Of Orchards and Gardens

By Peter Amsterdam


Not long ago, a friend of mine bought a property and planted about 100 fruit trees. He had to clear the land before he could plant the saplings, and now he must drive to the property regularly to tend to them. The trees won’t bear fruit until they are about seven years old, but then they will continue to bear fruit for decades. An apple tree, for example, bears fruit for about 35 years, and a pear tree can bear fruit for over 100 years.

I’ve never planted an orchard, but I did plant a large garden once. The first year was mostly a learning experience, since I’d never gardened before, but the second year my garden bore about 1,000 pounds of potatoes, hundreds of pounds of zucchini, and large quantities of artichokes, corn, lettuce, beans, tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, radishes, and other vegetables. It was a lot of work, but it was fun and fulfilling and made for some healthy eating.

Compared to my friend’s fruit orchard, my garden produced quick results. However, my garden had to be replanted from scratch each year, but his orchard will bear fruit for the rest of his life. I admire his commitment to work seven years with no tangible results in order to reach his long-term goal.

When I had my garden, I was living in Canada, in the western province of British Columbia, and I read about the Canadians who had pioneered the apple industry there. They spaced their saplings far apart to leave room for growth. During the seven years before the trees first bore fruit, they used the open spaces to grow vegetables, which they ate or sold for income. Once the apple trees started bearing fruit, they were able to phase out the vegetable patches and live from the profits of their apple orchards.

They had found a way to balance working for short-term survival with working toward a long-term goal. This is a challenge that is common to most new business ventures: doing what is necessary to survive today, while also making progress toward a future goal. Both short- and long-term goals and plans are necessary. It takes time and effort to both manage on the short term and work toward a fruitful future, but it pays off.

Something else I learned from growing my garden in Canada was that I needed to tailor my work and goals to the local conditions and to the crops themselves. The weather and type of soil were factors beyond my control, and they determined in part what I could grow. If I tried to grow vegetables that weren’t well suited to that region, the plants wouldn’t flourish, no matter what I did.

I also needed to take into consideration the various vegetables’ planting and growing times. I could plant some vegetables when the weather was still quite cold, but I had to wait on planting others until the soil had warmed up. Some grew quickly—radishes, for instance. Those could be harvested within three weeks of planting, but then they would need to be replanted. Others, like tomatoes or green beans, took months to mature but kept producing for the rest of the summer and into early autumn. And with some, like lettuce, I learned to stagger planting times in order to always have some available. Some plants were attacked by pests or disease, while others were hearty enough to withstand just about anything. I had to learn to deal with a number of factors in order for my crops to grow well.

Life is a lot like that. Some things we try are fruitful, and others aren’t. Some ideas work out well in certain circumstances but not in others. Sometimes long-term goals must be put on hold until short-term needs are met.

We also go through our personal seasons—our own versions of spring, summer, autumn, and winter. There are times when all we can do is plant, water, and nurture, putting in lots of time and hard work with nothing to show for it yet. Then there are the first fruits, followed by times of harvest and times when the land lies dormant, when nothing will grow. Seasons come and seasons go. They are part of life, and we must adapt and change with them as best we can.

I recently spoke with a mother of three who had decided to become a nurse. Once she finishes her studies and training, she will have new skills for helping others, doing something that is both personally rewarding and a good source of income. In the meantime, however, it will probably be difficult for her and her family to make ends meet on her husband’s salary alone. Her change of direction will mean sacrifice, but like my friend’s orchard, it will pay big dividends later.

I know others who took low-paying jobs in order to survive while they gained experience that eventually made it possible for them to move on to higher-paying work that was more fulfilling—like planting quick-growing crops to sustain themselves until their longer-term crop came in.

Whether you’re just getting started or have been working at the same job for years, it pays to stop from time to time and take stock. What are your goals in life? How does what you do for a living relate to the things you want most from life? Are your goals in sync with your abilities, personality, and experience? Do you find fulfillment in pursuing those goals, or do you only hope to find fulfillment once you achieve them? How does God fit into the picture?

Jesus gave us the key to happy, fruitful, fulfilling lives when He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.” (John 15:5 ESV) He also said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:16–17 ESV)

If you have Jesus abiding within you, you will bear fruit. If you are following the leading of the Holy Spirit, you will be fruitful. God will help you find your place. He will give you guidance that is tailor-made for you. He will lead you according to what He knows is best, if you are willing to follow. As you do, the fruit will come. It won’t necessarily come quickly, but it will come.

If God should lead you to take a new direction in life, it may be like the first few years of an orchard, which will bear much fruit in the future but require a prolonged period of preparation and early growth. Or He may lead you to invest your time and energy in a variety of things, some of which will bear quick fruit for a season, and others that will bear fruit later for a long time. There may be some seasons of all work and no fruit, followed by seasons of abundant fruitfulness.

Some key elements in doing what God shows you to do are faith, trust, and patience—faith to follow where He leads; trust that when you do, He will come through; and patience to wait for the fruit-bearing season.

Abide in Him, and your fruit will come.

Copyright © Activated Magazine. All rights reserved.


When I’m Not Sure How to Pray

By Steve Hearts

free-bible-studies-online-anchorHe who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.
—1 Corinthians 14:2

Before discovering the gift of tongues (See 1 Corinthians 12:1–11) personally, I’d heard many people pray in tongues, and I often emulated them in order to look like I was “with it.” After a painful relational loss, the Lord began teaching me to praise Him in the midst of my pain. It was at this time that I read the book “Prison to Praise,” by Merlin R. Carothers, where he tells of having received the gift of tongues when he was first baptized in the Holy Spirit.

One night, after reading that book again, I felt an overwhelming urge to get down on my knees and pray. Though I’d done my fair share of praying, it had been a while since I’d been actually driven to my knees.

I began pouring out my heart to the Lord, telling Him things that I wouldn’t have told anyone else. The amazing thing was that it wasn’t me speaking. It was as though someone else were speaking through me. What was more, the words came out in a language not known to me—a brand-new language.

Although in the physical I was on my knees, my spirit began to soar higher than it had in quite some time. As I continued to express myself in this new, unique way, my heart felt lighter and lighter. I was rather puzzled, though, since I was unable to understand a word I said. Right then I heard the Lord say, “You may not understand what you’re saying, but I do.”

When the experience was over, I asked the Lord exactly what had gone on. He answered, “Now you’ve got the gift of tongues. It’s a ‘new language’ I’ve given you to pray in when you’re not sure how else to pray.” This was a pivotal point in my prayer life. I now had a brand-new language He’d given to me.

I came to understand with greater clarity the meaning of Romans 8:26: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” As a child I had memorized this verse, but I hadn’t comprehended it until now.

Many times throughout my adult life, I’ve been faced with situations for which I had no idea how to adequately intercede in prayer, so I simply endured them. Now, however, the Lord was showing me how the Spirit could intercede for me as well as through me. Although the language the Spirit spoke was unknown, I could trust that my petition was being made known in an adequate manner—one that was not my own.

I’ll never forget the time we were notified by a dear friend that her young son had tried to end his life. He now stood precariously on the brink of life and death. My family and I held prayer vigil for him, both together and individually. One particular night, I was so burdened in spirit for this young man that I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t sure how to adequately pray in my own language, so I prayed in my new one.

As I did so, peace flooded over me. I knew I had labored in the power of the Spirit, not my own. This must have been why I did not feel tired the next day, in spite of not having slept a wink the previous night. I felt a divine certainty that a miracle would be performed to restore this fellow’s health and transform him spiritually.

That evening, we were notified that the young man was radically improving and would recover. When I spoke with him on the phone a few days later, he was overflowing with thanks to God for His mercy, as well as for the prayers of all those who had interceded on his behalf. Today he is healthy and pursuing a career.

Are you up against a situation for which you are unsure how to adequately pray? I suggest you ask the Lord to give you a new language to pray in, and you will come to experience the wonders of His Spirit interceding for you.

Copyright © The Family International. All Rights Reserved.