We have three kiwi vines planted on the back half of our property that have over the past 4 or so years grown full, lush and vigorous. They are truly gorgeous plants with shiny deep green leaves that need surprisingly little care. There’s really only one problem… they have yielded very little fruit. And by very little, I mean this year, after waiting a long time, is the first season we’ve seen any fruit at all. Right now we have a total of 5 tiny little kiwis on the mammoth vines. Five! After realizing that we’d have another year of nearly non-existent production, I started thinking about what might be wrong. Since the problem with plants is not usually in the leaves or fruit, but instead is buried much deeper, I hypothesized there was something probably off in the soil or with the roots that was at fault for the absent yield. As I surveyed our plants, it occurred to me to use this situation as an object lesson on the importance of being firmly rooted in the good soil of the Word of God and how that would the solution to a believer’s “fruit-bearing” problems. It was a good analogy.
But, before I could sit down to write the post, I heard a Saturday morning lawn and garden talk show take a question about kiwi plants. What were the odds that a caller in my county (the second smallest in the state) would be having trouble with kiwi vines! Thinking it wasn’t a coincidence, I listened intently to what the host had to say, hoping to have expert verification and an authoritative quote to support my analogy.
Apparently the caller was having a similar experience to ours; healthy and vigorous plants but a very small yield. The host advised against fertilizer or other root based treatments, but instead told the gardener that if the plants were indeed healthy, there was nothing wrong. Since the kiwi vines that can thrive in the American southeast must be many years old before they even start to produce a substantial yield, the owner only needed to be patient and wait.
Obviously, that was good news for my kiwi, but bad news for my analogy!
That is, until I thought about it a little more.
Perhaps there was something important Christians could learn from my plants after all. Usually when there’s a lack of fruit in your life, it’s because of something that you did wrong. Sin, neglect, selfishness, distraction… all play a contributing role in inhibiting spiritual growth, and there are plenty of times when we need to do a lot of hard work to get our lives back where they need to be.
But not always.
So let me take a minute to speak to that faithful believer who serves in the shadows… you, who are not half-hearted or lukewarm…. you, who loves Jesus, who desires to follow Him and do whatever He asks of you… you, who remains steadfast and unswerving… But, you, who also needs some encouragement… because you just don’t see much fruit from your efforts to serve God. You are tired and weary after years of dedication, and as you see the apparent bounty that seems to flow easily from the efforts and ministry of other believers, you can’t help but wonder if there is something wrong with you… something that is perhaps buried so deep that it’s beyond your ability to see.
Here’s my word of encouragement to you, faithful one.
There may not be anything wrong.
There might not be any buried issues or lack of discipline. There might not be any withering or need for pruning. You may be growing and thriving just as God intended.
Your real need is only to be patient and wait.
For how long? I don’t know. The reality of the Christian life is that sometimes fruit doesn’t appear for a very long time. Or the fruit we’re looking for reveals itself in unexpected forms or in unusual places. Or maybe (and here’s the really difficult truth) it doesn’t reveal itself to us at all in this life.
But that doesn’t mean that your life and ministry isn’t an important, valuable or crucial to God’s plan. So be encouraged! God knows your heart and has not abandoned you. Hang on. Be faithful in the little things. Be confident in God’s promises. Faithfulness always produces fruit. How, when, where and what kind is up to the Master Gardener. In the meantime, rest in the assurance of Galatians 6:9 – Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.