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Faithful to be Fruitful

Originally posted July 6, 2010

"For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters that spreads out its roots by the river; and it shall not see and fear when heat comes; but its leaf shall be green. It shall not be anxious and full of care in the year of drought, nor shall it cease yielding fruit." Jeremiah 17:8

There’s a pear tree in my front yard. It’s not much to look at; it doesn’t have that pleasing, lollipop-shape that explodes into a froth of white blossoms in the springtime. It’s more of a “misfit” tree: tall and spindly, with tons of little sapling-branches sprouting almost from ground level and up, growing straight as arrows skyward. In the spring, the blossoms are a nervous wreck, no rhyme or reason to their placement. Their white, irregular faces remind me of Lucy Ricardo in the kitchen, face plastered with flour, wearing a bewildered expression (and that’s before the bees come!). When the flowers drop off in scanty drifts, tiny pears emerge (if the bees have done their jobs). Hidden among the thick and unruly leaves, they fill that sad-looking tree until the flimsy branches are practically groaning with the weight of the fruit.

No one in my family cares for pears. I haven’t really tried giving them away; they’re “runts”, as pears go, smallish and freckled, nothing special. So they just hang there. It doesn’t take long, though, before the many natural residents of my semi-rural property discover and delight in what’s suspended before them: unpicked fruit. What I found uninteresting and unappetizing is for them a wonderful banquet, sweet and delicious. Nourishing ~ no, life-sustaining. It turns out that my eyesore is their hero. A dozen kinds of birds fill the tree, hanging at the oddest of angles to get at the plain-looking fruit. Rowdy rustling sounds punctuate the summer stillness as the occasional squirrel snatches one in its mouth and races down the phone line for a sturdier perch in the pine tree. On the ground, fallen pears dot the lawn, most with some flesh exposed where the foxes and raccoons and possums and deer have done their dining under cover of night. In the bright sunlight, the fallen pears soften and turn brown, succumbing to the appetites of the ants and grasshoppers. What doesn’t become breakfast or lunch or dinner returns to the soil, fertilizing the roots of its frumpy, dowdy “mom”.

So much for first impressions. Over the years, I have grown fond of that tree, always reaching for the next good excuse to prevent my husband from cutting it down. To him, it’s an eyesore, a nuisance, unnecessary. To me, an animal lover through and through, it’s a sure-fire critter-feeder for three or four months a year, a leafy soundstage for some pretty spectacular birdsong. But it’s more.

It’s a daily, on-the-way-to-the-mailbox reminder to me that every fruit created by God has tremendous potential: potential to feed, to nourish, to attract. Potential to make life better for others. The fruit that’s produced in the lives of God’s children is so much like the fruits of His trees: some is large, and visually pleasing. People are drawn to it, attracted by its color and its fragrance and its shape. Other “fruits” God grows into the lives of His children are less flamboyant, maybe smaller, perhaps freckled with imperfections or barely noticeable by their plainness. Despite the enormous variety of fruit that’s produced across the vineyards and orchards of God’s garden, the things that matter most are the things they have in common.

For those that love Him, God works all things to the good (Romans 8:28). He cultivates the fruit in your life, and my life, based on where He has planted us. He already has the recipients in mind. Just as He knows that the foxes and birds and squirrels in my little piece of the world will feed and thrive on that sad little pear tree, He knows the needs of the people He will place in our particular paths. Whether the fruit we have to offer is the humble fruit of quiet service, or the more visible fruit of music or teaching, it is all equal in value to our Father because it is feeding those who hunger for it. He directs them to us, just as He shows the cardinals and the blue jays and the honeybees the way to my front yard. It’s part of His plan.

My pear tree probably doesn’t think much of itself. It just stands there, shivering in the winter and simmering in the summer, squeezing out frenzied blossoms and freckled pears with all its might. It’s doing what it was designed to do, accomplishing God’s purpose. No prospect of being featured on the cover of “Better Homes and Gardens”. Even less chance that its fruit will be coveted for a beautiful autumn centerpiece. Unfazed by the fact that my husband would like to see it gone away. It just keeps on bearing fruit. And because it does, needs are met.

Are you faithful to be fruitful? How do you feel about where you are planted? Do you find yourself resenting your station in life, feeling passed by, or under-appreciated, or even in the spiritual crosshairs of someone who would like to see you cut down? Maybe you feel like those around you just take and take and take, until your branches are bare and your strength is gone. Well, guess what? The Creator of Heaven and Earth is the very One Who has appointed you with certain fruits: fruits that weren’t designed for their eye-appeal or their orderly placement. They are the fruits you are privileged to offer to others, planned and created by God for the lives that will benefit from them most. By your determination to grow and thrive in fair weather and foul, intent on draping your life with that fruit, you are poised to feed the hungry, give rest to the busy, and offer shade to the weary. A beautiful picture of Jeremiah 17:8, and Psalm 1:3, God’s promise to His faithful.

What makes your fruit so particularly special? Not its shape, or its peel, or even the meat of it. Inside that fruit God has entrusted to your care lies eternal life for sharing. Genesis 1:11 tells us that the tree yields fruit after its kind, “whose seed is in itself”. Incredible. What God has placed within the fruit we yield is the “seed” of salvation, available to all who partake of it. When by our obedience to the Holy Spirit we reach out and touch the lives of others, that seed is sown by our fruits. Kindness, generosity, patience, mercy, forgiveness, sharing of talents, peacefulness, goodness, faith; God-grown fruits that, while often ordinary on their surface, bestow the fragrance of hope and reveal a glimpse of new life.

Take a look at the fruits God has adorned the branches of your life with. To you, they may be substandard for offering up to others. God, though, has pickers all around you, waiting to be fed by that fruit while its promises are ripest. There’s no time for it to be hanging around. Bend down your branches, and put your fruit within reach. There’s some seed in there that’s looking to be sown. Don’t hold on to it; let go, and let God use it.



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