Monday, December 27, 2010

Bearing Fruit in Every Good Work

There is a phrase from a verse in Scripture that has been on my heart and mind lately, and it is from the book of Colossians. The first portion of the verse, Colossians 1:10, was written about here regarding walking in a manner worthy of the Lord and what it is to please Him in all respects. And the phrase that has been on my heart lately is quoted below in bold . . . .

“. . . so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;”

This “bearing fruit” is a part of what it is to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord . . . it is an integral part of our walk and life with Christ. As I thought about ‘fruit’, the parallel between this fruit of Christ and a fruit tree came to mind. 

For example, we have peach and apple trees planted on our property and in order for them to bring forth good fruit, certain care and attention must be given to them. Things such as watering, fertilizing, pruning, cultivating, protecting them from deer and other pests, and preventing and treating diseases.

The watering and fertilizing provide for the nourishment of the tree giving it health and strength and growth . . . this parallels our time spent in the word of God and taking in “the bread of life” (John 6:35) and the “living water” (John 4:10.) And not just reading the words, but taking them in as a part of who we are. 

For the water and nutrients can do no good to the tree, unless they are absorbed into the roots. This watering and fertilizing is also time spent with our Lord in prayer and in fellowship with Him. And in part, it can be time spent learning from those whom the Lord has brought into our lives for teaching and instructing . . . godly older men and women, our parents, and other brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Pruning, while necessary for the tree, also brings forth some loss and pain, but it is all for the good of the tree and the good fruit that will be produced. The pruning not only increases the fruit, but the tree is strengthened as dead, dying or non-productive growth is removed. 

This pruning is what the Lord also does to us, His children . . . He gently prunes us for our good and He refines us “like gold and silver” (Malachi 3:3.) And as we yield our lives to our loving Potter’s hands, He will mold us into vessels for His use. This pruning seems to also be something that we can in part do ourselves. 

For example, when we see bad ‘growth’ or ‘branches’ that negatively affect the tree, we can remove them from our lives. Much as Christ shared figuratively “if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off” (Mark 9:43.)

Cultivating around the tree helps to remove the weeds and also softens and loosens the top of the soil to allow the water and nutrients easier access to the roots of the tree. How this brings to remembrance the parable of the sower and the seed! 

Once the ground was cultivated and the thorns and rocks were removed, the seed could then grow and bear fruit abundantly in this good soil. May we take to heart what is shared in this parable, and be seeking to practice this continual cultivation of our hearts, and thus, giving no time for the ‘weeds’ to become firmly rooted in our lives.

Protection of the tree from deer and pests is also so important as we found with our peach trees this year! The deer came and nearly destroyed one of the trees and ate all of the fruit. Yet if we had been vigilant and had put up some means of protection, this loss and damage could have been avoided. 

Yet again, this is the same in our spiritual life, as we put up a ‘hedge of protection’ of God’s word in our hearts and minds, as we seek to put up ‘barriers’ to prevent evil influences from infiltrating our hearts and minds, as we are careful of what things we watch, read, participate in, etc., lest they, like the deer, come in and bring destruction and loss.

Closely related to this is the prevention and treatment of diseases. With our trees, we have found that it is much easier to take care of the problem before it begins, or at least when it is just in its beginning stages, than later on when the disease is prevalent. 

May we be ever watchful so that these ‘diseases’ do not infiltrate and grow in our lives! The diseases of habitual sin . . . may we recognize what areas we are sinful in and seek in “the strength that God supplies” (1 Peter 4:11) to overcome them.

As we seek to practice all of these things in our lives, then the result will be this good fruit being borne for the Lord and for His glory. And what a comfort it is to know that the Lord does not demand perfection . . . He desires a striving after to maturity. 

Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead . . . press[ing] on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13b-14.) 

We will never attain to perfection in this life, but with perseverance, we can have growth . . . and just like the fruit tree, it does not happen overnight, but it is a continual process with each of the aspects working together to yield the abundant and good fruit from the tree.

The verse in Colossians gives further understanding to this ‘bearing of fruit’ in that it is to be in “every good work.” We should be seeking in all things to bear fruit unto the Lord for His glory. There is so much instruction given in Scripture as to what this fruit is, yet there is specific instruction given to women of the Lord. 

There are certain fruits that the Lord desires us to be bearing in our lives which we should be seeking after. The fruit of a gentle and quiet spirit, a submissive heart, graciousness, fearing the Lord, prudence, discretion, being reverent in behavior, being sensible, pure, modest and kind, being a keeper at home and more.

With all of that said, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and also to have the focus of our hearts become inward, in seeing all of these things that “we” need to do. But it should not be so, for it is only us bringing our will into subjection to Christ, and then Him working through us as we seek to grow in these areas. 

And it is a process, little by little . . . an infant cannot instantly become a mature man, but the growth and maturation take place over time through learning, training and practicing.

I have recently been reading through once again a book written by A. W. Tozer titled The Pursuit of God. There was a portion of it that kept coming to mind as I thought about the things that have been shared so far, and it seems to relate well . . .

“The pursuit of God will embrace the labor of bringing our total personality into conformity to His . . . I speak of voluntary exalting of God to His proper station over us and a willing surrender of our whole being to the place of worshipful submission which the Creator-creature circumstance makes proper . . . . The moment we make up our minds that we are going on with this determination to exalt God over all, we step out of the world’s parade . . . .  
“ ‘Be Thou exalted’ is the language of victorious spiritual experience. It is a little key to unlock the door to great treasures of grace. It is central in the life of God in the soul. Let the seeking man reach a place where life and lips join to say continually, ‘Be Thou exalted,’ and a thousand minor problems will be solved at once. His Christian life ceases to be the complicated thing it had been before and becomes the very essence of simplicity.” (The Pursuit of God; pg. 102 and 103.)

So it isn’t about us, but it is all about Him. May that be our heart’s cry, our goal, to always be able to say “Be Thou exalted” . . . in our lives, our words, our actions. May we ourselves be a sacrifice unto Him, and all for His glory and His exaltation. 

May we be seeking and striving after this “bearing fruit in every good work.” For He is worthy of all that we are . . . He has redeemed us from the pit of destruction and covered us in His precious blood. What a very small sacrifice it should be, then, to give ourselves fully and completely to our Savior and Redeemer!

-Posted by Sarah

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Psalm of Encouragement

The other evening when reading my Bible before bed, Psalm 89 was read, and the portions of it below especially blessed my heart, and I thought I would share them here in the hopes that they would be a blessing to you all as well . . .

"I will sing of the lovingkindess of the LORD forever;
to all generations I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth . . .

"The heavens will praise Your wonders, O LORD;
Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies is comparable to the LORD?
Who among the sons of the mighty is like the LORD,
a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones,
and awesome above all those who are around Him?
O LORD God of hosts, who is like You, O mighty LORD?
Your faithfulness also surrounds You.

"The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours;
the world and all it contains,
You have founded them.
The north and the south, You have created them;
Tabor and Hermon shout for joy at Your name.
You have a strong arm;
Your hand is mighty, Your right hand is exalted.
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;
Lovingkindness and truth go before You.
How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound!
O LORD, they walk in the light of Your countenance.
In Your name they rejoice all the day,
And by Your righteousness they are exalted.
For You are the glory of their strength,
And by Your favor our horn is exalted.
For our shield belongs to the LORD . . .

"Blessed by the LORD forever!
Amen and Amen."

Psalm 89:1, 5-8, 11-18a, 52

-Posted by Sarah