“If you want to be the best in the world, you have to practice in order to be the best in the world on your worst day.” Think about that. I need to practice so hard that I am better than anyone else on my very worst days. If you want to get better, if you want to be the best, you go after it. You try harder. Create a plan. Determine the next steps. Find a model you can mimic. Practice. Work. Be compulsive. Outwork everyone else.
But if you want to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, that is the absolute wrong way to go about it. Trying to be fruitful doesn’t work. Fruit is a by-product of a healthy plant. The plant doesn’t try to produce fruit. It produces fruit because that is what that healthy plant does. You can’t work hard to be fruitful. Fruit isn’t the goal. It is merely the inevitable result of a healthy plant.
But if I want to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control – those are more marks of one’s character than outputs. If so, how do they happen? For me, they happen most as a result of the times they don’t happen. I know that sounds odd. But if the goal is a healthy plant, then wise pruning done by the hands of the Master Gardener is necessary to keep the plant thriving.
God keeps pruning me in my unfruitful moments. Whether that be impatience with the slower driver in the left hand lane or unkind words spoken to my wife or having one too many desserts… God catches me in ways where I once again need my Savior. I want to be patient. I want to respond with kindness not irritation. I want to be able to do, to eat or to drink what I know is best for me… yet I fail again. “Wretched man, who will deliver me from this body of death?” Paul asks that question in Romans 7. He answers it in Romans 8 – “Thanks be to God…. There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.”
Oswald Chambers describes the Christian life as one of “conscious repentance that leads to unconscious holiness.” The fruit will grow as the plant is pruned wisely. The new life, the perfect love of God is experienced in those moments of forgiveness that both prune and grow my heart and character. Fruit is the by-product.
So, if I want to be more fruitful, I need to let God “prune” me in my unfruitful places. What changes me is that he “prunes” me in ways that make me more aware of His love for me.
“Amazing love, how can it be, that you my King should die for me?
Amazing love, I know it’s true and it’s my job to honor you in all I do, in all I do!”
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Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.