Bearing fruit as a Christian is easy when when life is, isn’t it? But in times of adversity? Not so much! How do we effectively walk out our faith during trials and what pruning in the Bible shows us about God preparing us to bring forth fruit and serve Him?
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Bearing Fruit as a Christian – John Bunyon
There’s a quote that resonates with me every time I experience times of adversity. This quote really taught me that instead of focusing on trying (often in my own power) to produce fruit IN the difficult times, God can use these trials to develop that fruit in me.
John Bunyan, known most notably for his book “Pilgrim’s Progress“, was a writer and a Puritan preacher. He once spent twelve years in an English prison because he refused to give up preaching. I won’t go too much into his life and his accomplishments here, but he is definitely worth reading up on!
But here I am interested in his one quote, a quote that always seems to come to me when I am struggling. It is one of only very few extra-biblical quotes that does so!
John Bunyan said:
“It is said that in some countries trees will grow, but will bear no fruit because there is no winter there.”
Bearing Fruit as a Christian – Time of Preparation
We often think of winter as our annual time of adversity don’t we?
We love fall but winter? Once the holidays are past, we just want to get on with Spring don’t we?
We are tired of snow and ice and having to shovel driveways or deal with black ice on the roads.
I am sure, as a general rule, most of us could do without winter!
Bu some fruit trees require a winter in order to go through the dormant period that is required for them to produce fruit in the spring. This “chilling time” is a season of preparation for the tree and the amount of chilling required is dependent upon the tree.
Like bears go through hibernation, some trees also go through a ‘resting state’ where they experience the loss of their fruit and “rest” while they prepare for the next season. The cold, the barrenness comes, and, when the warmer weather approaches, they begin to come alive and bud again with new life and new fruit!
Without that winter period, that time we look at as dreary and dark and cold, they would not produce the beautiful fruit we love so much in spring and summer!
Bearing Fruit as a Christian – Our Own Winters
As Christians, we experience “winters” ourselves.
Maybe we prayed for an answer and God seems silent. Perhaps we experienced a loss and we feel alone and grieving. It could be that we feel God wants us to move in a situation but we haven’t yet gotten the guidance we are waiting for.
We are in our “waiting period“. We are in a period of silence, a spiritual “hibernation” if you will!
God, when will you answer? When will you tell me to move? Are you there? Do you not care that I am going through this?
We want to be effective Christians but it is hard to feel effective when you are in your ‘winter’.
Bearing Fruit as a Christian – Spring Always Follows
The Bible says in Psalm 30:5
“…weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
Just like our night does not last, our winter is never forever. When God is silent, He never stays that way. When we go through times of hurt and grief, it gets better. Spring comes! Morning comes! The dark and the cold never last forever! We can trust God is there with us.
God never leaves you where you are! He is just preparing you for your spring, for your morning!
Joy DOES come in the morning! And winter DOES end!
Pruning in the Bible
Like the fruit trees that cannot produce fruit without winter, we cannot bear good fruit if we never experience times of difficulty and hardship ourselves and learn how to lean on the provider of all things.
We can we speak into someone else’s life when they go through difficulties because we experienced a similar trial and we are able to share how God worked that out in us and what we learned from it. We can share God’s miraculous healings or His provision when it seemed like there was no way!
2 Corinthians 4:16-17 says
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” NIV
Even Jesus Himself experienced everything we experience so we know we have a savior who can identify with our adversity and pain and grief. He lost loved ones like we do. Jesus experienced pain and hurt. We have a God who knows what life is like for us.
In winter, it appears that the life around us (the trees, the grass, the flowers) are wasting away, yet inwardly they are being renewed day by day so when the spring warmth comes, they may burst forth in beauty!
Just like them, our momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory in Him!
This “silent season” is a time where God is teaching us to lean more on Him and not try to do things on our own. To “rest” in Him so that, when it passes, we can go on to bring fruit into the lives of others!
“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” NIV
Without this pruning, without the old being cut away and room made for new growth, we cannot produce more fruit.
Pruning in the Bible Shows His Love For Us
Pruning isn’t going to be pleasant most of the time. God wants our lives to reflect Him, not the things of this world.
Jesus talked about pruning in the Bible in John because He wanted us to understand it as an act of love. When we go through trials and suffering it often brings out those areas of our lives we tend to run to and rely on instead of God. He flushes out those idols in our lives and helps us to release them and cling to Him.
Sometimes He needs to prune us to cut out the old parts of our lives that keep us from growing closer to Him. It could be people who cause us to go back to our old ways when we are around them. It could be old habits that we fall back on because they feel comforting to us. In relying on those habits it keeps us from resting in God alone!
But when Jesus spoke of pruning in the Bible it is clear it is done with love. The same way a gardener carefully prunes a tree or a plant with hopeful expectation of what will soon grow in its place, we can have that same hope for what God is cultivating in our lives when we allow Him to.
Once we understand that process, we can be proactive about the pruning process BEFORE hard times come. We can go to God and ask Him to show us any areas of our lives where we are carrying those old dead things around and say “Yes Lord, take this old deadness away and replace it with what pleases you and produces fruit in me!”
Then that beautiful fruit can spring forth in our lives for His glory and we can thrive when our winter is over and springtime is here!
Bearing Fruit as a Christian – Let’s Be Real
In the Bible, Jesus cursed the fig tree, not because it didn’t have figs. As I wrote in my post called, ‘Lessons From the Cursed Fig Tree – Why Did Jesus Curse It?”, I give this reason why this tree met with Jesus’ curse on it:
“In Israel, there are anywhere from two to three crops of figs per year. Each crop cycle goes through the same process.
The tree first produces its fruit and then leaves form. So if you see a fig tree with its leaves, one can assume its figs have already grown.
So Jesus, in verse 12, sees the fig tree at a distance and he spots that it has its leaves. He had every reason to believe it also possessed the fruit. However, upon reaching the tree, He saw only leaves.”
This tree gave Jesus the appearance of fruit but in the end, it was all a lie. It gave off the appearance of fruit to anyone who looked. But when they got close enough they could see it was all just appearances. It had no fruit.
As you produce fruit for the Kingdom, it is important to be coming from the right place. It is important to have authenticity and not just do things because it is expected or to bring attention to ourselves, much like the Pharisees did.
Winter, along with God preparing us, as in the examples of pruning in the Bible, helps us maintain that authenticity because when we go through our own trials in an area, we can really identify with and want to help others who go through those same trials.
It helps us to see our reliance on God and not on ourselves. Otherwise, we could be producing what looks like fruit only to find it is only leaves. Only God can bring forth true fruit in us and He will do that as we submit to His pruning!
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