It is a gamble. You never know what you are going to get. I suppose Forest Gump would say “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.” This doesn’t quite work for me because I like all kinds of chocolate. Milk chocolate. Dark chocolate. White Chocolate. Semi-sweet chocolate. Barbecued chocolate. Fried chocolate. Chocolate syrup. Chocolate ice cream. Well…I guess that’s it Bubba!
The gamble for me is not chocolate. It’s fruit. And the biggest gamble in the fruit family are grapes. Fruit is a gamble, plain and simple. No matter how luscious and juice they appear, you never know what they are going to taste like in your mouth. And you can have one, two, three beautifully juice-bursting grapes, then suddenly the sourest, lip-pursing taste in your mouth. And that one will ruin all that came before. Fruit is a gamble.
Jesus is the True Vine and we are the branches. We are supposed to be producing sweet fruit for others to enjoy. The analogy that the Lord gives us reveals our purpose in life. We are not to consume the grapes. I have never seen a branch open its mouth and consume a grape. No, we live to make the lives of those around us sweeter. Every wonderful plan of God for us can only be found when we live to bring that plump, sweet, seedless (😊) fruit to others. Fulfillment in this life is not eating the fruit, but producing it for others. And if the blessings of God for us are found in blessing others, what will our life look like if we produce bitter fruit?
A couple of years ago, we wanted to get an apple tree. I soon found out that you can’t get apples from just one tree. Apparently, there are male and female apple trees that they have to pollinate (if that was to risqué, my apologies). But even after pollinating, the fruit from a tree cannot be eaten or, rather enjoyed, because of their bitterness for a couple of years. The reason is that while the tree is still trying to grow to maturity, the energy and nutrients in the tree are divided by two different tasks. Some nutrients help the roots to grow deep and strong while other nutrients go to the branches to produce fruit. It is not until the roots are fully mature does all of the energy go to produce sweet, juicy fruit. In other words, until we are mature, we cannot produce sweet fruit.
What does this say about our spiritual walk? If we don’t learn to grow deep in the wisdom and Spirit of God, bitterness will remain. Isn’t it true. The fruit, notice I did not say fruits, of the Spirit are peace, patience, kindness. The same fruit is not easily offended, not easily angered, rejoices in truth, never delights when others are harmed. That is some sweet fruit. How would your day be different if everyone around you at home and at work was that sweet? But patience requires self-sacrifice of our own agenda. Kindness is easy when everyone else is kind, but what about when they are rude. It takes a great deal of spiritual maturity to be kind to those who are rude. To love in the face of harshness, gossip, betrayal, hatred, meanness requires a greater presence of the Holy Spirit within us.
Living the plan of God requires us to grow and mature in Christ. Bitter fruit is the result of a lacking prayer life, little time in the Word, absenteeism from church, no effort to live at peace with others, and no repentance or restitution for our sin.
When we look at the church universal right now, it is not sweet. If it were that sweet fruit God intended, there would not be enough room for everyone in the pews. But each one of us can be that sweet fruit for our families, our friends, and co-workers but only if we put forth effort seeking the Lord, following His commands, and allowing Him to mature us.
We are the branches and Jesus is the True Vine. Our roots grow through Jesus Christ and none other. We must seek to know Him fully. Then, we will become the bowl of sweet grapes with not one bitter grape in the cluster.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Humble Service in the Body of Christ
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Love in Action
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NIV)
Heavenly Father, let the eyes of my heart turn to You first in the morning. May I keep them on You through the ups and downs of the day. Whisper to me and help my ears be attentive and my spirit be willing. I want to know You in the fullness of Your majesty. Give me spirit of self-discipline to seek you first each morning, noon, and night. -Amen.