Much Fruit # 3
If it is any supreme desire to be fruitful, I must not repine at the gardener's pruning knife. The branch that bears fruit needs pruning, that it may bring forth more fruit. And very various in this respect may be the dealings of the gardener with the different trees, or branches, or fruit-producers in his garden. Unsparingly he may cut away the runners on his strawberry bed; or an whole armful of shoots he may cut away from the vine growing on the wall. While from other trees he may take away a portion of the new wood, or cut out a large branch to give air or room. or possibly dig around one of luxuriant growth and lop off some of its roots. But in wisdom and ripe experience, he deals with each as it needs.
So the great Gardener acts in His Church. The most precious of His trees and the most fruitful branches, often receive the most of His care, and the chastening may seem more frequent and severe. From some of His people, the little ones are taken away,and the domestic hearth left desolate - that out of the sore trial, the parents' hearts may learn more of Divine love.
With others, financial means are lessened, and losses in business come thickly - but the treasures in Heaven are rapidly increasing.
Then others know the burden of sorrow about an afflicted partner, or the anxiety to find work, or the lack of strength to do the work which lies ready at hand.
Ah, there is a great deal of root-pruning in the Lord's vineyard! Every fiber of the heart cries out in its misery and anguish - yet all the while He who wounds, waits to heal. Not joyous, but grievous is the trial: "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it!" (Hebrews 12:11). "He is the LORD - let Him do what is good in His eyes." (1 Samuel 3:18).
Would I be very faithful? Then I must watch against the enemies that would rob me of the fruit!
If I forget to cover the peach blossoms, a frosty night may do mischief beyond remedy. The birds may nip off the young buds of the fruit bushes. Insects may quietly mar and destroy the toil of many days. So that care and skill are needed to counteract these crafty little foes.
Just so in my service of Christ - there are perils round about me against which I need constantly to watch.
The chilling blast of a worldly spirit,
the frost of doubt and unbelief,
sloth and self-will,
selfishness and self-indulgence,
the lust of the flesh,
the lust of the eye,
the pride of life,
fretfulness and murmuring under trials,
over-anxiety about the future,
irritability and hastiness of temper,
love of man's praise - or fear of his displeasure -
any or all of these may come like the birds and insects in the garden and may spoil my pleasant fruits!
"From the byways of temptation,
Keep us, Saviour, lest we stray;
Oh preserve us from the evil
Ever lurking round our way!
Let our path grow brighter, clearer,
Until it ends in perfect day!"
I must aim at using well each instrumentality of fruit-bearing. Each ability, each talent, must be carefully employed in the Lord's service.
And here one great principle comes in. The secret and hidden fruits, the virtues and graces that have their seat in the heart - are far the most precious in the sight of God!
"Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." When Christ speaks, in the Sermon on the Mount, of those fruits which bring with them such blessedness - how does He describe them? He refers mainly to those which have their root within. Blessed are "the poor in spirit", "the meek", the pure in heart", those who hunger and thirst after righteousness," etc. And when Paul describes the fruit which marks the followers of Christ, it is mainly that which only the eye of God can fully discern. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 3:22-23).
Let these secret graces be most fervently sought and diligently cultivated. Let each believer long for the blessed Spirit, the Comforter, to work mightily within him, and to manifest His power in such a spirit of love, faith, meekness, holiness, patience and zeal - that he may be filled with all the fullness of God. For this let him wait and pray perpetually. Where this is granted, the fruit in God's sight will abound. Besides, all else will be sure to follow. No true fruit will be lacking, where the heart is as a garden watered by the Lord.
Then with this, every other gift is to be exercised. There is no doubt the inward and the outward life act and react one upon the other. Just as the trees are nourished in part by that which is taken in through the foliage - so the inner graces are strengthened by those good works which manifest them.
There must be the fruit of the eye. How mighty a power is this for strengthening and manifesting Divine grace? The books we read may greatly help us. Then the eye may convey a look of reproof that may check sin, or a look of kindness that may comfort one ready to faint. It may take in the need of a poor brother or sister, and thus a heavy burden may be removed.
There must be the fruit of the lips. Sweet in God's ear is the voice of prayer, praise, adoration, intercession. Precious in His sight is the faithful testimony borne to His truth, the pleading with sinners to turn from their evil ways, the tender considerateness which utters words of honey - healing balm, to soothe an anxious heart or guide a troubled one to Christ, the Fountain of life and peace.
There must be the fruit of the hand. It is no lost labor to perform deeds of self-denying toil, to work for those who cannot work for themselves, to ply the needle in making garments for the sick, to do a bit of household work to spare one whose health is weak.
Let the hand be stretched out in free, liberal, substantial gifts to the Lord's treasury. It was well said to some who were studying the anatomy of the hand, "The most beautiful hand, is the hand that gives." What endless good might be done, what waste places might be reclaimed both at home and abroad - if all Christians gave of their income a fair proportion of that which God has given them. Look down the lists of the annual report of any congregation - and what a slender, pitiful measure of help to Christian objects of the greatest importance is often rendered by those who could give ten times the amount without feeling it. Where the heart is warmed with the love of God and man - the hand and the purse will be open when the calls when the calls on every side are so great and urgent.
(continued with # 4)