There it was, hiding among the leaves. While elusive and camouflaged much of its life, it could hide no longer. It was mine for the taking. I’m talking, of course, about the first fruit on our plum tree. Fruit is one of those things that we take for granted. It is so readily accessible from any grocery store that we can easily forget that it takes time to produce. The first winter after we moved into our house we planted some bare-root fruit trees in our backyard, including the plum tree. In their dormant state, the trees looked like sticks with a clod of dirt on one end, but I had hope. I liked the idea of walking out to the back-yard to get a snack. I would need to wait awhile for that snack. That was over two years ago, and we have only recently seen our little trees bear fruit. My point is that fruit takes time.
Spiritual fruit is the same way. While it would be nice to be able to run down to a local “Fruit of the Spirit Mart” and pick up some kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control, the truth is that spiritual fruit takes time. The Bible is full of agricultural metaphors for spiritual things (seed, vine, plant, fruit, harvest) and that is intentional. Growing things takes time, and spiritual growth takes time.
This summer, we as a church have invested time, energy, and resources in Vacation Bible School, youth camp, children’s camp, mission trips, and more. We have planted a lot of seeds. We are naturally anxious to hear the results of these efforts. How many children or students came to Christ? How many new people joined? How many decisions were made? How many were baptized? We are not all about numbers, but numbers represent people. So while these are good and healthy questions that should be asked, it is also helpful to remember that fruit takes time. Seeds may have been planted that will not bear fruit for some time. Someone could have taken a significant step in their spiritual journey which, while not readily seen from the outside or easily recordable, could have huge implications on their relationship with Christ. We do not need to slack off in planting seeds and laboring to make disciples. We do need to remember that growth takes time, but it is absolutely worth the wait.
“But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” – Matthew 13:23