(This week I’ve included the original song “Grace Unleashed” to accompany this post. Enjoy!)
John and Jodi, two friends of ours, oversee their family’s apple orchard in Western Wisconsin. Every fall it’s been a tradition in our family to drive to the orchard and spend time roaming the grounds and trails, tasting the scrumptious varieties of apples, and sitting around a campfire. We always come home with full sacks of gourmet apples we’ve purchased there. More importantly, we have many great memories with our children, grandchildren, and friends.
Apple trees can teach us a lot about a life of worship.
When I served as a special projects musician for the Billy Graham International Ministries team I had the privilege of listening many gifted teachers and preachers. One of my favorites was Dr. Tom Philips, an eloquent and powerful writer, teacher, and speaker. In one session he asked the question, “What is the fruit of an apple tree?” The response “an apple” quickly rose from someone in the audience.
Dr. Tom paused a moment and then starting drawing an apple tree on a whiteboard. He then drew an apple and showed it falling to the ground. The fruit, right?
Not so fast. Dr. Philips then drew the apple being devoured by a bird, with a single seed going into the soil. Next, he drew the sun in the sky along with raindrops and fertile soil. Soon a spout lifted upward out of the seed. Roots grew deep into the earth, and soon a trunk, branches, and leaves stood in the shadow of the tree that yielded an apple years earlier. Finally, he drew another apple on the branch of this new tree.
He asked again, “What is the fruit of an apple tree?”
“Another apple tree” we all answered.
Then he posed this question: What is the fruit of a Christian?” We all knew the answer: another person who comes to know God in the person of Jesus Christ. I’m not referring to an empty-hearted, self-righteous religious person, but someone who has been made alive and fundamentally transformed through a life-changing encounter with God.
I’ve reflected on Dr. Philip’s illustration in the years since I first heard that teaching. I doubt that apple trees actually “think” about producing apples, but they do it anyway! There are some lessons we can glean from apple trees:
- Just as apple trees are “hard-wired” to reproduce themselves, so we were designed by God to multiply. God’s first words as He blessed humans in Genesis 1 were, “Be fruitful and increase in number…” (Genesis 1:28) God also desires spiritual multiplication from authentic Christ-followers. Jesus’ last instructions to his disciples—and us—before he ascended to the Father were to” go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19). We are designed to bear eternal fruit: that is, people who have experienced God firsthand and are forever changed by His indwelling presence.
- Only healthy, well-nourished apple trees produce lasting fruit. It’s no different with us. Just as apple trees need sunlight, water, and nourishment, Christ followers cannot bear lasting fruit apart from the divine food of God’s Word, Spirit, and the fellowship of other true believers in our lives.
- God is the one who produces the fruit, not us. We don’t need to worry about when or where the fruit will come, but simply abide in God and trust Him for the results. No striving is required! Our part is to remain connected to the true vine, Jesus Christ and then obediently move as He leads us.
- The fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control) are HIS fruits, not ours. We can and will experience these fruits as we yield ourselves more and more to God and His presence at work within us. The end goal is that our lives and witness will be empowered by the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit to draw more people to Himself.
I am convinced that, next to seeing Jesus Christ face-to-face, the pinnacle of worship is being a person through which God can move to draw others to Himself. Whether through a prayer offered for someone in the night, a loving act of kindness or service, sharing what God has done, or helping someone experience God’s saving presence, being a link in God’s chain to bring new life to someone is a beautiful act of worship.
It is the fruit that will last into eternity.
God bless you!