Autumn is my favorite time of year. I love the smells of apples and pumpkins mixed with spices, hot chocolate on a crisp morning, evening bonfires. I love the falling leaves and wrapping up in a knit blanket, but I cherish most our annual family trip to the apple orchard. There is something so refreshing in the simplicity of picking those plump, juicy apples. I find joy in filling up that bushel with the bountiful yumminess that God provides. That orchard is plentiful, and as I walk down those rows of trees in full bloom each year, I am always in awe of the abundance of fruit that seems to magically appear. But its not really magic. Those apples didn't just appear there and those trees didn't always bear the abundant crop it now yields. The apple tree needs to be prepared to bear fruit and so do we. God grows and prunes us until just the right season and then we bear the fruit He has planted in us. He grows us, in a way, like those apple trees I love so much and here's how.......
8 Ways We Grow Fruit Like Apple Trees:
1. Seeds are not just thrown into the ground if you are intentionally growing an apple tree. Actually, It is recommended to wrap the seeds in paper towel, seal them in a bag, and place them somewhere cool.
God intentionally, hand picks us. And therefore He intentionally grows us too. And He certainly doesn't scatter seeds of faith just hoping they will land in the right spot. He plants them purposefully. These are not just any seeds. They are seeds of faith. Seeds that call us back to Him. Seeds to seek Him. Seeds that are the beginnings of the plans He has for us. Seeds of desire to follow where He leads. Seeds to seek truth; to know His word. And just as those apple seeds need to be wrapped in paper towel, these seeds of faith are wrapped in moments, in lessons, in our loved ones and in strangers. He wraps them in these things and places them in the season of our lives where they have the best chance to grow.
"You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you." John 15:16
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
2. Apple seeds do not turn into trees over night. It takes weeks for the seeds to just begin to grow little white sprouts. And these sprouts? They are a sign. A sign they are ready to be planted.
These little sprouts remind me of that moment we begin to open our eyes and ears. That moment we begin to truly listen and take off the blinds that have been covering our eyes. Perhaps we are opening our ears for the very first time to hear God. Perhaps, we are opening them to an issue we are struggling with or a lesson we need to learn. Either way, these sprouts are the beginning of a desire to know God more, to acknowledge the path he sets before us, and the willingness to seek and follow Him. A sign we are ready to be planted.
"Incline your ear and come to me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you....." Isaiah 55:3
3. Once the seeds have sprouted and are ready for planting, they need to be covered in deep compost. Then watch them grow.
Compost is a rich soil. Some fondly call it "Black Gold". So, what then, is the "Black Gold" we cover ourselves in when we are finally planted in faith? We should cover ourselves with the word of God. God's word is what feeds us; it is our bread.; our spiritual milk. We need it's nutrients to become stronger in faith, to build a relationship with Christ. It is what raises us up. It is what brings us to the Lord's saving Grace. And only when we are piled deep in it, do we truly begin to KNOW the Lord. You, see, we can cover ourselves with the dirt of the world., but we will just remain a sprout. It is the rich soil, that "Black Gold" that arms you with truth. It is that rich soil of God's word that strengthens, that teaches you to rise up from the ground boldly. And from there it begins to grow you into that spiritual tree.
Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation. 1 Peter 2:2
4. This is vital in growing an apple tree, without it, your tree will not grow apples: it's called grafting. Grafting takes a piece of wood from the variety of an apple tree you want to grow. You then cut it and your tree identically. Once cut, push the two together; binding them tightly with some kind of wrapping. If your tree starts growing leaves after this? The grafting is successful!
There comes a point in our walk in faith that we choose the world or we choose Jesus. When we either choose to continue to be in control or we give Jesus the wheel and let him take over. A point when we consciously choose Him as the "variety of apple" we want to be like. In that moment, we graft ourselves to Him, clinging to the wood of the cross; giving Him our hearts. This is vital to our Christian walk of faith. Without this grafting with Christ, there is no salvation. Without it, the spirit does not reside inside us. Without it, we will not produce fruit. But when we are bound up with Christ by the Spirit, it is from this moment that we begin to bloom.
But whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:17
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16
5. Pruning causes your apple tree to bloom faster. The pruning causes the tree to expand energy on healing rather than focusing on fruiting. Pruning removes the old, dead, and broken branches, providing sunlight to reach within the tree.
God prunes us constantly. Snipping here or there. Some "branches" we know are broken, dead, causing decay in our lives that is trying to keep the light of Christ out. He starts working on these branches first. Healing both old and new wounds. But then he begins snipping away at those hidden, decaying branches. The ones we don't let world see. The ones we don't think God sees. And sometimes it is brokenness we do not even see or acknowledge. He continues to prune and bring to attention the things in our lives we need to work on; letting in His light. He continually heals and mends these broken branches. In doing so, He continually reminds us of our humanness and how much we need Him. And as He heals us; we begain to focus on growing a relationship with Him, moving forward in faith, and becoming more like Christ, instead of focusing on the fruit we can produce. Because the fruit? When we focus on Christ, the fruit grows vigorously on its own.
".....every branch in me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit..." John 15:1-8
6. The first season's apples are small. Pick them off to grow a better crop next year.
Every fruit we bear that glorifies God is a good and worthy fruit no matter how big or small. However, God picks that first season's fruit off, uses it in His great plans, and knows that next season's crop will be bigger and more bold. He picks the fruit of the first season to encourage us to step out of our comfort zone with boldness. To be strong, and fearless and thus producing that lush, juicy red fruit that He knows we all are able to bear when we follow and trust in Him.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31
7. The first few years that an apple tree grows, it is being shaped into a healthy tree. It is shaped with a "single" leader. The continuation of pruning helps keep the shape of the tree balanced, thus keeping it stable, strong, and less likely to break. If the tree is not pruned and does not have a "single" leader, it will produce poor quality fruit, will be unstable, and will not have a long life. To keep the tree from cracking, it needs that "single" leader in the center. In this way the branches are protected from the heaviness it bears.
When we keep God as our leader, we are balanced and strong. He needs to be the single leader in our life. There is no room for God and the world to lead us. If we follow both, we will crack under the weight of our own branches that bear our trials and the poor quality fruit we are trying to produce (see Matthew 6:24). Serving one, our mighty God, produces quality fruit that exemplifies the glory of God and reflects the Holy Spirit that lives in us. With Christ as our center, our rock, our salvation, we are protected from the storms that will try and break us. We will not crack, but will remain strong.
" I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." John 15:5
8. Your tree needs continued maintenance. It needs to be watered well. The more water it is given, the bigger the fruit it will produce. The base needs to be kept free from weeds. Otherwise, these weeds take up the nutrients before the tree can use them to stay healthy and keep growing.
To keep our faith nourished, and to continue growing healthily, we need to water it with the living water of Christ. If we limit how much we feed ourselves the word of God -limiting the time we spend with Him, limiting what we believe He can do in us and around us- we limit the size of our fruit. If we are not well-watered, we will not be as bold and fearless. If we let the weeds of the world creep around us and begin to influence our identity and worthiness, our fruit will not shine. If we let those weeds steal the nutrients God so lovingly hands to us, we will bear less fruit. If the weeds of the world seep into the soil that feeds us and we began to pray less, and striving more for worldly things., our fruit will reflect this. God-sized fruit does not always require God-sized action, but it does require God-sized faith. And God-sized faith is centered around a savior who gave it all on a tree.
Growing an apple tree takes perseverance. It takes diligence and a strong centered trunk. So does our faith. Long after my family has picked the delicious fruit to our hearts content each fall, the aroma of those apples lingers, and so do the memories we make. Continue to let God grow and prune you. Don't make Him the center of your life for a only a short season, only an annual fall activity. Keep Him there for all the seasons of your life. Let Him linger in the nooks and broken places in your soul. Persist in binding yourself to Christ daily. Someday, you may find he didn't grow just an apple tree in you, He created an orchard.
" The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. "But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance."
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