An apricot tree grows outside my kitchen window. I like the years it grows an abundant crop. Then I can indulge myself in yummy apricots. The years it produces abundant blossoms, but little or no fruit, it puts on a good show, but I do not eat flowers. I look for fruit on that tree.
God looks for fruit in our Christian lives. God names eight essential ingredients in a believer's heart: faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, charityŚlove in action (2 Pet. 1:5-7). Leave one out and we resemble that barren apricot tree. If we abound in these things, our will lives become fruitful. God also guarantees us an abundant entrance into Heaven.
Faith is the starting point. First, start with a balanced faith in Christ as the Saviour. We cannot live for Christ without possessing Christ. Those who try to imitate a Christian life fail miserably. Alas! Some believers go no farther. God says they will be saved as by fire.
Faith, as an anchor, sustains us in our Christian life. When we trust in Christ, day by day He will see us through. "The just shall live by faith." As we read the Word and listen to good preaching, it encourages our faith. Do we pay attention to what God has to say and heed it? Our prayer life bears a close connection. When God answers prayer, it strengthens our faith.
True faith leads to virtue, moral excellence and courage. Do we back off when others, especially family and close friends, belittle our Christian faith or beliefs? My relative believes in what folks call, "Biblical evolution." The natural human reaction causes me to cower when he says, "No one believes in that," in reference to divine creation.
Around one of my uncles I had little to say. I feared a contest of words. He sat at our dinner table when I prayed for my daughter. "God won't answer that prayer," he mocked. I turned to face him and said, "God does answer prayer." Peace filled my heart that day when I stood up to my uncle.
Knowledge and temperance
Virtuous living stems from knowledge. God wants us to know what we believe and why we do. Are we growing in the knowledge of Christ? Do we enjoy an intimate relationship with Him in the secret place?
Knowledge becomes useful when we ground it in temperance. This means "disciplined in appetites." This control comes not from us, but from God.
Take the situation of a girl we will call Jennie. She dislikes the rules in her home. She decides to leave. She finds that the only way to support herself is to give her body. Later, Jennie wishes she had obeyed her mother.
Like Jennie, if we try to control our own lives, instead of letting God take the reins, we will find ourselves leading undisciplined lives. Do we allow Him to control our appetites for food, pleasures, sex, and other things? Have we put our times in His hands?
Temperance and patience are closely related. We exercise temperance when we bring our tempers under control. This results in patience. As a widow, living by myself, I have only a cat to try my patience. However, I do leave my house and meet others. I wish I had the patience of my friend Ellen.
She lay for months as pain plagued her body. It imprisoned her in her bed. For her to get up or down she required human aid. Yet when she could attend church again, she testified, "When I have pain and can't sleep, I'm thankful. It gives me more time to pray." Do we display patience when others criticize us? Does our voice sound irritated because others attack our faith or actions? Do we try to learn from it?
Patient enduring of trials results in godliness as we yield ourselves unto God. This implies a reverent and worshipful attitude towards our Lord and Saviour.
At midnight, I arose from my cot in the church to let my husband in the door. A light glowed in the study. Our pastor had learned the secret of godliness and worship. Have we grasped the true meaning of worship? Do we bow before Him in ardent, humble adoration?
Brotherly Kindness and Charity
When we engage in a right relationship to God in our devotion, it will result in brotherly kindness. Do we treat fellow believers with kindness and thoughtfulness?
Brotherly kindness is closely akin to charity. This word comes from the Greek word agape. The Bible uses the same word for God's love toward us.
The love chapter, I Corinthians 13, describes this love for us. The Holy Spirit implants this love in our hearts at the moment of salvation. "The fruit of the Spirit is love." This love opposes the sensual "love" about which the world talks. A selfless love, it thinks of others before self. Only God can give us this love. Do we love as God loves us?
All day long Regee, Gina and I battled against the wind. We held on to pieces of metal and dared not let them go. At day's end a shed took shape. Brotherly kindness and charity made it possible.
My apricot tree requires the right amount of water and sunshine without severe frost to produce fruit. As God provides these things for the apricot tree and makes it fruitful, He provides all we need to produce fruitful lives.
Then God will bless us. It behooves us to examine our own lives and ask, what ingredients do I lack in my life? Then work on these by God's grace that we will not come short in the day of His appearing.
Prayer: Oh God, help me abound in these graces. Forgive me wherein I lack them and help me grow. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Lynn Wallace, a widow, lives in Montrose, Colorado on her Dad's farm. She plays the piano for Canyon View Baptist Church, visits, and helps in any way she can. Shortly after she lost her husband, God called her to write. Ambassador-Emerald published her first book, Our Lifeship: Studies in Proverbs for Women.
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