God wants us to bear fruit. But most of all, He wants us to know Him and experience Him—to develop the fruit of intimacy with Him. In this article, Carina Alanson shares why intentionally spending time with God is essential to our growth and how abiding in His presence is the key to bearing fruit as a Christian.
Each spring, the massive chokecherry tree near my front door bursts into bloom. The mounds of white flowers are so voluminous. The tree looks like a giant 80s bridal bouquet (you know, those ones that were chock full of baby’s breath). And breathing the air around the tree is like inhaling a cloud of cotton candy, the scent is so sweet. It is absolutely glorious.
As spring turns to summer, the petals fall from the flowers and the tree bears tiny, shiny, black, cherry-like fruit. These little chokecherries are edible, but they are so bitter I never eat them. Birds, however, are crazy about them. I’ve seen grouse, robins, bohemian waxwings, and even ravens devouring them. Furry creatures love them too—I’ve watched squirrels dangle from branches, straining to reach the fruit. Last winter, a pine marten regularly visited the tree, hungrily chowing down on the freeze-dried berries.
Despite their popularity with the local wildlife, there are always so many chokecherry berries that they never all get eaten. Many of the berries fall to the ground and send up new baby chokecherry shoots. Sometimes these seedlings sprout in places I don’t want them—such as my hedge cotoneaster patch. When this happens, I wrap my fingers around their slender brown trunks and give a quick tug, removing them from the forbidden bed. After weeding, I often look at the naked, spidery roots and feel a pang of sadness because I love chokecherry trees. I know that, apart from the soil, they will never grow up and bear their own bountiful harvest.
DRY AND DEVOID OF FRUIT
Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (John 15:5, NKJV). For about as long as I can remember, one of my deepest desires has been to bear fruit for God. I want to be like my flourishing chokecherry tree, releasing a heavenly fragrance that draws people to Christ and producing abundant fruit that nourishes those around me. I long to see prayers answered, families flourish, souls saved, and women advancing God’s Kingdom as they walk out their unique callings.
But sometimes, instead of a flourishing tree, I feel more like one of my uprooted saplings—dry and devoid of fruit. When I find myself in this place, it’s usually because in my zeal to bear fruit I’ve gotten so busy working on projects and responding to the needs of the people around me that I’ve started to neglect what must always come first: abiding in Jesus. I’ve let the cares of life pull me away from time with God, gradually disrupting my union with the very One Who makes me fruitful.
PRESENCE OVER PERFORMANCE
One biblical passage that always helps me refocus on Jesus when I’ve ceased abiding is John 21:1-20. Here, we learn that on an evening shortly after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter and six other disciples decided to go fishing. But despite working all night, their nets remained empty. They were just about to call it quits when a figure moved across the beach and they heard a voice call out: “Fellows, have you caught any fish” (John 21:5, NLT)?
“No,” they said, to which the man replied, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some” (v.6).
So, they threw out the net, and sure enough, they caught so many fish they couldn’t pull their net into the boat. When he saw the miraculous catch, John suddenly recognized the man who had spoken—it was Jesus! Overjoyed, the disciples hurried to the shore. When they got there, they found that Jesus had a breakfast of bread and fish waiting for them.
I like to imagine the disciples sitting around the fire, warm sand caressing their bare feet, the yeasty tang of fresh bread wafting on the breeze, and irrepressible smiles on their faces as they exclaimed over the miracle Jesus had just performed. At that moment, I would guess that everything felt right in the world. All their fears, worries, and wonderings slipped away as they basked in the company of their Shepherd, their best Friend, their King.
Sometime after they finished eating, Jesus and Peter went for a walk. John, who was following behind and apparently listening in, relays this conversation that occurred between the two:
“Jesus asked Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’
‘Yes, Lord,’ Peter replied, ‘you know I love you.’
‘Then feed my lambs,’ Jesus told him.
Jesus repeated the question: ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’
‘Yes, Lord,’ Peter said, ‘you know I love you.’
‘Then take care of my sheep,’ Jesus said.
A third time he asked him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, ‘Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.’
Jesus said, ‘Then feed my sheep’” (John 21:15-17, NLT).
A helpful insight
When I’ve read John 21 in the past, I’ve usually focused on Jesus’ commission to Peter—the action Peter was to do: Feed God’s sheep. After all, it’s a pretty important, monumental command—one that led to the growth and spread of the Christian church.
But more recently, I was struck by something I hadn’t noticed on previous readings. Before Jesus told Peter to feed His sheep, Jesus fed Peter.
Jesus knew that in order for Peter to minister to others—in order to be fruitful in the work he was called to—he needed to first receive from Jesus. He needed to abide in Him—he needed to spend time with Him. So before ‘getting down to business’ with Peter, Jesus took time to first simply be with him. They ate together, talked, and walked.
Often, we’re so focused (obsessed, really) with ‘progress’ and ‘efficiency’ that sitting around eating and talking can feel frivolous. Yet that’s exactly what Jesus did with Peter. He prioritized presence and companionship over performance. Jesus put relationship above any assignment or task He had for Peter.
BEARING FRUIT FROM HIS PRESENCE
God wants us to bear fruit. Jesus made this clear when He said, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8). But most of all, He wants us to know Him and experience Him—He wants us to develop the fruit of intimacy. All other fruit in our lives flows from this first fruit, and when we bear this fruit, we are fulfilling our ultimate purpose.
Do you, like me, long to bear fruit? If this is a deep desire of your heart, and yet you feel dry and empty, I encourage you to ask yourself: Am I abiding in Christ? Am I spending regular time with Him, or have I let the demands of life pull me away from the soil of His love?
I know that sometimes finding time to spend with God can feel like a struggle, but if we want to live a fruitful life, it is absolutely essential. Apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). So, let’s do whatever we need to do to make sure we spend time with Him on a regular basis. When we do, we’ll flourish like that big, magnificent chokecherry tree in my front yard, creating an oasis that brings beauty, hope, strength, and nourishment to the hungry and hurting world around us.
Want more from Carina? Check out her freebie, “9 Simple Ways to Connect with God and His Word Throughout Your Day.” Just click the button below!
Share This Post
Beautiful reflection, Carina! Thank you for the message of presence over production, relationship over relentless busyness. Jesus first, always.
Thank you, Michelle, and I’m so glad the message resonated! Blessings!
“I’ve let the cares of life pull me away from time with God.” Such a sweet reminder to me in my current season to prioritize spending time with Him. Thank you.
You’re welcome, Lori! Thank you!