Thursday, December 22, 2011

Processed Fruit

Today, I found myself in 2 Peter. I had done my prayers, prayed for some things that have been on my heart, confessed my daily sins and asked for the Lord’s forgiveness. I began to read in 2 Peter 1. As I was reading, I came across these verses, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge, self-control, to self-control, perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (5-8)
"give all diligence"? to what?" Peter tells us in the beginning of this epistle that we have been “given all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you (we) may be partakers of the divine nature,..” (verse3-4) We have been given everything we need to live a godly life. There is nothing that is not ours as it pertains to the promises that we have been given. But, it is a process.
When Jesus told His disciples the parable of the vine and vinedresser (John 15) He said that, “He is the vine, we are the branches, and His Father is the Vinedresser.” We are growing; we are an evergreen tree that never stops growing when we give our lives to Jesus Christ. Have you ever asked the Lord for a fruit? For instance, one time I prayed that the Lord would give me patience. I had been told by a fellow sister, “Don’t pray for patience!” As soon as the words left my lips, “Lord, please give me patience” they were followed by, “Oops, I didn’t mean that, Lord.” The Lord Jesus then said to me, “Why, Stephane? Are you not willing to go through the process to obtain patience?” That was a tough question to swallow, and that is the question He is asking us today. Are we willing to go through the process of fruit bearing to receive the reward waiting for us? What reward am I talking about? The reward of living a life of godliness, a life that no longer is about you but completely and utterly about Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist said it best for us, “I must decrease so that He may increase.” As we grow in our knowledge of Jesus Christ, as we learn through trials and tribulations, through faith exercise, we become more like Him, more like the women God wants us to be. He desires for us to “be created in His Image.” He intended that from the start- from the beginning, and that is still His desire for us today.  We are to be like Jesus and look like Jesus. Now, as long as we are in this body of flesh we will never completely attain to that high of a standard. But is that a reason to stop trying? No, in fact, the word that stuck out at me most today was “diligence”.
We have a responsibility to walk our walk with “all diligence” and as we do, we will build upon, or “add to” our faith the following list of attributes that Peter lays out for us. We are to be His lamps to a dark and fallen world. Jesus came to be an example to us- an example is something that you pattern yourself after. The attributes that Peter lists in verses 5-7 are the attributes of Jesus, as well as the attributes God wants us to have. But, it is a process.
A tree, when it is planted, it does not bear fruit right away, nor does a grape vine. They have to grow and mature, they have to be fed, watered, given the right amount of sunlight and care. We are no different. When I became a Christian, I thought that I should immediately start bearing fruit. In fact, I would try to produce it on my own- I would smile on the outside “showing” patience, but on the inside I was freaking out at the person standing in front of me. That is not what bearing fruit is- no, fruit comes from the inside out. When a fruit tree bears fruit, the makings of that fruit comes from the sap inside the tree. Not from the outside elements, but from the life that is inside the tree itself. You cannot bear fruit of yourself (as Jesus reminds us in John 15) it has to come from the inside out.
The Lord showed me a picture this morning of a tree (small baby tree) with a few leaves on it, very green and very healthy. It was planted in the ground, and He tended it, watered it with the reading of His word, fellowship with other believers, and through prayer and fellowship with Him. As the tree grew, He grew alongside it. As the tree trunk expanded, He expanded with it. As the tree grew towards the heavens, He too grew tall. The more we allow God to work in us and tend to us, His trees, the more He can grow in us also. As the tree began to mature, fruit started to appear. Faith began to keep the tree planted firmly; no storm or wind could make it tumble over. You see, it is a process.
We are not planted as full grown trees when we give our lives to Jesus Christ. We are planted as babies, as little saplings depending completely on the Father to tend us and help us grow. Peter said in the closing of his epistle, and it just happens to be one of my favorite verses, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (3:18) Growing is a process, and we must all go through it. But there is something you must do to continue to grow- you must “give all diligence” to add to, to build upon your faith. How? By spending time with Him, by fellowshipping with other believers, by allowing Him to work in you and through you, and most of all- you must be willing to go through whatever trial you need to bring that fruit you are lacking to full maturity.
If you find yourself struggling today, going through a trial or situation and you don’t know why, then ask the Lord what He is working in you? Perhaps it’s to draw you closer to Him through reading His word and fellowship with other believers. Or perhaps, as in my case, it is adding to my faith a fruit that I am lacking. Whatever it is that you are going through, it is not in vain- there is a reason for every situation in our lives, and God our Father is using it to bring you closer to Him. He is adding to your trees that which He needs to create you, and mold you “in His image”. The fruit we bear is not for our benefit, but for the benefit of our Father in heaven Who will use it to His glory. Not for us, or about us- but it is all for Him and to Him and because of Him! Your fruit is not yours, it is His, just as you are His.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to Him be the glory both now and forever, Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18