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Bearing Fruit or Barely Fruitful?

Christians often downplay fruitfulness. They exclaim, “The key is not fruitfulness but faithfulness,” as if the two are not connected. People often try to avoid any accountability for results in their life. They argue, “I did all I could!” or “I just try to be faithful and leave the results to God.” These statements sound sincere and perhaps even pious, but they neglect the fact that Jesus repeatedly emphasized that He expects His followers to produce much fruit.

Jesus famously described a sower who cast seeds on all manner of soil (Matt. 13:3-9). Some fell on the wayside. So much traffic crossed over it that the soil became hardened and unreceptive to the seeds. Some seeds fell on stony ground. The soil was so shallow that the seeds could not take root. What began with promise soon ended in disappointment. Other seeds fell among thorns. These seeds found soil, but there was too much competition for them to thrive. They were eventually choked out. Yet other seeds fell on good soil.

It is interesting that the good soil in one place produced thirty-fold. In other good soil, the harvest was sixty-fold. Yet in other good soil, the harvest was one-hundred-fold. We might expect that all good soil would produce the same results. Yet they varied. Clearly one person’s “good” soil may produce a greater harvest than someone else’s.

In Mark 11:12-14 we encounter Jesus looking for fruit once more. This time He came upon a fig tree but found no fruit. In response, Jesus cursed the tree. This rebuke was one of the harshest Jesus ever uttered, and it centered on unfruitfulness.

In Luke 13:6-9, Jesus told another parable about fruitfulness. A certain man had a vineyard. When he came looking for fruit, he found a fig tree that had not produced fruit in three years. The owner’s response was this: “Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?” Once again, Jesus pointed out that a fruit tree that fails to produce fruit has no value. In this case, the vinedresser pleaded for one more year. He intended to loosen the earth around the tree and to fertilize it, giving it every opportunity to produce fruit. It seems clear from this parable that, with necessary adjustments, a fruitless tree can begin to experience a harvest.

Finally, Jesus said in John 15:2, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Christ expects every area of our life to produce fruit. When we do, the Vinedresser prunes us so we produce even more fruit. Jesus concluded this discourse by saying, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit” (John 15:8). How do you glorify God? By producing fruit. How do you glorify God to a greater degree than you have before? By bearing more fruit!

What can we conclude? First, Jesus expects us to produce fruit in our life. Second, fruitlessness is unacceptable. Whether the fig tree was “trying” or being “faithful” does not matter. Its purpose was to produce fruit! Finally, Jesus taught that fruitless plants could take action to increase their production. If we are willing, we can cultivate areas of our life so there is a greater harvest than ever before.

These passages have been studied, devotionalized, treasured, pondered, and debated for centuries. So how do they apply to us? Consider this:

Jesus wants EVERY area of your life to bear fruit. And every aspect of your life has the potential to bear even more fruit if it is properly developed and nurtured. How have you been monitoring and developing the fruitfulness of each area of your life?

For example, consider your devotional life. It may be a treasured time in your day. But is it producing all the spiritual fruit it could? What if you cultivated that time? What if you rose earlier? What if you acquired a new study Bible? What if you found a more tranquil place to spend time with God? Could God produce more fruit from your encounters with Him if you made some adjustments?

What about your prayer life? Could you cultivate it to produce more fruit? Do you need to spend more time praying? Do you need a new prayer journal? Should you read some classic books on prayer to stimulate your prayer life? Do you need to find someone who is fervent in prayer to mentor you?

What about your relationships? Much spiritual fruit can and should result from the time you spend with others. Do you just watch television with your family or do you engage with them in a way that produces spiritual fruit? Do you merely have coffee with your friends or does a spiritual harvest result from your time together? What about time you spend with your spouse or grandchildren? People can profit greatly from time they spend with us if we are intentional with those encounters.

Think of your workplace. It is not simply a place to earn a living. It is also a venue for producing spiritual fruit. Have you experienced a harvest yet?

What about your time? The more intimately you know God and His power, the less willing you will be to squander time in fruitless endeavors.

The key, of course, is not your efforts but the Vinedresser’s work. Your responsibility is to abide in the Vine. The Vinedresser knows whether He can produce thirty-fold or one-hundred fold from each area of your life. He knows what needs to be pruned in order to produce more fruit. You need to surrender every area of your life fully into His hands.

Don’t grow satisfied! A fruitless life does not glorify God! Take an inventory of each aspect of your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal areas that could produce a greater spiritual harvest. Live your life in such a manner that it brings maximum glory to God.

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