“The fruit of the Spirit is the most effective evangelistic tool we have. …The most powerful sermon in the world can’t match the power of a fruit-filled life. Because unbelievers are not nearly as impressed with what we believe and preach as they are with how we act, especially under pressure.” Charles Stanley, The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life
I don’t know about you, but words like that fill me with conviction. I want my life to be “fruit-filled,” but I’m not so sure it is. I can’t tell you how many times I crack under pressure, for example, despite my very best intentions.
The past three years have given me one health challenge after another…not many of them life-threatening, but all associated with the body’s breakdown as it ages. I find myself running to the doctors’ office so often that I don’t have to give them all my information when I check in. They know who I am. I feel like a Professional Patient. Sigh…
The latest problem is the allergy to milk and eggs which we found at the end of the summer. After a lifetime of eating anything I wanted whenever I wanted, I’ve been struggling to adjust. It hasn’t been easy.
Then, a week ago, I had a relapse which I couldn’t attribute to anything obvious. I wish I could say I turned the problem over to God and went cheerfully on with my life, but I didn’t. As I usually do, I projected the worst scenario I could think of as far into the future as I could, something I call “catastrophizing”… which yielded its usual results of panic and depression.
Yet another trip to the doctor settled me down, but I ended up feeling so defeated. I want to express the kind of joy that young man in the parking lot has, but I can’t. No matter how hard I try.
Ah, that’s the problem, isn’t it? I’m trying to produce wonderful, attractive fruit by sheer willpower and determination, what writer John Eldredge calls “Making It Happen.”
That will never work.
“I am the Vine; you are the branches,” said Jesus. “whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me (cut off from vital union with Me) you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 Amplified)
How could I have forgotten? The same undeserved and unearned grace that saved me (see Ephesians 2:8) is what flows through me to yield the fruit God wants to produce. After all, it’s called the Fruit of the Spirit—His fruit, not mine.
When we lived in Erie, Pennsylvania, we were surrounded by fields of grape vines. Grape growing was a vital part of our community as it was in the culture of Jesus’ time. Every spring, we watched the branches bud, flower and produce tiny green grapes that grew fat and purple as fall approached. One of my favorite memories is the smell of those ripe grapes on warm September evenings.
But never did I hear the branches grunting and groaning as they tried to produce the grapes. The sap simply flowed through them, carrying the water and nutrients. The vine did the work. The branches’ job was to stay attached.
That was Jesus’ point. It’s mine, too.
I might want to produce the fruit of the Spirit in my life but I can’t. I must “dwell” in Him—remain closely attached to the Lord and let Him fill me with the water and nutrients I need.
His job; His glory.
My job is the same one it’s been from the beginning: trust and believe.