As I indicated last spring when I did a devotional about the fragrance of blossoms, we have a fruit orchard with a variety of cherry, apple and plum trees. This spring the trees were loaded with blossoms and thanks to the diligent work of our honey bees we were blessed with an abundance of fruit. Some of it was ripe enough to pick before we left for Oregon a couple weeks ago, but some we waited to pick when we got home. Well, while we were gone, a bear decided to come and help us pick! Knowing he would be back, we picked all but one tree of golden delicious apples which really needed to go a couple more weeks. We placed all kinds of obstacles in and around the tree to discourage the bear, but to no avail. He was not deterred and still managed to crawl up the inside of the tree and out onto the branches, reaching many of the apples and doing much damage to the tree. Judging from how far he could reach as well as the size of the “deposits” he left in exchange, he is a rather large bear. So, we had to hurry and pick the rest of the apples on the tree. We also have a crab apple tree which we thought we had thoroughly picked but the bear found one cluster of apples on the end of a high up branch and also crawled up in that tree and out on that branch which he bent to the ground. Obviously the bear was willing to “go out on a limb,” knowing that’s where the fruit is.
The New Testament has a lot to say about bearing fruit. Jesus said, as recorded by the Apostle John, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain…” (Jn. 15:16). He also said, “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (15: 8).
But just how can we as believers “bear fruit” for Christ? Well, to begin with, we must do what Jesus commanded earlier in His sermon. He said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 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” (Jn. 15:4,5). Fruit is not what we produce for Him. It is what He produces in us when we abide in Him and He abides in us. We abide in Him by depending upon Him and by spending time in His Word and obeying His commands, trusting fully in Him and not in our own abilities, by letting Him control and use us for His glory.
We must also, like our bear visitor, be willing to “go out on a limb” where the fruit is. That is, we must be willing to step out of our comfort zones, take risks, and step out in faith. Someone said, there are two kinds of people in churches—risk takers and caretakers. If the risk takers are ruled by the caretakers, they will go to the undertakers with little to show for their lives. Without risks, there can be no growth, no positive achievements. Consider the turtle: he makes progress only when he sticks his neck out. You can’t get to second if you keep your foot on first base! A ship may be safe moored in the harbor, but that is not what ships are built for.
It is very tempting for us to get comfortable with the status quo and not be willing to take risks for the kingdom. We are doing just fine with things as they are. Life is good. The water is calm here in the harbor. We’re sure not going to go out a limb. What if…..??? So we just “sit and soak and sour” and we bear no fruit. The church I pastored for some 37 years stepped out in faith, took some risks, and started a Christian school which had a great impact on lots of young people. We also started a Bible camp which is still being effectively run by Rocky Mountain Bible Mission, reaching hundreds of children, youth as well as adults throughout the year. We also began an AWANA program for children which is ongoing. These all required risk, and moving out of our comfort zones. We could have just been satisfied with a “We four and no more” attitude, but would never have had the joy of seeing the fruit that God produced—and is producing—by being willing to, in faith, “go out on a limb” for Him. Just remember, He literally “went out on a limb” for us at Calvary!
So, stop sitting on the premises and start standing on the promises. “Why not go out on a limb for God? Isn’t that where the fruit is?” (Frank Scully). “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God” (William Carey, missionary to India).