Are you a gardener? If you are, you know that growing colorful flowers and crunchy veggies require your love, care, time, and effort. You need to work the soil to make it just right for the seeds, water them regularly, and patiently wait for nature to do its work.
When I was around eleven, I planted a couple of marigold seeds in a flower pot that was small enough to be placed in front of me on my table next to my bed. I watered it regularly and kept a journal, recording down the date I sew the seeds, and listing its growth progress. So even though I've never been a gardener, I've experienced the feelings of excitement, awe, and fascination. Just imagine, a tiny seed could sprout into a beautiful flower that bore no resemblance to when it was a "baby"! How amazing nature is!
Fifteen years later, I'm still growing plants, but plants that cannot be seen, felt, smelled, or tasted. Specifically, I'm cultivating one particular spiritual fruit. Yes, I've become a spiritual gardener, and you can become one, too--without any prior gardening experience!
What could I possibly be growing? Well, before I identify this fruit, I'd like to talk a bit about growing plant in the natural world.
In our physical world, we need plenty of light, water, air, and good soil for proper sowing and reaping of plants. Of course, we also need the seed. Likewise, for spiritual gardening, we need the same elements.
Light: Jehovah is the light of this world. Those who abide in Him will shine forth this light. Jesus our Messiah, who is the image of the invisible God, was sent into the world as our guiding light. This Father and Son are the light that makes our spiritual fruit to grow.
Our Messiah said, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12)
He also said, "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for apart from me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5)
We cannot bear any fruit by ourselves; we need to maintain a constant relationship with Jesus in order to produce fruit in our lives.
Water and air: The Holy Spirit, Jehovah's creative power, anoints Jesus' disciples with power and growth, just as water and air anoint plants with life. (Isaiah 44:3; John 3:8) When God fills us with His Spirit, we become productive sowers and reapers. Without His anointing, we will be powerless, and will not produce spiritually.
Soil: Each heart of each individual is the soil in which the spiritual fruit grows. When the heart condition isn't right, no plant would be able to sprout fully. Receptive soil will yield a plentiful harvest, whereas unreceptive soil will barely yield any before the seed is snatched away by the wrong priorities of life. (Mark 4:1-20)
Seed: The Word of God is the seed that can sprout and grow into tall plants in people's heart (soil), depending on the soil's condition. (Mark 4:1-20) We need the seed in our heart in order for it to grow into fruit.
All of these mentioned elements are required to reap a great harvest: Jehovah and Jesus who are our Light, the Holy Spirit which is our water and air, our heart which is the soil; and the Word of God that is the seed. Of course, we also need to put effort into growing plants, and patiently let time take its course.
Yes, like in the physical world, we need to put some effort in this gardening, but exactly, what should we do? Pointless effort is wasted, so we need to direct our energy properly for maximum benefit.
The efforts we need to exert are supplied in the following passages:
"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked, Nor standeth in the way of sinners, Nor sitteth in the seat of scoffers: But his delight is in the law of Jehovah; And on his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the streams of water, That bringeth forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also doth not wither; And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." (Psalms 1:1-3)
"This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate thereon day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success." (Joshua 1:8)
"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves. For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a mirror: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth away, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing." (James 1:22-25)
Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh it away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit." (John 15:1-2)
From these four passages, we learn these basic principles...
1. Planting and caring for the seed in our soil guarantees harvest. In other words, meditating on the messages in God's instruction manual, the Bible, will promise success. Yet, just reading the Bible does no one good. We must apply its teachings to our daily living. We must meditate on it by both taking in (hearing) and bringing forth (doing).
2. If something in our lives, like wrong priorities, unimportant cares of this world, and bad associations are hindering our fruit-bearing, we must take them away (prune them) so we can effectively bear the fruit.
Now that we have identified all the necessary tools for proper gardening, it's time to get started! What should we grow?
Galatians 5:22-23 tells us the fruit we should grow--and, yes, it's what I'm cultivating now. This is the fruit:
"...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control..." (American Standard Version)
The fruit spoken here is the spiritual characteristics that Jehovah wants to develop in each person. Note the nine traits of the fruit. Each quality makes up a complete fruit, so even without just one element, the fruit will be incomplete.
What's so special about this fruit?? Can't we develop these qualities on our own?
We can develop these qualities by ourselves; certainly, but we can develop them only to a certain extent. For example, many of us have love, but how deep or how far can it go?
The qualities of this fruit are special because they are supernatural; they can be developed only when Jehovah develops them in you--no one can develop them by their self-effort. For instance, the love that Jehovah and Jesus want to develop in each individual is a love that transcends all boundaries, that does not change along with life's circumstances, that endures forever.
Since this is a spiritual fruit, it can withstand time and age, and challenges of life,. No one will be able to steal it and gobble it all up! And no disease will be able to destroy it as long as you maintain it in good soil.
So if you haven't made your New Year's resolution, why not make it your goal to start gardening this year? Go ahead, there is no better time to begin than now! May you be abundantly fruitful!
Shirley Cheng (b. 1983), a blind and physically disabled award-winning author (with 21 book awards, including nine Parent to Parent Adding Wisdom Awards), motivational speaker, self-empowerment expert, poet, author of nine books (including "Do You Love Jehovah? God Almighty's Infinite Love & Wisdom to Propel You to Greatness"), contributor to 22, and a parental rights advocate, has had severe juvenile rheumatoid arthritis since infancy. Owing to years of hospitalization, she received no education until age eleven. Back then, she knew only her ABCs and very simple English; other than that, her book knowledge was non-existent. However, after only about 180 days of special education in elementary school, she mastered grade level in all areas and entered a regular sixth grade class in middle school. Unfortunately, Shirley lost her eyesight at the age of seventeen. After a successful eye surgery, she hopes to earn multiple science doctorates from Harvard University. Visit http://www.shirleycheng.com for more inspiration.
Do you have questions about the Bible? Something you don't understand? Do you need a bit of guidance in developing a relationship with Jehovah? Then Shirley would like to help you! Please contact her via her site at http://www.shirleycheng.com and she would be more than glad to do her best to answer your questions! Never hesitate to ask questions, for no question about the Bible is ever too small or stupid.