A few days ago, I was praying and asking God to speak to me - much easier said than done. I find it so difficult to sit still and be quiet and just listen to God. My mind begins to race with all the to-do lists for the day, and I'm suddenly immensely aware of every little noise being made around me. The devil is quite skilled at distractions. At any rate, after several minutes I managed to quiet my mind and focus my heart on God and His voice, and He brought to my mind a passage from Psalms 1.
"How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night, and he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers." (NASV)
What a promise to those who seek the Lord through His word! I love the imagery of a flourishing tree. It's such an symbol of peace and confidence in the Lord. I did some light research on what it takes for a tree to bear fruit, and I found that there are 6 things needed in order to produce quality fruit.
1. Tree Development
A young/immature tree will not produce fruit. Fruit requires a maturity. How true of us in our spiritual walk with the Lord. We cannot expect to grow into the beautiful, firmly-planted, flourishing tree God created us to be unless we are mature in Christ. We grow in spiritual maturity by seeking God through His word - daily. This is something the Lord has been challenging me to do. I can often get caught up in working for Him, without first spending time with Him. How sad to get so absorbed in working in the name of God and, yet, completely miss the point of why He created me - for fellowship and relationship with Him. This is how I bring glory to God.
Pollination is a community effort. A tree cannot produce fruit without first cross-pollinating with other trees with the help of bees, birds and the wind. We need to surround ourselves with a like-minded, Christian community to sharpen us as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). God taught me this a number of years ago when I quit going to church. I thought I didn't need people because, well frankly, they ticked me off. God hasn't called us to walk through life alone. We need each other. And, in some of my darkest and most broken moments, it was my Christian community that rallied around me in prayer, support and love.
3. Hardiness Zones
Fruit-bearing trees need to be in the right zone to bloom. "A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps." (Proverbs 16:9, NKJV). We need to allow God to guide us to where He wants us. So often, I think I know best. God places a dream within me and sometimes it can be quite disheartening that I'm not there yet - wherever "there" may be. So, I strive in my own strength, power and abilities to make it come to pass. But maybe I need to stop striving toward the next thing and start striving toward God. All He calls me to do is to cling to Him, and He will fulfill His own promises.
Now this is the one I never like because it hurts. But, it's a fact that a tree that is regularly pruned will produce better quality fruit. Are you in a season of pruning? Is God cutting something out that will hinder the fruit production in your life? I've been there, and I will be there again. Pruning is not a once and done technique, but a continuous process that needs to be done over and over again with each new season. Don't lose heart if God is cutting something back or completely out. He is preparing you to bloom in your ordained season.
If a tree is planted too closely to another structure, that structure will interfere with the tree's roots, therefore affecting the fruit production. In order for a tree to produce quality fruit in its season, it needs room to grow and flourish. When we root too closely to something other than Jesus, you can bet your bottom dollar that we will not grow. It is only when we root and ground ourselves in God's Word alone that we will not wither when the drought comes. Jesus is our Living Water (John 4:14). I think this is one area where I need to be careful. Sometimes it's so much easier to look to man or the things of this world to provide me with significance and comfort when things get tough. It can be difficult for me to turn to God first because I can't see Him with my eyes. A lot of times, my first reaction to the storms of life is to call up a friend or confidante and process everything with them before taking it to my God. I want my first instinct to be one of submission to and communication with God. I don't want to lean on any other structure than God and His word. This is something for which I pray and strive because when the drought hits, I want to be firmly rooted in God's word so that I will flourish.
6. Soil Conditions
Trees need a certain balance between the soil conditions and their reserve food so that the tree will have energy to support its fruit. If there is an imbalance, then a tree might overbear fruit or not bear fruit at all. We, too, need a balance in our lives. So many things demand our attention, and so many of them are good. It is good to give attention to our family, our job, our church, our community and ourselves. But, I find that oftentimes (especially among Christians), we tend to over-commit and over-extend ourselves for the sake of "spreading the Gospel." We create an imbalance within us in the name of Jesus, when Jesus may never have called us to commit to so many things. As I stated previously, the devil is a master at distractions. Maybe God has called someone else to do what you won't lay down. Is there something in your life that He is calling you to lay down because it's a distraction that is causing an imbalance in your life? I encourage you to let it go. Your family, job or church won't fall apart. God is the One who holds it all together, not you.
So, even after all of these conditions are just right to be able to bear fruit, there will still be no fruit unless it's in its season. A mango tree will not produce mangoes in the winter, and an apple tree will not produce apples in the spring. God's timing is perfect. He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) and has declared that there is a season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). God made us to bear fruit; but, as you can see from above, it's a process. Do not discount or despise the process, for it is through the process that we grow in our faith and deepen our love for Christ. He will prune and perfect us over and over again to produce quality fruit in its season. We need to cling to Him through it all and trust Him in His timing and methods, for God's ways are perfect (Psalms 18:30).
Father, help me to cling to you, to be rooted and grounded in you and in your word. I pray that I will not wither when the storms and droughts of life come. I pray I will not be swayed by the things of this world. I pray that I will not be distracted away from you. Lord, give me resolve to pursue you with abandon. Establish my steps. It is the desire of my heart to please you. Lord, I pray that I may bear fruit - quality fruit - in my life. I trust in your timing and in your pruning process. I pray that others would know I'm yours by the fruit I bear. In Jesus' name, amen.