By Melissa McLaughlin
The Gift of a Day
It was the perfect fall day. The leaves were beginning their autumn costume change. Glimmers of yellow, orange and red leaves flitted among the green with a tiny hint of the coming glory.
Our family arrived at the apple orchard ready for the flavorful taste of just-picked apples. As far as the eye could see were row upon row of apple trees.
Our first stop was the taste-testing area. Each of us selected our favorite and set out to find the chosen apple varieties.
Our joy at gathering a mixture of apple varieties soon presented an unwanted consequence. Apples are heavy! We filled several bags and as we peered off in the distance we spied our car, a tiny speck on the horizon. Our apple-red smiles softened a bit as we trudged along carrying our delicious, but weighty burden.
Eventually, we loaded every person, apple and sore muscle into the car to head for home. As we pulled away from the orchard we all reflected on the lovely day we had shared. Enjoying the fresh air, the bounty of God’s creation, the beauty of diversity, the joy of being alive.
The day had been a gift. A gift of simple family time. A gift of autumn’s colors and flavors.
The Gift of Growing Fruit
I thought of all the days that came before, making this gift possible. Once upon a time, many years ago, a farmer planted the apple seeds. Those apple seeds were nourished by nutrients from fertile soil, refreshing rain, clean air and plentiful sunshine. In addition, the apple seeds needed protection from weeds, rodents, insects and birds on the scout for an appetizing treat.
Once tall enough, the seedlings must be protected from deer and other animals gnawing on the bark. This diligent care must continue for some 4-7 years before an apple tree may be ready to bear fruit.
Imagine the time it took to grow just one of those apple trees. Years! Imagine the care. Imagine the days of sunshine and rain in just the right amounts. Imagine the protection, steady, undaunted and persistent. Imagine the nourishment day after day, month after month, year after year.
This one beautiful gift of a day for us, was actually the accumulation of many days of tender-loving-garden-care leading up to that one moment.
Gifts of the Spirit
Through this experience, I am reminded of the difference between the Gifts of the Spirit and the Fruit of the Spirit as found in the Bible. The 9 Gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing spirits, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues; are listed in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11.
Clearly the Holy Spirit is in charge and the Gifts of the Spirit are given according to God’s purposes.
Fruit of the Spirit
Contrasting this are the 9 Fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control found in Galatians 5:22-23.
If we are honest with ourselves, we can easily see we are no more capable of producing the Fruit of the Spirit on our own, than the Gifts of the Spirit.
We cannot conjure up more love or patience by giving ourselves a pep talk, trying really hard or wishing it to be so. The Fruits of the Spirit are Spirit-qualities. The Source of these qualities is God. The truth is, I don’t have more love or patience to give, it’s simply not in me. I need the indwelling Holy Spirit of God at work in my life, enlarging my heart and filling it with the Spirit-qualities only Jesus can give.
Fruits Are Grown
Unlike gifts, fruits are not given. Fruits are grown by remaining attached to our Source, Jesus, the True Vine, as found in John 15:1-5.
In both cases, the Bible plainly records that believers should desire the Gifts of the Spirit and the Fruit of the Spirit. However, it is critical that we recognize the deep differences.
Gifts Are Given, Fruits Are Grown
The Gifts of the Spirit are given for the common good. We use these gifts to display God’s glory, to reflect His power, to strengthen believers and help nonbelievers believe.
On the other hand, the Fruit of the Spirit is grown as we remain in close connection to Jesus and invite the work of His indwelling Holy Spirit. These God-traits are the spiritual byproduct or outgrowth of our intimacy and close walk with the Lord over time. These qualities make our faith believable to others, for when we possess the Fruit of the Spirit we possess the image of Christ.
Abide in The True Vine
How do we remain personally attached to Christ, our True Vine?
1.Praise and Worship – Psalm 113:1-3 – Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, you his servants; praise the name of the Lord. Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised. Sing or speak aloud praises to God declaring His power, goodness and love!
2.Reading the Bible – Matthew 4:4 – Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Reading the Bible daily helps plants the seeds of God’s Word into our hearts.
3.Prayer – Psalm 141:2 – May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. Luke 5:16 – But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Prayer is the most important conversation we have all day. Draw near to God’s Presence through heartfelt personal prayer.
Gifts and Fruit on Display in Real Life
The Gifts of the Spirit and the Fruit of the Spirit are illustrated in the life of a dear friend of mine.
My cherished friend sings with the voice of an angel while her hands slip over the piano keys with ease. This gift of music was given to her by the Lord. She is simply giving back to the Lord what He first gave her.
However, what really captures the hearts of the people is her loving, kind and generous spirit. These God-qualities, unlike her music skills, were not given. These qualities are the Fruit of the Spirit which grew in her heart as she remained attached to Christ.
Though the talents she received from God are remarkable, the Fruit of the Spirit, her Christ-likeness, is what endears her most to people.
May we keep ourselves attached to the True Vine so that we grow in His character and likeness. This way, no matter the earthly talents or Spiritual Gifts that God may choose to bestow upon us, our faith will be genuine to a watching world as we offer the delectable Fruit of the Spirit to those hungry for Christ.
If we have gifts like leadership, music, writing, teaching or preaching, may we all remember the real Source of these blessings. Without a consistent reminder of God as the Giver of our gifts, we may find ourselves on a slippery slope which leads to pride, self-reliance and an erroneous sense of self-importance.
Talents are given. Gifts are given. Fruit is grown.
Earthly talents are given. Spiritual Gifts are given. May we use these to glorify our all-powerful, miracle-working, Almighty God.
Fruit is grown. May we bear a bountiful harvest of Christ-likeness for a world starving for the true love only Christ can give.
Heavenly Father, you are the Giver of all good gifts. We praise you for You are mighty, holy, sovereign and true. You have demonstrated Your power in this world through miraculous deeds and You have demonstrated great love through the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus. Help me Lord, lay any earthly talents or Spiritual Gifts at Your feet, for You to dispense and use as You see fit. Even more, through the power of the Holy Spirit, help me stay wholly, desperately and relentlessly attached to You, the True Vine, for You are the only source of my strength and the true nourishment of my soul. As I abide in You, may the Fruit of Your Spirit grow in me, to feed the spiritually hungry with Your love and Your divine goodness. In Jesus’ name and for His sake we pray, amen.
*For an in-depth series on the Fruit of the Spirit, check out Yvonne Morgan’s blog post Bearing Fruit.
Check out my guest post titled “Gentleness – Divinely-Balanced Strength“, in a series on the Fruit of the Spirit hosted by Jennifer at Minding the Kings.