In 2003, I did something foolish. A girl I didn’t know signed my autograph book in primary school and I lashed out at her. Apart from the verbal damage I caused, I drove the nail deeper when I ripped out the page she signed before her very own eyes. I had a very strong choleric nature and in the discomfort of a perceived misdeed, it ravaged a poor girl’s soul more than a nuclear head could. I look back at 2003 and I regret what I did to Fidelis. 10 years ago she was only 13. It may seem like a mere case of obnoxious Ernest at age 14 but it’s more than that. I hurt her feelings. I’m not sure how a 13-year-old heart slept that night. I’m not sure how she felt the whole year seeing me on those corridors and being laughed at by her friends.
Fidelis and I became friends on Facebook ten years after 2003 and my sin caught up with me. She hadn’t forgotten. I was ashamed of who I was then. I let her know that a lot had changed in my life. I knew I had made worse mistakes in high school, after high school, in campus and it just showed how fallen a human I really was. After a chat, I made amends and asked for her forgiveness. She forgave. I also let her know that in the heat of my errors, I had found something that changed my life completely. I had found eternal peace.
Humanity reckons with frailty. There are those moments when we all wished we hadn’t said what we said or did what we did. I’m learning something in all this.Amends may be made but the foolishness of the past cannot be undone. The wisdom for tomorrow however can be procured today. When 2013 began, I asked Christ to help me grow in fruitfulness for the next one year (and more of course). I didn’t know what I had signed up for. I gave my life to Christ after 2003 and I knew I had done a lot of harm that I could not account for. Christ really put me to the test of fruitfulness with the relationships around me and in less than a month in 2013 I discovered that fruitfulness is a huge deal in every follower of Christ.
I hope you will learn as I am learning. Fruitfulness is measured by the Holy Spirit and the word of God. It is not measured by our opinion or our ideas of right or wrong. There is a way in which you lived before you came to accept light in your hearts. You were once in darkness but you saw hope. I love how Paul puts it.
TITUS 3:3-5a “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, and wrong. We were slaves to passions and pleasures of all kinds. We spent our lives in malice and envy; others hated us and we hated them. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior was revealed, he saved us. It was not because of any good deeds that we ourselves had done, but because of his own mercy that he saved us”
We were in the tangle of sin. We saw nothing wrong with what we did. We thought we were good. We thought we were deserving of God’s love yet we weren’t. In our weakness, Christ showed kindness that no amount of human good deeds could atone for. He took the wrath every boy, girl, man and woman deserved and experienced it all in 3 hours on a wooden cross. To top it, he was rejected by the Father (worse than all the pain he experienced). However he overcame the death caused by the wrath and rejection and gave everyone he died for a chance to live. Right now, every follower of Christ knows that their past, present and future is atoned for. We left our previous acts and pursued Christ. Those acts were obvious.
Galatians 5:19-21 “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
However you gave your life to Christ and he replaced your callousness with his Holy Spirit that you may bear fruit.
Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Beloved, the sinful nature is very easy to obtain but the righteous nature is not. Throughout the Bible, the growth of the believer is likened to botanical growth. In Psalm 1, the believer is likened to a tree. In Jeremiah 17, he is also likened to atree planted by the streams of water. Jesus in John 15 likened his followers tobranches of vines. When Jesus said to watch out for false Christians he said we would know them by their fruit. And in Galatians our growth is described as fruit.There is a strong similarity between Christian growth and Botanical growth. Here are some.
Both have seasons of slow growth and quick growth
There are seasons when a fruit tree produces fruit very quickly. There are others when the fruitfulness is slow. When there is frequent water, the fruits grow well even in the slow steady season. In infrequent watered times, the slow seasons seem to never manifest fruit and the quick seasons produce sub-standard fruit because of poor watering.
The water is the word of God. Whatever your season, slow or not, the fruit of the spirit which is love characterized by joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control should ALWAYS be watered with the word of God. Do not make the mistake of going through a slow season and neglecting your water. In fact you should be planted by water always:
Jeremiah 17:7-8 “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
The Bible is not a book to meditate on only when you feel like it. It’s all-seasonal.
Do you read your Bible only when your down?
Do you read your Bible only when things are good for you?
In both, the fruit proves the identity of the tree
Even if you’ve never seen an apple tree, you will recognize one when you see apple fruit in it. If someone placed a sign on the tree that said mango tree yet apples are being produced, no one will believe the sign.
The fruit that hangs on your life shows your true identity. Our speech and our walk reveal whether we are Christ’s or not. Don’t mess with my temper!” or “Too bad if I’m rude. That’s the way I am.” You may put the sign that says “I’m an apple tree” but what we are seeing are mangoes. Even if you paint the mangoes to look like apples, on the inside you’re not genuine. The Lord knows your inside. Everyone else may see you attend church, serve in ministry and do great things but God cannot be fooled. You may exude apple-like behaviour, speech and colour but the Lord knows the motives. He knows beneath the veneer is a mango not an apple.
Jesus was calling out for false fruits when he said this in Matthew 7:21-23.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Note that verse 22 says many will say. That means that there are many mango trees claiming to be apple trees. Between you and the Lord, the truth of your genuine relationship with Christ will be revealed. If it doesn’t exist, then humility should be embraced and forgiveness should be sought from the man that died on the wooden cross for you. Come to Christ, genuinely, beloved.
If people grow or come to Christ because of your gifts and ministry, it isn’t the fruit of your spirit. It’s the fruit of their spirit.
Devotion to God supersedes “working” for God. Know God intimately and accept Jesus into your heart. No amount of ministry can replace that.
In both, producing good fruit is a sign of a healthy life
You will know a tree is useful by the fruit it produces. If it bears no fruit, it can be chopped down for firewood and a better tree planted. Jesus said something similar.
John 15:6 “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”
If it bears fruit but the fruits are bitter, it is still as useless. However, if it bears fruit and its fruits are delicious, it will be cared for. It will be pruned to give even more fruit.
A believer who does not produce fruit should examine their growth. You have received the gospel but are you growing? The believer who produces fruit should be ready for pain because in his fruitfulness he will be pruned only to be better. You will be tested only to be a more mature believer.
Are you diligent in your spiritual disciplines in order to grow? i.e. word intake (reading and meditating), fellowship, prayer, witnessing
In both, growth is symmetrical
A tree produces fruit at the same time. You will not find two branches producing fruit in January then the other two in March and the other two in mid October. When it’s the season of fruit, the WHOLE tree is fruitful.
True fruitfulness of a believer is also symmetrical. Galatians 5:22-23 says “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” By symmetry I mean the growth occurs in tandem with each other. If you are 20% patient in January, then chances are you are 20% peaceful at that time too. It may seem unbelievable but that’s because our personalities cloud our fruitfulness at times. This is what I mean. If you consider Ernest to be 100% patient but to be 0% peaceful, then you should question Ernest’s patience. The true patience of the Holy Spirit is in the context of peace.
Study the fruit’s characteristics below and the many misconceptions and ask yourself if you are truly being fruitful
The true joy of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is regardless of circumstances. It is a joy that is exuded despite trials. A perfect example is Paul and Silas in prison praising God. Their souls rejoiced despite having been whipped and persecuted.
If your joy is hinged only when things go well, then you must ask for the Holy Spirit to give you his joy. The joy of the Holy Spirit is not only when you win but also when you lose beloved.
If you’ve watched The Amazing Spiderman, you will remember the scene when the lizard and Spiderman were fighting in the high school library. There was an old man (Stan Lee) who had his earphones so loud that he hardly noticed any of the chaos that was going on behind him. Meanwhile, everyone who witnessed it had fled. Stan Lee was at peace but it wasn’t true peace. It was ignorance. Do not mistake ignorance for peace. White is clean only because we have seen black. Peace is true only because we have seen war. The peace of the Holy Spirit is coupled by knowledge. That knowledge is not only of the things that are happening but also of the promise of God that despite the wars around us, he will comfort us and protect us. Resting in that knowledge gives true peace.
Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness
The patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness of the Holy Spirit is one that transcends our benefits. We are called to be patient, kind, good and faithful several times in scripture even when we will not reap. If your patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness is fuelled by your need to gain, the truth will out when the gain is lost.
The true gentleness of the Holy Spirit is within the confines of courage. There are persons perceived to be gentle but in truth, they act out of cowardice. Many people have died and the opportunity to share with them the gospel was wasted away simply because we were afraid of being rejected and being thought of negatively. The cowardice was confused for a gentle soul while souls perished. 1 Peter 3:15 gives a good example of what it means to be gentle but to do what is right.
1 Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”
The true nature of the Holy Spirit’s self control is through humility. When a boy was six and got hurt, he began to cry. When he was found crying, he was told, “Don’t act like a girl.” He stopped crying. How? He acquired self-control over his tears from feeling superior to girls. He will always have self-control over his tears because he thinks he is better than girls. The self-control of the Holy Spirit acts within humility. Jesus was God yet he endured torture and a cross without retaliating. Humility. Philippians 2:6 says “Who being in the very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” If you exercise self-control only to show how good you are, how better you are, how superior you are, then you’ve missed the mark. The Holy Spirit’s self control shows how weak we are. We are not as good as we think that’s why we need control. If we were good, we wouldn’t need control.
Think about the life you lived in the past. You may need to make amends like I did with Fidelis whom I wronged 10 years ago. However, look at yourself now. You may have made terrible choices then but this is now. Amends may be made but the foolishness of the past cannot be undone. The wisdom for tomorrow however can be procured today. Are you being fruitful or are you giving the devil a foothold over your productivity?