15:2).  As we grow and minister, the Lord sanctifies us so that our fruit manifests His goodness and abundance.  In other words, He pulls the spiritual weeds out of our hearts and minds so that nothing restrains or detracts from the fruit He is bearing through us and the joy that comes with bearing that fruit.


While seasons of life are often individual and personal, there is a corporate element to abiding in Christ and bearing fruit as well.  As the body of Christ, it is crucial for us to join together before the Lord in worship, prayer, and study, to invest in deep relationship with one another, and then to bear fruit as we use our gifts in a coordinated manner to powerfully minister to those in our community.  Although we are a small body, we have an amazing collection of gifts.  And with the Lord doing His loaves and fishes thing, we can look forward to bearing some exciting fruit for God’s kingdom.