By James Holland
Table of Contents
Why we Must Produce Spiritual Fruit
Steps to Help Us Remain Fruitful
Have the Right Kind of Fruit
How to be a Fruit-Bearer
Hope of the Harvest
Harvesting Your Field
It is vital that we, as leaders or potential leaders, allow the Spirit of the Lord to continue to produce the proper types of fruit in our lives as we continue to serve the Lord and those whom we are leading. The following lesson will give us some insight and direction in how to accomplish the mandate that God has charged His church with.
WHY WE MUST PRODUCE SPIRITUAL FRUIT
Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” (John 15:4) He continues, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”
The very first thing we see is that fruit bearing is not optional. In fact, fruit bearing is evidence of being connected to Jesus, the life-giver. There are many good things that can take up our time; yet, we must never use being busy for an excuse not to be producing the spiritual fruit God desires of us. We will also see a progression of growth at different levels of our life as we walk with God. The key word here is to ABIDE. All of our talents and abilities of themselves will not produce what God is looking for. That is not to say that we cannot accomplish a lot of good things in God’s kingdom by our own abilities and talents. In fact, God wants to use these gifts. However, many of our ministries are operating totally on this level only. If we are not careful, we will try to produce what only God working in us and through us can. He is the vine (life force). There is no real life force of the spirit in us if we are not connected to Him (VINE). He empowers us with the infilling of His Spirit. This is what gives life to the branches (you and me). God has a right to hold us accountable to Him, to expect productivity from us. As long as our love relationship is right with God, we won’t have a problem being fruitful. We must never forget that God has made a tremendous investment in our lives, and He is expecting a return!
We are here to identify the harvest field and then, of course, go into the field and to gather the harvest. This harvest is the winning of souls to the kingdom. We must not forget that there is fruit to be produced directly in the life of the believer as well.
Notice that Jesus said He was the vine. The branch is a product of the vine. No vine, no branch! The branch doesn’t come and then a vine finds its way to the branch! The principle is this – we must always be sure that we are connected to the vine before we start trying to produce fruit. Fruit will grow where there is always good worship and time spent in the presence of the master. If we are full of ourselves, we will not produce the kind of fruit God is looking for. Understand this, God is not looking for full vessels; He is looking for empty ones. He doesn’t fill full vessels; He fills empty ones. Look at the story of II Kings 4:1-7. In this story, there are four fruit bearing principles that the widow understood.
1- She understood she could not do this by herself. She had a need that only God could provide.
2- She understood what was available. That is, she used what she had and could get. However, she still knew that if God didn’t connect with what she had, the results would not be enough.
3- She filled the house with empty vessels. We will not take the time to pray and worship if we think we can do it on our on! Again, time spent in pray and true worship is never wasted time.
4- She poured and poured and poured some more. What are we doing with what God is producing in us? Are we sharing it, giving it away, or thanking God that we are full, but desiring no more?
One of the things that are devastating believers today is that if they are not fruitful, they become cold, and indifferent and close out the idea of doing anything that will help make them fruitful. Ultimately, they leave the gathering of the harvest and the producing of fruit that the church needs to grow and survive to only a select few. So we have churches with great crowds, yet few workers. With great needs, but very little fruit to be shared. Those who are producing the fruit become overworked causing infection to develop in their fruit.
What kind of infection?
1-Lack of prayer
2-Bitterness of spirit
3-Lack of spiritual strength because they are trying to do everything.
Over an extended period of time, this will weaken the strongest of branches (Believers).
We must always remember that we are committed to being faithful to God and the work He has called us to do. There is no alternate course to take; we must produce what God has commanded. We are not excused from being fruitful simply because we are busy, or in ministry or have a leadership position! When we are in compliance to the Word of God, connected to the VINE, there will be fruit that is automatically produced in our lives because we are in right relationship with the VINE.
Matthew 7:16-20 says, “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit;”
It goes without saying we want to produce good fruit. We will discuss the kind of fruit we are producing later in this lesson. For now, let’s talk about continuing to have a fruitful life in our Christian experience. Something that will bless not only us but others as well, something that will last longer than we do something we can pass down to the next generation.
In Matthew 21:18-19 we see the story of the cursing of the fig tree. What does this tell us about the Lord’s attitude toward us being fruitful? The very first thing we see here is that the Lord “planted us” (saved us) to bear fruit, and He is disappointed when we do not. As he returned into the city the next morning, he hungered. And when He saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, “let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.”
God is always walking among His vineyard (His church). He always knows what is going on in our lives. Notice the language “He hungered” God is hungry for the worship and the fellowship of His people. God does His work through His people. It is not enough that we once had some fruit in our lives; we must continue to produce fruit. We must not be guilty of trying to live and survive spiritually on what we used to have! We must have more than just leaves. We see that the Lord hungers to see fruit in our lives being produced. We must ask ourselves this question as leaders, “Do we have just good looking building, just good looking people, just good working programs? As believers are we just living good lives or is there fruit being produced?” While we need these things, they, in themselves, will not be enough to satisfy the Lord. He is looking for fruit!
Why? The fruit that is produced within the church is to feed and nourish the saints and to equip us to go and touch the world as well.
Notice what happens next-“let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.” We must always remember that our lives will be cursed to withering away if we do not continue to grow and produce what God has equipped us to produce. We must always know that God will help us to accomplish what he has called us to do.
In Luke 13:6-9, we see again that the Lord is expecting fruit. We also see the process of how we can continue to produce fruit. “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit well: if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.”
First, let’s answer the question of what is fruit! Fruit, in the Biblical sense, is not just being a soul winner and working in the harvest field of this world. While we all are called to do this, there is more to fruit than this. Titus 3:14 say, “And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.” Fruit and good works are used nearly interchangeably throughout scripture. In practical terms, fruit represents good works. A thought, attitude, or action of ours that God values because it brings honor to Him. The fruit from our lives is how God receives His due honor on earth.
In our story we see that Jesus is the owner of the vineyard so he does have a right to demand fruit. He also has the authority to remove whatever He wants removed. Secondly, we see the “dresser of the vineyard” who is the Pastor and ministry that God has placed there to help the vineyard to produce. The fig tree represents people in the church (vineyard). In this case, this person had been in the vineyard three years, yet there was still no fruit. (Mature spiritual growth) The dresser (pastor/leadership) made intercession for the unfruitful person. Notice what his request was: “Let me work with it another year.” I shall dig about it.
To remain fruitful we will always need digging about by the Spirit of the Lord and by God-sent leadership. You will never be in the vineyard long enough that you will not need digging around and pruning; that is, if you want to continue to be fruitful.
Leaders need to understand that God wants to get longevity out us not just one or two good crops.
STEPS TO HELP US REMAIN FRUITFUL
To dig around can imply to help one to remove things that would be hindering growth.
In a real vineyard, new branches have a tendency to trail down and to grow along the ground. Yet, they cannot bear fruit down there. When these branches grow along the ground, the leaves get covered in dust and dirt. When the rain comes, the dust and dirt turn into what is called mildew. When this happens, the branch becomes sick and useless. So the branches must be washed off to prevent this and then tied up to the trellis so that they can grow. Sin is like dirt covering the branch. We need cleaning off often. We also need to be connected to something stronger than us to be sure we are growing properly.
This is why there needs to be on-going training (Christian development classes, support groups within the church to strengthen the branches, connecting to the community to minister to them, leadership training no less than once a year, preferably twice a year, a constant teaching, preaching, releasing of the word and conformation of the spirit of the Lord.)
God has available what is needed to help us grow. Why would He own a vineyard if He wasn’t going to provide what is needed for the vineyard to produce the kind of fruit it was planted to produce?
NEXT, we must allow the dresser to dig around the soil to help strengthen the root system. Don’t get caught in the old mindset, “I want things to change as long as it doesn’t affect me.” We must understand that everything that God is doing will affect us. We see in this story that God doesn’t want us just taking up space. Everyone in His vineyard will have fruit. This doesn’t mean that everyone will produce the same amount of fruit. The key here is that we are producing and that we continue to do so. Don’t allow things that can hinder your growth to continue to stay in your root system. We are the only ones who can respond properly to what the dresser is trying to do to help us.
Here are a few suggestions to help us remain fruitful.
1- Remember God is walking among the branches.
2- Apply truth daily to your life. God desires that we continue to grow until He takes us home.
3-Develop a daily prayer life, which includes repentance, praise, worship, forgiveness, and a willingness to be obedient to God’s word being released in your life.
4-Always remember God has placed the Dresser of the vineyard in your life to help you, not destroy you.
5- Be willing to be pruned. To prune means to thin, to reduce, and to cut off. John 15:2 says, “Every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
The branch’s ability to produce increases each year, but without intensive pruning the plant weakens and its crop diminishes. We as believers should be growing to a higher level each year in our relationship with God. Our commitment to God’s kingdom should be stronger this year than it was last year. Our prayer life should be increasing each year. Our working in the harvest should increase each year, and our giving should be increasing each year. These are signs of fruit and more fruit.
Something is drastically wrong when new believers are doing more, giving more, praying more, committing to more in the kingdom than the “mature branches!”
Could it be that they may be older branches, yet they have not allowed the pruning that is necessary for continued growth and maturity.
Mature branches must be pruned hard to achieve maximum yields .We must always remember God wants us to have good years (crops of fruitfulness), not just one good year every now and then. Don’t get angry when the dresser starts digging around you and the pruning is going on. It is necessary if we are to be and do what God has called us to do.
HOW TO HAVE THE RIGHT KIND OF FRUIT
“But the fruit of the (Holy) spirit, (the work which His presence within accomplishes), is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness; gentleness (meekness, humility), self control.” (Amplified Bible)
As believers, we are to produce the right kind of fruit in our personal life as well as continue to work and produce fruit for the kingdom. How do we do this? Notice that these things in the above scripture are called the fruit (singular) of the spirit, not fruits (plural). This is because they come from one source- the Holy Spirit. They are not something that we can develop within our own selves. They are of the spirit, they are not something that we put on when we go to church and then take off when we go home. It is godly character that the spirit produces in us. It becomes a part of who we are. This fruit can only grow within our lives as we continue to walk and live in proper relationship with the spirit. When separated from a real relationship with Christ, we cannot and will not produce this fruit in our lives. Simply going to church will not do it. Simply being around when the spirit of the Lord is moving will not do it. Jesus said, “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth-good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth-evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth-evil fruit; neither can a corrupt tree bring forth-good fruit”. Jesus went on to say “by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt.7: 16-20)
It is vital that as believers that we allow the spirit of the Lord to produce the right kind of fruit within us. How it must grieve the heart of God when He sees all the contention and fussing and tongue lashing, and verbal assassination that goes on in some Christian circles. How we make excuses for our lack of growth or our lack of productivity in our walk with him! James reminds us that bitter and sweet water cannot come from the same fountain. Before we can become fruitful in soul winning and in impacting others in a positive way, we must first have the right kind of fruit in our lives. Someone who professes to have something that they really don’t impresses no one. Not God, not the Devil, and certainly not an unbeliever.
You simply can’t share peace with someone if you don’t have any; nor joy, nor love, nor kindness, or any of the fruit that the verse is telling us to have. So check yourself out. If you don’t like what you see growing in your life, then check out your connection to Jesus. Be honest enough to ask whose spirit is leading you, the spirit of the Lord or your own carnal spirit?
WE MUST BE FRUITFUL
To defeat the enemies of the church, the church has to counteract the loss of effectiveness by becoming fruitful. Jesus reserved His severest judgment for the unfruitful tree (Matt.21: 19). The nation of Israel lost its privilege because of unfruitfulness! The priesthood was first given to all the Israelites (Exodus 19:1-6). Yet, because they failed God at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 32), God took away the priesthood from them and gave it to the Levites (Numbers 3:44-45; Deut.10: 8-9). WHY? It was given to the Levites because they obeyed Moses when he came down from Mt. Sinai.
HOW TO BE A FRUITBEARER
In Fruit bearing we are referring to principals that will help us to produce the proper fruit within our lives as a believer so we can and will be effective in reaching the lost around us. Psalm 1:2-3 says, “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” To do this we must stay full of the spirit. That is, to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in our daily walk. We must read and meditate upon the Word of God. Here is a short list of the kind of fruit that we as a believer should be seeing in our personnel life. This is in addition to the fruit we have already discussed in Gal.5
1- Repentance- Matt.3: 8, Luke13: 5-9
2- Practicing the truth daily- Matt.7: 16-21, Col.1: 10
3- Answered prayer- John 15:7-8
4- An offering of money given by believers-Rom.15: 28, Mal.3: 10 (It is not the
Responsibility of the unbelieving world to produce the financial fruit that is needed for the operation of the kingdom while many believers have no fruit whatsoever in their lives in this area. This is one of the quickest ways for a believer to wither and die spiritually. It will also cause whatever fruit they may have in their life to begin to dry up as well.)
5- A Christ like character- Gal.5: 22-23
6- Winning unbelievers- Rom.15: 28, I Cor.16: 15, Col.1: 6
We must never forget that we are called to bear fruit. This pleases God. We must also realize that to be a fruit bearer, we must grow to spiritual maturity. There are no shortcuts to maturity. It takes years for us to grow to adulthood and it takes a full season for fruit to mature and ripen. The same is true for the fruit of the spirit. This development does take time. Spiritual growth, like physical growth, takes time. Sometimes it seems we are more concerned about how fast we grow than how strong we grow! Paul writes in Philippians 1:6, “I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you to grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ return.” (LB) The question is often asked why does it take so long?
Here are a couple of reasons to consider:
A- We are slow to learn. Most people have to relearn a lesson 40 or 50 times to really get it.
B- We have a lot to unlearn. Since most of our problems- all of our bad habits didn’t develop overnight, it is unrealistic to expect them to go away immediately. The Bible calls it “taking off the old self and putting on the new self.” While you are given a brand new spirit at the moment of conversion, you still have old habits, patterns, and practices that must be removed and replaced by the leading of the spirit of the Lord.
C- We are afraid to face the truth about ourselves.
Truth will set us free, but it often makes us miserable first. Only as we allow God to shine the light of truth on our faults, failures, and hang-ups can we begin to change them.
D- Growth is often painful and scary.
There is no growth without change; there is no change without fear or loss. And there is no loss without pain. Every change involves a loss of some kind. You must let go of old ways in order to experience the new.
E- Habits take time to develop. Remember that your character is the sum total of your habits. There is only one way to develop the habits of a Christlike character – you must practice them. Paul urged Timothy to, “Practice these things. Devote your life to them so that everyone can see your progress” (I Timothy 4:15).
It is key that we remember that God is at work in our lives and regardless of how long this process may seem to us, we must cooperate with God in the process.
When God wants to make a mushroom, he does it over night, but if he wants to make a giant oak, he takes a hundred years.
HOPE OF THE HARVEST
(Matt.9: 37-38) Jesus was traveling with his disciples through all the cities and villages interacting with people. Verse 35 of this chapter explains what he was doing. “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.”
He is showing the disciples several important principals of the harvest. In verse 36 Jesus shows them the proper attitude about the harvest and in verse 37 He declares the hope of the harvest. In verse 38, He tells the believer to pray for workers and to be workers themselves.
It goes without saying that if you do not believe there is a harvest; you will not show up in the field. God provides for the fowl of the air, yet they still have to get out of the nest and go to the field. We need to remember that the harvest, because it is in the field, cannot come to us so we must go to it! Here are the principals we must follow to be effective in the harvest field:
1-Teaching- Jesus gave direction to the people this produced hope.
2-Preaching- He imparted hope beyond their current situation.
3-Healing- He restored wholeness to the people. (Matt.10: 1-And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of disease). We see here that the power of salvation can and will transform all who will obey. Each person has an invaluable, everlasting soul. Many of these souls can be saved if only someone will present the message of salvation to them.
4- Jesus was able to discern their spiritual condition. “They fainted.” They were harassed, overcome bewildered with things “they were scattered abroad” they were without direction. Man needs Godly direction and spiritual leadership. We too must have discernment to reap the harvest that God has set before us. We must do more than talk about the harvest. We must believe that the harvest is present and that it can be gathered.
This is no doubt why so many within the kingdom today are full of anxiety. They are working all around the harvest field, yet never entering into the field. They are masters at telling everyone what needs to be done while not doing anything themselves. They are busy doing nothing – clouds without rain. They have a lot of activity, yet very little productivity! There is always someone to help to reach out to, minister to. Someone always needs direction. Sinners need saving and the saved folks need strengthening so that they can grow into what God desires. There is always the possibility of a harvest. In John 4: 35, the writer writes, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” There are some key words in this command. First, there is some to be harvested today. Secondly, He says look up. That is look beyond what you are merely dealing with currently. Then, He says LOOK! Not just glance at, but also look – that is focus in on. This depicts seeing as God sees, discerning what you are looking at.
Having just declared the possibility of the harvest, Jesus proceeds to reveal the problem of the harvest; there are not enough labors. Had Jesus stopped here we still would have no hope of a harvest. Yet he proceeds to give us the solution to the problem. He commands the disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into the harvest.
Pray ye here implies to express the request as your own personal need. Believers are only deceiving themselves if they are waiting for the world to reap the harvest and then bring it to us! (Come on!)
So we see here that there will always be a harvest for the church to gather in every generation. So don’t excuse yourself from this part of the work of God.
Also don’t waste time trying to measure your harvest to someone else’s harvest. While each field is different, always remember God has promised that there is a harvest to be gathered!
BECOME A WORKER TODAY IN GOD’S HARVEST FIELD THAT HE HAS SET BEFORE YOU!
HARVESTING YOUR FIELD
To harvest souls in the area where we are, we must be familiar with the field. We must know the type of soil that we are working with – its strengths and its weaknesses. What does this mean? The field is our city or area where we live. It amazes me how many people say they would be willing to go to some distant land to teach or preach or work for the kingdom while they refuse to do any of these things at home where they live!
The soil represents the personality of the area, the traditions that are prevalent in the area, how people think about things in the area. People do thing differently in different areas.
We should purposely plan to do something that will produce some fruit. The very first thing to consider is there must be some seed planted after the soil has been made ready. How is the soil made ready? By working faith and hope into the soil (souls of people) so when the seed of the word is planted, there will be an environment conducive for the seed to grow. Also, don’t just work one area of the field. Plant everywhere you go.
John 12:24 says, “except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone.” This is simply saying that seed left to itself lives by itself. Seed (truth) uncommitted or left to itself can produce nothing. Yet, when it is committed, it can bring forth many fold.
In the parable of the sower we read, “But other fell into good ground and brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, and some thirtyfold”(Matt.13: 8). We see here again the promise of the “Lord of the Harvest” that he will meet us in the field of labor and give us a harvest. Once the seed has been committed to the soil, of course, there is a time of anticipation before we see any visible results. How we react to the planting of the seed will determine how great of a harvest we will have! If you plant seed, yet go dig it up every few days to see how it is doing; you are going to defeat your purpose. How do you react when the blade first breaks through the ground?
Do you rejoice over that blade which represents a harvest and fruit or do you say, “is this all that we get?” We need to remember that the blade represents a growth process. If handled properly, it will grow into a full stalk of corn that will have the ability to feed many. So how you react to the planting of the seed and how much you plant and how you react once the seed begins to grow will have a great impact on the level of harvest you have. If you expect everyone else to do it for you, you are not going to do well. If you are so impatient that you won’t wait without complaining, you will not have a good harvest. If you can’t rejoice in your field, why should you think getting in someone else field would make you happy?
Let’s talk about fruit
To bear fruit or to produce fruit simply states that something has resulted from the effort put forth. It is confirmation that the Lord is with us in the harvest. It demonstrates the power in the seed that has been planted. We need to know that there is destiny in the seed we are planting in others as well as ourselves. Once there is a yield, we can start thinking of ways to increase that yield.
1- Take care of the soil. Once people are in the kingdom of God they still need to grow and become productive. This applies to leaders as well.
2- Look for ways to involve more people in the harvesting.
3- Pursue things that are “ripe and ready for harvest now.” In the field that is worked properly, there should always be something being planted and something growing and something ready to be harvested. Until we grow, our churches can’t grow. Until we grow, our families can’t grow. As our vision increases, our capacity to believe starts to grow. If our first harvest is 30 %, which is not bad at all, we must handle that properly and yet go plant more seed for a greater harvest. Jesus tells us that “He is the vine and we are the branches.”
The only purpose for the branches is to bear fruit. WE are not in our field to just occupy it. God wants something to grow in the field. In producing more and more fruit and finally fruit that will remain. The principal is simple. As we harvest the field, we plant more seed and we train more workers to go with us into the field. This is called growth. The harvest should always be increasing and we all get excited about that. Yet, as the harvest increases, so should the workers that are going into the field.
4- We need to work together in the harvest. A group of workers can do more that one worker. We need to work together so that we may also encourage each other. There will be distractions and dry seasons. There will be frustrations. There will be others who will produce more. Yet, if we are working together, we will know that God will reward us all for working for him and with him.
5- We need fruit that will remain. We want to not only reach and serve this generation, but to leave something for the next generation as well. When we refer to fruit that remains, we are talking about staying the course until the end, becoming the final product that God wants us to be.
Olives must be pressed to become oil. Then they are useful in more ways as well as the olive seed being planted so that there can be more olives. Grapes must become crushed in order to become juice. The grain also undergoes a similar process. The grain is harvested, then crushed, and then it is ground into flour. Then and only then can it be baked and bestowed upon a hungry crowd.
Finally, in harvesting your field, remember as you take care of the field, the field will take care of you. Here is a short list of what will happen when we begin to harvest the revival of souls that God has given to us:
1-There will be a hearing and receiving of the word.
2-There will be a believing.
3-There will be repenting.
4-There will be praying.
5- There will be great deliverance.
God is standing ready to meet with us in the field!
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