The fig tree that had only leaves bit no fruit was cursed by Lord Jesus and it immediately dried up from the roots. God blessed Adam and Eve to be fruitful but after sin entered, not only their own life and future generations of mankind but the earth was also cursed and thorns and thistles became part of its yield. However, only a fruitful tree is stoned for its fruit while everyone avoids a thorny bush. God created mankind to be a blessing for others and not to be self-centered and that should be the aim of every believer’s life.
Meaning of being fruitful – In the Garden of Eden and in the New Jerusalem and all over in the Scriptures, fruit and fruitfulness is mentioned everywhere (Genesis 1:11 & Revelation 22:2). The fruit of the life of the Son of God on earth as man is turning people to God and finally restoration of the whole of creation. Fruitfulness starts with God who created the earth with the inherent capacity to produce vegetation and fruit trees, animals that produce more of their kind and then mankind created in His ‘image and likeness’ and blesses them to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ or increase in number.
The creation of man itself is a three-step process; first is ‘briah’, creation of man as an act of Divine will, ‘Let us’ and forming a shape from the earth, this starts with a child being formed in the womb of his mother. Second, ‘yetzira’ the formation of man into a spiritual being, by breathing into the physical form the breath of God, though now it is at birth but it is all planned by God beforehand. King David praised God, ‘Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book, they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them’ (Psalm 139:16-17). And the third step is, making man through daily meetings of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the evening with God.
The third step is a process of transformation that is continuous and its spiritual component was disturbed through the sin of Adam and Eve. Lord Jesus set it on the right track by blessing each believer with the indwelling Holy Spirit. We are created in God’s likeness but God being a Spirit our likeness is spiritual, with capabilities to create – to build and improve, have families and create relationships. Creation did not stop with Adam and Eve and the blessing of being fruitful passed to Noah (Genesis 8:17). It then passed to Abraham and his descendants for blessing all nations.
With this being fruitful got linked to righteous living (Psalm 1:1-3) by being in a close relationship with God by meditating on His law and being separated from sinners to be like a tree by a stream bearing fruit in its season. Bearing fruit is therefore dependent on being in the right place receiving the right nourishment from the right source, God Himself. God desires everyone to bear fruit that reveals the nature and character of God who created us, for only then do we fulfill the purpose of our being created. We are created to glorify God through our lives and this happens through our own character, conduct and message to others.
The Israelites are God’s chosen people and ‘all the nations of the earth’ were destined to be blessed through them, for they are the descendants of Abraham. God blessed them in every way but they turned to other gods and disappointed Him by their fruitlessness. God then declared, ‘What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes?’ (Isaiah 5:4). Despite our evil deeds God is truthful and loving and promises His blessings, ‘I, the LORD, keep it, I water it every moment; lest any hurt it, I keep it day and night’ (Isaiah 27:3). God has great plans for each one in His creation and His desire for us remains, to ‘be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it’ (Genesis 1:28). Lord Jesus took on the role that was assigned to Israel by declaring, ‘I am the true vine; and My Father is the gardener (Vinedresser)’ (John 15:1 & 8). We as His followers, automatically become partners and His words, ‘By this My Father is glorified that you bear much fruit’.
Apostle Paul has first listed out the traits of a person living under control of his body and the devil but then he comes to the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:19 -23). Though there are nine listed traits but since the effect of all these is on the character of a person the fruit is taken as singular. Anyone who is a follower of Lord Jesus would continue to grow in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The change is not overnight but the Holy Spirit definitely alerts of any violation and strengthens us to grow and continue.
A believer is a new creation in Lord Jesus but it has three essentials (Galatians 6:15). As per this, one must walk, be led and keep in step with the Holy Spirit and only then can one expect to bear fruit and continue to do so (Galatians 5:16,18&25). The Prophet was given a vision by the LORD about the river flowing from the Temple, from under the throne of God (Ezekiel 47:1-12 & Revelation 22:1-3). The water of the river will have healing properties as well as nourishment, for the trees on its banks producing abundant fruit every month.
Thus, the fruitfulness of a believer is dependent on his/her own efforts but under the guidance and blessings of the Lord Himself, for on our own we can never be useful for His kingdom work.
Our responsibility in bearing fruit – Fruitfulness is the outward visibility of one’s inward state and reflects our behavior, attitude, words and thoughts. Since fruit can be good or bad, our capacity is measured by what is inside us, in our hearts. Solomon cautioned all of mankind, ‘Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life’ (Proverbs 4:23). We are born with a sinful nature and to be a Christian is not only about good deeds, fellowship and Church meetings only but to be born again in Lord Jesus. A believer is to ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts’ (Romans 13:14).
Apostle Peter has advised all to ‘add to your faith virtue, to virtue, knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness and to brotherly kindness love’ (2 Peter 1:5-8). With these things one can never be barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord. Many tend to forget that the fruit is for and for the glory of Lord Jesus, who is holy and humble. Filled with pride we start operating outside the control of the Holy Spirit and the numbers matter more than the truth. We tend to forget that ‘in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8) and it is His grace and blessings that enable us to be fruitful.
God’s kingdom is not dependent on any created being and He works despite us and not because of us. It is therefore important that we continuously watch over our life and be humble enough to accept righteous criticism to change ourselves. The sinful tendencies in our hearts must be checked and controlled diligently. For this, first, we must die to pride every day for it is not about being prideful but the manifestation of that. Over time we start thinking we can do ministry without an intimate relationship with the Lord, fellowship with Him and other believers and absolute dependence on Him. The Son of God said, ‘I can of Myself do nothing’ (John 5:30) and then He told the disciples ‘Without Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). We must be desperately dependent on Him for guidance and strength.
Second, Confession and prayer – The greater the fruit in our ministry or life, the more difficult is confession. It should be we and not the devil who exposes our sins. Apostle James was well aware of the need to say, ‘Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed’ (James 5:16). This healing is not only physical but also of the sinful nature of the soul.
Third, guard against quick promotion to responsible positions by mistaking giftedness for spiritual maturity, for this can cause much long-term damage after short term gains. Fruitfulness is a family concern and anyone who is not mature enough to develop a team as a family will harm many others’ ability to bear fruit.
Four, guard against mistaking fruitfulness for holiness – A very famous international speaker died sometime back and his ministry was perceived to be very fruitful. But within a few days of his death, innumerable allegations of sexual abuse surfaced and not only his own image but also the fruit of his ministry was affected. Lord Jesus in His letter to the seven churches did not commend the size of their membership or growth rate but at character, faith, endurance, compromise, idolatry and immorality. If we focus on Lord Jesus, our focus will remain on holiness, purity and humility and then He will make us fruitful and our fruit will last also and His name will be glorified in and through us.
Points to watch for – The most important aspect of our life as a believer is that we are not an island but part of His family. Our life will always and must positively affect others’ lives in our community of both believers and non-believers. We being part of a body, ‘the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you’ (1 Corinthians 12:21). We must be careful and observant about our attitudes and way of life.
First, be aware of the reason of your life, to create awareness about the glory of God, the reason for all of creation. Understand your role in this for self, family and community.
Second, we are caretakers for God –Be aware that ‘The earth is the LORD’s and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein’ and use His gifts with gratitude for His kingdom and glory (Psalm 24:1).
Third, understand the difference between rest and laziness – God sanctified the seventh day for rest but the other days are for working to the best of our ability. Lord Jesus answered the Jewish leaders about healing on the Sabbath, saying, ‘My Father has been working until now, and I have been working’ (John 5:17) and so should we.
Four, accept imperfection for only God is perfect – Apostle Paul has said, ‘Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain’ (1 Corinthians 15:58). Do a lot of things and let God use all for His glory the way He desires.
Five, take notes and act immediately for you will get ideas and fruitful thoughts when you least expect them, at night, on a walk or while praying and meditating. Write down and execute at the earliest lest you forget and the idea is lost.
Six, persevere for most people keep waiting to be free to start a project and that never happens. Now is the right time, start and dedicate 30 minutes or more everyday and over a year and you would have invested close to 180 hours in a year with a definite result.
Seven, be filled with great hope and excitement for the future for God has a definite plan for each one of us and many parts of that are yet to be fulfilled. Joseph worked well as a slave at Potiphar’s house, equally diligently in the prison to finally be the number two man in Egypt.
Apostle Paul refused to look back on the past but focused on ‘the goal for the prize of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 3:14). The same message is from Apostle James to ‘be doers of the word and not hearers, deceiving yourselves’ (James 1:22). Every breath that we take is a gift from God and I must continue to move forward in His work till He continues to bless me with the next breath. I am supposed to do this, for fruit will continue to come till He has kept me here.
God has chosen us and transplanted us on to the True Vine, Lord Jesus Christ, and our life must bear fruit in His strength and for His kingdom. Our fruitfulness is about reaching out to others with the message of salvation in and through the Son of God. Then the Holy Spirit could work on the seed of the Word that we planted in their hearts to make it grow. We are to keep at our efforts and the fruit will come in the power of God!