Spring has heralded its coming with buds, flowers and new shoots breaking through dull brown barks and soil. In the corner, the dead lemon tree still stands bare. It was in one final attempt to save it that I dug my first hole in our garden, and it was in fighting the wasps that killed it, that it had its branches so severely cut. There it stands, surveying the aftermath of its death – a garden that is well and truly growing. Now that we have our own home, and our own garden, I have felt a greater responsibility to steward the nature entrusted into our hands. In working the garden, I have come to realise just how much “gardening” God has recorded in His word. Moreover, those verses I read as a non-gardening child have come so much more alive since I am now pulling up weeds, and digging up the ground myself. These are just four things God has spoken to me as we have worked on our garden.
———- THE FIG’S DEAD BRANCHES ———-
Our fig tree is quite old, yet from its withering trunk, it still sends out these spindly new branches with tufts of sprouting fruit. My husband and I inspected the tree and decided to remove the dead branches, including one branch which seemed dead on one side, and just alive on the other. When we did, we found that the tree was being eaten from the inside, and quickly removed the offending bugs.
[John 15:1-3] – “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”
If we are to bear fruit, and see the things of God in our lives, we need to abide in the Father. It is in His word that we are made clean, able to bear fruit, the things that are of Him. It is only in God that we can work according to His will and bear fruit of His Spirit – love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control [Galatians 5:22]
[Matthew 23:25] – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.”
In contrast, the Pharisees were found to produce false fruits. They seemed to be clean on the outside, but were dead inside. Our holiness and heart must be found in Christ. This is what determines the “fruit” we will produce. If we are in Christ, we will produce “Christ-like” fruit and values, but if our heart belongs to the world, our lives, words and actions will follow accordingly.
———- THE SOWER’S SEED ———-
I recently prepared a patch to grow vegetables. It required digging up the grasses and weeds that were there, digging up the ground and placing boundary bricks. I had some seeds ready to plant and as I prepared the garden bed for them, I remembered the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1-9.
The sower sowed many seeds (the Word of God). Those by the side were devoured by birds (those who do not understand the word and have it taken from their hearts); those on stony ground sprang up immediately, but died shortly after (those who receive the word but are not rooted in it and so fall away during times of tribulation); those among the thorns grew but were eventually choked (hearers of the word who become distracted by things of the world); and those which fell on good ground and produced a plentiful harvest (those who hear, understand, and walk in the word of God, producing the fruit of God’s kingdom in abundance).
What is the condition of our heart – is it wayward, stony, full of thorns, or is it cultivated and ready to receive and meditate upon the word of God. Planting my little tomato seeds, I noted the instructions gave seasons for planting, a time for germination and advice on fall apart, and how deep to plant each seed. Seeds for the kingdom of God are ready to be sown in every season. Are we ready to receive them, and do we desire to see them grow?
———- THE FRUIT AND THE HARVEST ———-
[Matthew 9:37] says – “…The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few.” In our own garden, the harvest has well and truly been plentiful, and yet we have eaten very few of our own fruits. Often, the birds get to them first. It is one thing to prepare a good harvest, and another to actually harvest it.
What is the harvest Jesus is talking about in Matthew? In the preceding verses of Matthew, the Bible tells us that Jesus had been travelling around healing people, and preaching the gospel, that He saw the crowd and had compassion on them because they were “weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” While the harvest involves miracles and healing, I believe the harvest Jesus is talking about here, is primarily the harvest of souls. He has compassion on the world and longs to see every soul fully healed and restored. He desires for all to come into the Kingdom of God because when they do, there will be no more sickness, no more weariness.
To actually harvest the crop, we need to protect it from pests and have something to carry, transport and store it. Do we have the compassion of Christ for the world? Will we work to protect people, carry them through times of suffering, and love them unconditionally as Christ has loved us? Are we prepared to labour for the harvest and see heaven overflow?
———- THE LEMON’S STRUGGLE ———-
Our second lemon tree was a gift from some friends. We were so excited when we saw it grow two little lemons. However, woody growths soon started appearing on its branches and soon it began to wither. I did not know what was making the lemon tree sick and tried all sorts of things to help it out – fertiliser, water, even replanting it from the pot into the ground. When the gardener had a look, he instantly recognised that these were gall wasps – a common cause of death for young lemon trees. In one final attempt to save the tree, all the gall wasp nests were removed. This also meant the lemon tree lost all its branches and leaves.
It has hard to fight something when we do not know what it is. How can we be restored fully when we do not know what is afflicting our soul? [Psalm 139:23-24] says,
“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.”
We need the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the condition of our heart, the condition of our soul. It is only through the work of the Holy Spirit that we can know Christ, and understand the Father. It is only through the Holy Spirit that we are able to see our own infirmities and give them up to Christ. He removes every one of them from us, and washes us clean by His blood. In this way, we are able to grow up in the ways of Christ, to have strength and life by abiding in Him. He causes us to bear fruit in season and protects us so our leaf does not wither [Psalm 1:3].
Will we surrender ourselves to Christ? Will we let Him prune and shape us so that we can be truly alive and fruitful? He loves us so much, knows us so fully, and so greatly desires to give us His abundant life.