People have often talked about the “dog days of summer,” but if there’s a real dog-days section of the calendar, I’d vote for the period between January and mid-March. The holidays and all the anticipation leading up to them is over; temperatures are typically cold, forcing us indoors; daylight is in short supply, and most plants have paused in their life cycles.
During my college days, I found the winter quarter to be the gloomiest time of year. Many days seemed dark and dismal, and if you were disposed to feelings of depression, that was when they would appear.
Even though I never worked on a farm, I suspect this is a relative down time for most people in the agricultural realm. For those that grow peaches, oranges, apples, or other types of fruit, their greatest concern is whether an extended period of frigid weather will arrive to damage or ruin the crops they’ll harvest later in the year. The growing season is still months away.
But have you ever considered there’s one type of fruit that has no growing season, that if cultivated properly, can flourish all year long?
We read about this in Galatians 5:22-23. It says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Again such things there is no law.” Some people wrongly refer to these as the “fruits” of the Spirit, but the original Greek expresses this in the singular, as “fruit.” As a footnote in one of my Bibles explains, “The Spirit produces fruit which consists of nine characteristics or attitudes that are inextricably linked with each and are commanded of believers throughout the New Testament.”
In other words, we’re not to exhibit love but be impoverished in terms of patience. Kindness we display should be accompanied by traits such as gentleness and self-control. But you might say (as I often do), “I’m just not a patient person.” That might be true, in our natural life. However, the so-called Christian life is not to be lived out through our own effort; it’s truly a work of God’s Spirit within us.
My friend, Oswald Chambers, whom I look forward to meeting one day on the other side of eternity, writes in his devotional, My Utmost For His Highest, “we should continue to turn to God as children, being continuously converted every day of our lives. If we trust in our own abilities, instead of God’s, we produce consequences for which God will hold us responsible.”
A lack of innate patience, I suppose, might be my equivalent to the apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” I prayed for patience once, but was upset when God didn’t give it to me immediately. I continue to learn that the only path to patience is by going through circumstances that demand that I be patient.
But I do believe I’ve grown more patient than I used to be. Hopefully the other aspects of the fruit of the Spirit also manifest themselves more abundantly in my life than they once did. If that’s true, it’s not because of my own sweat and straining. It’s because God’s presence and power are becoming more evident in my life. As John the Baptist said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
But why is our spiritual fruit-bearing important? Isn’t it enough that we demonstrate it from time to time, like when we go to church, attend a Bible study, or take part in some other kind of spiritual activity?
Nope. Because bearing fruit is one of the evidences that we are true followers of Jesus Christ. If elements of the fruit of the Spirit, as listed above, are absent from our lives, it shows that we either are not truly His disciples, or that He still has a lot of work to do in our hearts.
Speaking to His disciples, Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit…. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:1-8).
So as we look out our windows and notice the trees have not yet begun to bud, and find our favorite spring and summer fruits can’t be found at the grocery store yet, we recognize we’re in a season of earthly dormancy. However, if someone were to visit your spiritual “fruit stand” and inspect your produce, would they find rich, ripe fruit?
As we’re still in the early stages of another year, this might be a good question to ask ourselves. If the answer is no, then we should rightly follow up that question with, “Why not?”