Its Fruit in Its Season
J. R. Miller
Every life is sent into this world—to be a blessing. God's thought for every creature he makes, is beauty and usefulness. The marring and the curse, we find everywhere are not divine purposes—but come from the resistance or the perversion of the holy will. The word "sin" means missing the mark; anything or any person that fails to be beautiful or to be a blessing—has missed the mark.
The Bible makes it plain, that fruit is the test of the Christian life. Jesus made this very clear, by saying that the branch in the vine which bears no fruit—is taken away, cut off, and cast out to be burned. It is useless, and there is no room on the great vine for any useless branch or twig. Jesus said also that the fruitful branch is pruned, that it may bring forth yet more fruit. That is, even ordinary fruitfulness does not quite satisfy the husbandman; he wants every branch to do its best, and therefore he applies a system of culture which will insure increasing fruitfulness. Jesus made it clear that no one can be his follower in truth—who is not willing to be a luxuriant fruit bearer: "Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples." We cannot be his disciples, if we do no bear much fruit. All the culture of the Christian life, is toward fruitfulness.
What is fruitfulness in the spiritual sense? It is more than Christian activities. There are many people who are active in Christian duty, faithful, diligent, energetic—who yet do not bear in their own life and character, the fruits of the Spirit. There are some people who are ever busy in doing good, whose lives are useful and full of helpfulness for others, who yet lack the graces of the finest and best spiritual culture. Paul enumerates among the fruits of the Spirit, "love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance."
No doubt true fruitfulness ordinarily includes Christian activities. We are to go about doing good, as our Master did. It is necessary in order to the best life—that we should use our gifts and talents in all possible forms of helpfulness, to make the world better, and to give comfort, strength, or cheer to other lives. At the same time it is essential for truest faithfulness, that the life shall also bear the fruits of the Spirit. Martha was intensely active in her serving—but she lacked at least one of the qualities which belong to true fruitfulness—the quiet of God in her heart.
What is the purpose of fruit? It is not merely for ornament or decoration. The fruit of trees—is for the feeding of men's hunger. The same test should be applied to Christian life. It is not enough to bear fruit merely for the adornment of our character, or the beautifying of our own life. Fruit for fruit's sake, is not the motto. We are to do all things for the glory of God. The glory of God, however, embraces also the good of others. The commandments of love to God and love to our neighbor, are linked together in one. He who loves God—will love his neighbor also. Therefore it is no sufficient motive in fruit bearing, that it is for the honoring of God's name. We cannot honor God's name, except by living for others. Hence we must bear fruit which will be a blessing to others, which will feed the hunger of human hearts.
It is one of the best tests of our life—that others are helped, cheered, strengthened, or comforted by the things in us, which are beautiful and good. There are some people whose lives are blessings wherever they go. The peace, joy, and love of their hearts—make others happier and better.
One of the old legends tells of the visits of a goddess to ancient Thebes, and relates that the people always knew when she had been there, although no eye saw her—by the blessings she left behind. She would pause before a deadened tree, and the tree would be covered with beautiful vines. She would sit down to rest upon a decaying log, and the decay would be hidden under lovely moss. When she stepped on the muddy shores of the sea, violets would spring up in her tracks. This is only a legend—but it illustrates the influence of the beautiful life in which the fruits of the Spirit have full and rich growth. There are lives so full of grace and goodness, that every influence they give forth is toward cheer and hope and purity.
On the other hand, there are lives whose every breath is malevolent. Another ancient legend tells of a maiden that was sent to Alexander from some conquered province. She was very beautiful—but the most remarkable thing about her was her breath, which was like the perfume of richest flowers. It was soon discovered, however, that she had lived all her life amid poison, breathing it, and that her body was full of poison. Flowers given to her, withered on her breast. Insects on which she breathed, perished. A beautiful bird was brought into her room, and fell dead. Fanciful as this story is, there are lives which in a moral sense, are just like this maiden. They have become so corrupt, that everything they touch, receives harming. Nothing beautiful can live in their presence.
On the other hand, the Christian life is one whose warm atmosphere is a perpetual blessing. It is like the shadow of Peter, having healing power—so that all on whom it falls, are enriched and blessed by it.
In one of the Psalms, a godly life is compared to a tree planted by the streams of water. The emblem is very suggestive. A tree is not only one of the most beautiful objects in nature—but also one of the most useful.
It must be noted that each tree brings forth its own fruit. There is widest variety among trees; so also is there in Christian lives. No two are the same. It is not wise for us to try to copy the mode of fruitfulness of some other person. Imitation is one of the most common faults in Christian living. One man lives helpfully in his own way—and hundreds take him as their pattern. Thus they lose their own individuality and mar both their character and their work. The true way is to get full of Christ—and simply be one's self. No tree tries to bear fruit like some other tree; each one bears its own fruit—and that is best for it. Each life, too, should yield its own fruit. It may not be such fine fruit as another life bears—but it is the finest which that life was made to produce, and therefore is its best. Much of our strength lies in our individuality.
Another feature of this tree, is that it brings forth fruit in its season. Different kinds of fruits, ripen at different times of the year. Some come early in the summer, some late. There are those Christians who bring forth lovely fruits even in childhood, whose lives are tender, thoughtful, unselfish, and true. But ordinarily we must not look for the fruits of ripened experience, in youth time. Young Christians should not be expected to be just like older Christians. Naturalness is one of the charms of any beautiful life.
We must not look for the ripeness of mature life—in those still in the youth time of experience. It is a fruit tree that is in the psalmist's mind. This tree brings forth its fruit in its season. There are weeks and weeks in which the fruit hangs upon the tree, and though it has all the semblance of lusciousness, it is still hard and sour. By and by, in the time of ripening, all is changed, and the fruit is mellow and sweet! It is so in life. Many excellent people, with much promise of fruit, do not bring their fruit to perfection until the late autumn of life. Paul was an old man, when he wrote that he had learned in whosoever state he was, therein to be content.
This language intimates also that the great lesson was hard to learn. Contentment did not come naturally to him. It took him many years, well into old age—to grow into the sweet spirit. Young people, therefore, should not be discouraged if they cannot now have all the graces of gentleness, thoughtfulness, patience, and unselfishness which they see and admire so much in those who are older. The tree brings forth its fruit—in its season. If only they abide in Christ, receiving from him the blessings of his love and grace—they will bring forth the ripe fruit in their season.
Some fruits do not ripen until the frosts come. Just so, some Christian lives do not yield their richest and best character, until the frosts of sorrow have fallen upon them. Many Christians go on through joyous days, amid prosperity, pure in motive, earnest in activity—yet not bringing forth the best fruits. By and by trouble comes, adversity, sorrow, loss; and under the keen frosts—the fruit is ripened. After that, they have a sweeter spirit, with more love for Christ, with deeper spirituality and a larger measure of consecration.
If we would bear fruit, there is a condition we must observe—we must abide in Christ. The roots of our life must go down deep into his life—as the roots of the tree penetrate the earth's soil. We must live so that the blessings of God's love shall reach us—through our faith and through the Word and Spirit of God. No Christian can be fruitful, who does not receive from Christ, through the Holy Spirit, the divine grace and blessing. The tree must be planted—by the streams of water.