Lessons from the Orchard

March 01, 2024

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Welcome to this beautiful orchard in southwest Missouri! What better place to start our study of the fruit of the Spirit? As we think about what it means to bear the Holy Spirit’s fruit, there are many powerful lessons we can learn from a successful, productive orchard like this one.



Farmers choose their orchard locations carefully. They look for land with good water drainage and steady airflow. Otherwise, the fruit buds might freeze before ever getting the chance to produce fruit. The farmers also treat the soil for microscopic parasites and remove weeds and brush that could stunt the trees’ growth. 


It also matters where we are planted. Psalm 1 says we’re blessed when we don’t “follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers” (verse 1). When we root ourselves in God’s Word and God’s truth, we’re “like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season” (verse 3). 



Did you know that farmers almost never use seeds to grow fruit trees? Almost all fruit seeds are cross-pollinated, which means they would eventually become oversized trees with sour, slow-growing fruit. Instead, farmers use a process called grafting to connect a healthy branch from one tree to the roots of another—basically creating a brand-new tree. The connection process isn’t painless: The farmer makes fresh cuts on both pieces and then connects them to each other. As the trees’ wounds heal, they bind together and stay together for the rest of their lifetime. 


In Romans 11, Paul explains that people who believe in Jesus are grafted into Abraham’s tree (verse 17). That just means we’re part of God’s family. The patriarchs of Israel are the roots of the tree, and we’re the branches. Just like they were made holy and set apart for God, so are we (verse 16). God’s grace offered through Jesus’ sacrifice is the only reason we’re able to produce any good fruit at all. 



Once the tree starts growing, the farmer not only has to water it and protect it from extreme temperatures, but also must prune away any branches that are dead, diseased, or damaged. Pruning lets sunlight reach the fruit, improves air circulation (which prevents pests), and funnels nutrients to the fruit as it grows. Sometimes farmers even remove healthy branches so that the tree will grow in a certain direction and bear as much fruit as possible. 


Jesus explained this process to the disciples in John 15, although He was talking about grapes instead of apples. Jesus said the Father “cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more” (verse 2). As we grow as followers of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is constantly pruning away the parts of our lives that are diseased or damaged—anything that doesn’t glorify God. If we daily yield to this process, even when it’s painful, we will produce much fruit and bring glory to the Father (verse 8).


In Galatians 5, Paul made it clear that it’s the Holy Spirit who produces fruit in our lives—not us. None of these trees around me are popping out apples through willpower alone. Instead, they naturally produce fruit because they’re growing and healthy. The same is true for us. If we’re maturing spiritually—grafted into God’s family and allowing Him to shape us however He wants—then the fruit of the Spirit will be a natural byproduct in our lives. 


Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it this way: “Fruit is always the miraculous, the created; it is never the result of willing, but always a growth. The fruit of the Spirit is a gift of God, and only he can produce it. They who bear it know as little about it as the tree knows of its fruit. They know only the power of him on whom their life depends.” (The Cost of Discipleship)


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