How many gardeners do I have? Green thumbs? Anyone that knows the secrets to coaxing plants into thriving fruit-bearers? Rest assured, my hand is not raised, much to my farmer-dad’s chagrin.

If you’ve read my posts for a while, you may remember that I kill plants. Oh, not intentionally. But inevitably, it happens. I’ve tried all kinds, from ferns to aloes. A couple of dear friends got me “easy” plants, and I’ve talked at some length with green-thumbed friends on the specifics of caring for the plants in my home.

All to no avail. Within days or a couple of months for the heartier ones, I kill them all. Or give them to my green-thumbed friend when they look pitiful and clearly need the help of someone who understands them.

Yet, even with all my failures, I know one undeniable truth about plants that we seem to ignore when it comes to growing Christian fruit. Curious? Keep reading.

The Needs of Plants

All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physcially or intellectually without effort, and effort means work. ~Calvin Coolidge, American lawyer and President

Elementary school science teaches that all plants need a few basics to thrive:

  • Sunlight
  • Air, or more specifically carbon dioxide
  • Water
  • Nutrition, like nitrogen pulled from the soil
  • Space to live and grow, both above and below the soil line
  • Optimal temperatures

You probably understand that even though all plants need all those things, each kind differs on its specific needs. For example, snake plants need far less water than daylilies, and ivy does better in shady spots where tomatoes like lots of direct sunshine.

Different care but the same principles.

Growing up, my dad tilled the earth and planted a variety of vegetable and flower gardens at each of our homes. I remember homegrown tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, corn, and green beans. One house had cherry and crabapple trees, and he planted pear trees at another.

Indoor plants were mom’s territory. During my childhood, I recall aloes, ferns, prayer plants, spider plants, philodendrons, at least one peace lily, and an African violet or two. They survived for years, or until she started traveling and whatever she didn’t give away became my responsibility. You can imagine what happened to them.

Indoors or out, fruit trees, vegetables, and other plants get their water and nutrition from their soil.

Duh, right? But don’t speed past this. It’s important.

Whether you are watering azaleas in your front yard or the succulent on your desk, you add water where? To the soil.

Bearing More Fruit

Galatians 5:22 is familiar to many Christians.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

It’s also common to joke that we shouldn’t pray for patience because God will give us opportunities to practice it. But we pray for more love, increased joy, greater peace. We long for more kindness and faithfulness and self-control.

In a good moment when life isn’t overwhelming us, most of us declare we want more evidence of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. We want to bear more fruit and have others see us bearing much fruit. And so we practice or pray for more fruit.

But what did I tell you is important?

The soil. If a farmer wants great apples, he pays attention to the soil. He’ll dig down several inches to grab a sample and send it to a lab for testing. Based on those results, he’ll add nutrients so that the soil is doing its part to feed his trees. He watches the sky, paying attention to rainfall amounts so he knows whether or not to water his orchards himself.

Would it do the apples any good to carefully apply nitrogen or phosphorus to their exterior? Or to mist the apple skins each day with fresh water?

Does this seem silly? Most of us know that apples get their nutrients from the tree, which gets its nutrients from the soil. Apple trees thrive when nitrogen, phosphorous, and adequate water are in the soil, and the tree makes sure the proper nutrients are sent to the fruit.

So why do we focus on bearing more fruit instead of enriching our soil?

Why do we pray for love and joy and peace, rather than working on our relationship with God, the source and giver of love and joy and peace? Why do we strive to practice kindness and gentleness and self-control, but neglect to listen to or obey the Holy Spirit from whom the gifts of the Spirit flow?


We know from research that growth is actually contagious, so if you want to reach your goals, you’ve got to get around people that are going in the same direction you want to be going. ~Henry Cloud, American psychologist and author

We all know what we should do: read the Bible, pray, fellowship with other believers, memorize Scripture, obey when God speaks. This is the way to bearing more fruit.

Sure, it’s slow growth. But God doesn’t insist we grow fast. Rather, He tells us to grow healthy.


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