Some kids throw paper wads at each other. When my brother and I were younger, we pelted one another with hackberries. It would have been an odd weapon of choice, except for the fact that one of the largest trees in our backyard was a hackberry tree. In the spring and summer, the tree produced a seemingly endless supply of green, tough hackberries, which were good for nothing but picking off the tree and throwing at each other. Though collecting the little berries from the high branches was time-consuming, we gathered them as ammunition for many a hackberry battle. As a result, even once the days of juvenile warfare were over, I retained a fondness for the hackberry tree, and still occasionally pick a few to toss playfully at my brother.
The hackberry tree has gone through some difficult times in the past few years. It lost several branches to an ice storm, and a huge section of bark was stripped off when it was struck by lightning. We lost many other trees in the yard to storms, ice, and disease. After another harsh winter, we were not sure if the hackberry tree was going to make it. But spring came, and then another, then another. And every year, once again, there were hackberries to throw. That the tree still produced its fruit proved that it was still alive, despite all it had been through. It proved that its roots grew deep.
Matthew 7:17-20 says,
In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.
The products of our lives are not determined by our circumstances. They’re determined by the source of our life. When we are rooted in Christ, no matter what storms or trials come, we still have the ability to produce good fruit. To do things that count. To make a difference. To show love. To obey. We may be broken and weather-beaten, but we are still connected to God. We cannot be uprooted. The Spirit still flows in us.
Sometimes, believers act like because they are going through trials, they are disconnected from God. Forget about producing good fruit– they just want to survive from one day to the next. We all do it. It’s just too much to survive and flourish when the surviving part is so difficult.
But Paul says we are created for good works (Eph. 2:10). Flourishing should be part of our surviving– in fact, it’s the purpose of surviving. Our life comes from God, who is glorified by our good works (Matt. 5:16) because he is the very source that enables them!
In my experience, it’s often in the roughest times that we can produce the best fruit or the fruit that is more clearly noticed by those around us. Perhaps it’s because they require us to fully depend on God.
No matter what the conditions of the time, if the fruit is good or bad always points back to our source.