Scripture often compares our lives to those of trees. There’s so much symbolism in the growth, life, and purpose of trees that can help us understand how we are supposed to live. For instance, fruit-bearing trees are designed to produce fruit. Apple trees are expected to make apples, not oranges or coconuts. Matthew 12:33 tells us, “A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.” It’s pretty straightforward stuff, right? Matthew 7:20 expands this idea by saying, “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” If a tree can be identified by the fruit it produces, what we produce with our life should be a good indicator of the kind of person that we are.
When I take a good, honest look at what my life is producing, I’m not always satisfied with what I see. There’s usually good fruit in the bunch, and if I’m transparent, I’d say that’s where I usually like to keep the emphasis: serving in the local church, having a productive work week, being a good friend to someone, eating well and working out…but I can see the bad fruit, too. It’s when I miss doing what I know is right, or when my heart is full of jealousy or anger. It’s breaking a promise, feeling like I let someone down, or operating out of disobedience in a situation. And in that moment where I’m looking over all the fruit I know that was sub-standard, deep disappointment can begin take root.
Maybe my story sounds a lot like yours. Maybe you’ve wrestled with being disappointed in yourself, perceiving disappointment from others, or believing you’ve disappointed God. Disappointment when left to grow chokes out the fruit God wants to produce in our life. Instead, it cultivates shame, insecurity, doubt, and hurt. This isn’t the way God designed us.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! –Galatians 5:22-23
Look over the list the Bible gives us for what God has intended for our lives to produce. How many of those qualities or attributes are active in your life today? Are there some that don’t quite measure up to the reality check of how you’re living? This is the goal we should be pursuing. It’s a picture of the kind of person God desires for us to be. It can be easy to feel sub-standard in comparison, but before you allow disappointment to take root, be encouraged with a story Jesus told in Luke 13:6-9.
“A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden.’ The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’”
Recently a good friend of mine illuminated this story to me. I had never really caught it before. It’s short, unexplained, and I’ve probably skimmed over it a hundred times through the years. But in the last couple weeks, this tale of a dysfunctional fig tree, a disappointed owner, and a determined gardener has really helped me understand God’s heart for us.
We see the owner was always disappointed. This fig tree wasn’t producing what it was supposed to: sweet, juicy figs. The only value this man had in the fig tree was based on it’s performance. How often does that feel like the world we live in? We can often fall in a a trap that our value is based on how we perform. We strive to do all the right things and produce all the right fruits; equating our performance to our worth. Friends, your worth is far more than what you do. While our loving God wants us to produce all those amazing things listed in Galatians, it’s because He wants the best life for us. He loves us regardless of if we are operating in that purpose or not. He’s like the determined gardener saying, “Sir, give it one more chance.” He always see what we can be, what we can bloom, beyond where we are currently. When the world says “it’s just taking up space”, our merciful Father says “I’ll give it special attention”. When the world focuses on our performance, God focuses on our potential.
Wherever you are, whatever you see your life is producing, know He is not disappointed in you today. He wants your life to be fruitful––full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Take some time today to share with Him where you see your life producing fruit that doesn’t align with his desire for you. Ask Him what changes to make that will produce the right kinds of fruit, and then tap into the strength His power inside you can provide to take action and bloom something beautiful. His heart is set on giving you special attention so that you can begin to produce the amazing life He sees for you. Why? He believes in your becoming journey. He’s created you to be fruitful.