Rev Andrew J Demotses
The saints of our faith have observed that God is a purposeful farmer who seeks an abundant harvest of spiritual fruit from each of us. He expects that we will do more than just consider ourselves Christians, but will act on our faith in a way that will make the presence of Christ real not only in our own lives, but in the lives of others. Scripture warns us that the Lord is like the farmer of Palestine, where land is precious and there is no room for a tree that does not bear fruit. “The axe is ready to cut down the trees at the roots; every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire.” (Matt. 3:10). As if to emphasize this truth, Jesus cursed the barren fig tree, and it withered at once. (Matt. 21:18-19).
Paradoxically, it is oftentimes in the experience of pain and suffering that we are most prepared to bear an abundant harvest of spiritual fruit. Good times tend to make us complacent and self-satisfied. Sorrow, tribulation, ill health, and disappointment, however, have a way of stimulating us to re-order our priorities and help us to gain perspective and maturity. I have found that it is through my own personal suffering that I have gained my greatest compassion and understanding for others. Jesus was perhaps helping us to understand this when he said, “A grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it does die, it produces many grains.” (Jn. 12:24).
As a young man, I once saw a wise neighbor severely prune a mature apple tree that bore sparse fruit. The next year, with far fewer branches newly exposed to sunlight, the tree produced an abundant harvest. In this same way, we too can produce spiritual fruitfulness from the pruning shears of our own affliction. From this perspective, the experience of pain is not perceived as meaningless punishment, but rather as an opportunity for growth. While we do not seek suffering in our life, we nonetheless accept it, together with all other things, as God’s saving opportunity to help us live so that hopefully as people get to know us, they will get to know Christ as well.
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