I’ve never liked limits. As a child, I remember playing with my toy kitchen when one of my parents came to tell me it was time for a nap. I would beg to stay up. Couldn’t they see I was in the middle of making food for my pretend family? Who has time for a nap? In this economy? No way. The children must be fed.
As the years have ticked by, I still try to resist limitations. To prove to God and myself that I can do enough, contribute enough, and be enough. If I refuse naps and work hard, surely I can bear sufficient fruit to grasp the security and approval my uncertain heart craves.
In a do-all, be-all world, maybe you struggle with this too. Even those of us who trust in the finished work of Christ tend to depend on our works to give us value before others and confidence before the Father. We so often look at our own fruit production to measure our worth rather than staring at the Son and what his merit alone provides.
But there’s a tension here. After all, it’s right to desire a fruitful Christian life. So how can we think wisely about our limits and our productivity?
Designed with Limits
We so often look at our own fruit production to measure our worth rather than staring at the Son and what his merit alone provides.
Consider the blessed man described in Psalm 1. He’s certainly productive—“in all that he does, he prospers” (v. 3). Interestingly though, his life is fueled not by striving against limitations but by delighting in the law of the Lord and living within good boundaries. He’s compared to a tree, and notice what the psalmist says about the tree’s fruit:
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. (v. 3, emphasis added)
The blessed man is like a tree that yields its fruit in its season. His isn’t some hybrid apple-orange-mango-avocado-fig-cherry tree that produces every kind of fruit. Nor is it a tree that produces fruit all the time. This tree bears the fruit it was designed for in the season it was designed for.
Fruit in Season
In our modern Western world, where we have access to almost every kind of produce all year round, it’s easy to forget that fruits and vegetables are designed to be planted and harvested in certain seasons. All the seasons are necessary to bear fruit in season—the affliction of winter to eliminate many damaging insects and pathogens, the tilling and rain in the spring to cultivate new life, the heat of summer to grow and fertilize, and the harvest of fall to bring in the crops and celebrate.
And farmers are busy working in every season. Even when the crops are latent, farmers are working the land, preparing for planting, weeding, or preparing for harvest. So too God is tending to the soil of our hearts in every season, even when we may not see the visible fruit.
One of the most freeing moments of my life came when my pastor told me, “You don’t have to have the key to every door. You don’t have to have the answer to every question.” Maybe you need to hear that too. Like the man in Psalm 1, our fruit production is limited. He bears fruit in season as he’s nourished by the water of life that flows directly from God’s Word. He’s firmly rooted as he chooses to take counsel from its pages rather than from the voices of the world.
Orchard of Blessing
We’re called to bear fruit, yes. But not all of it, all the time. The beauty of the church is that no single member of the body of Christ is responsible for generating the whole harvest. Instead, myriad different fruit trees with roots dug deep into the good soil and living water of Christ create an orchard of blessings for the world, showcasing the glory of the Vine and the Vinedresser.
The beauty of the church is that no single member of the body of Christ is responsible for generating the whole harvest.
Bearing fruit isn’t a burden for branches abiding in the Vine. They’re simply doing what the life of the vine is producing in them. As we abide in Christ, by the work of the Holy Spirit we will bear his fruit. We’ll be fruitful by delighting not in our accomplishments but in the law of the Lord. We’ll prosper not by burning the candle at both ends but by meditating on God’s Word day and night.
Denying our limits isn’t the way to a full harvest. Christ Jesus died to give us not rest from our limitations but rest within our limitations. Not rest once we bear a certain amount of fruit—rest to produce fruit through us. May he receive the glory due his name for whatever fruit he’s working in and out of us in this season.