Of Orchards and Gardens
By Peter Amsterdam
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I have a friend who purchased some land and planted about 100 fruit trees a year ago. After he bought the property, he had to clear a lot of large rocks off it, which was no easy task. Then he bought and planted the saplings. He spends time driving to the property to water the trees on a regular basis.
Fruit trees generally take about seven years before they bear fruit. Once they do, they then bear fruit regularly for decades. For example, an apple tree bears fruit for about 35 years; a pear tree can bear fruit for over 100 years.
I was thinking about my friend and his trees this morning, comparing his farming with the gardening I did about 20 years ago when I lived in Canada. At the time we lived on a five-acre (two-hectare) property. For my exercise (it required a lot of digging and hoeing, etc.), I started a large garden. I’d never done any gardening before, so I read a lot about it, and I was able to plant and harvest for two years before I moved. The second year the garden bore about 1,000 pounds of potatoes, hundreds of pounds of zucchini, and large quantities of artichokes, corn, lettuce, beans, tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlics, radishes, and other vegetables. It was a lot of work, but it was fun and fulfilling, and made for some good healthy eating.
In comparison to my friend’s fruit orchard, my garden produced quicker results in the short term. But within several years, his orchard will bear fruit for the rest of his life. His vision is to put in the extra work now so that he will have income over the longer term. I admire his willingness and commitment to put in the seven years of work required to reach his long-term goal, even though there won’t be any immediate returns in the meantime.
When I had my garden, I read about the Canadians who pioneered the apple-growing industry in the province of British Columbia. They planted their apple trees quite a distance apart from each other in order to leave them room to grow. During the seven years before the apple trees bore fruit, they used the space between the trees to plant vegetables, which they harvested and sold for income. Once the apple trees started bearing fruit, they phased out the vegetable growing, and from that time on they lived off the profits of their apple orchards.1
I thought this was an interesting balance of working for short-term survival—dealing with today’s needs—while simultaneously working on a long-term plan. In a sense, this is a principle of success: doing what is necessary to survive today while working toward your goal for the future. Both types of plans and goals are necessary. Some projects or investments take a great deal more time to prosper, but they are worth it. It takes time and effort to both manage on the short term and work toward a fruitful future, but if you’re willing to do it, it pays off.
The goal of the farmers who planted vegetables between their apple trees was to have fruitful orchards for decades to come; but they understood that it would take time for that goal to be realized, and that in the meantime, they needed to live and feed their families. They planned and worked toward their final goal but had no shame in doing other necessary things along the way.
Something else I can attest to from growing my large garden in Canada is that you have to be rather flexible in planting and harvesting, according to the local situation—the weather, the type of soil (its acidity level, clay content, etc.), and how rapidly the various vegetables grow. Some vegetables you could plant when the weather was still quite cold; with others, you had to wait until the soil was warm. As the seasons changed, what could or couldn’t be planted and harvested changed. Some things just didn’t take to the soil that was available. Some plants were attacked by aphids and other bugs. Some got diseased; others were healthy. There were numerous factors to deal with as I tried to successfully grow my crops.
Life is a bit that way as well. Some things you try are fruitful and others aren’t. There are successes and failures. Some ideas don’t pan out so well in certain circumstances. Sometimes you may have to base your shorter-term goals on the need for finances, while working toward your longer-term goals.
In our lives, we also go through our personal seasons—our own versions of spring, summer, autumn, and winter. There are times when we are planting, watering, and nurturing—putting in time and work, but with no fruit to show for it yet. Other times there are the first fruits, when fruit is just beginning to be borne. In time the full harvest is reaped. There are the fall seasons when things taper off, and of course winter when it’s frozen and cold and nothing grows. Seasons come and seasons go. They are part of life. We are faced with what life brings our way, and we must adapt and change with the seasons as best we can.
We are happy to see TFI members tilling, planting, and reaping according to the kind of garden or orchard they want to grow, where and how they want to grow it, doing it the way God specifically leads them. Some are working on short-term projects while also putting effort toward their long-term goals. Others are investing time and resources into studying, or in getting some particular job experience, or establishing themselves in their community, knowing that for some time they won’t seem to be as fruitful as they may have been before, but that what they are learning now will benefit them for years to come. Others are finding that what they were doing before is now no longer the most fruitful option for them, and they are following the Lord into new potential harvest fields. Still others, often those who have been investing in their work for years, even decades, are well established and bearing abundant fruit by continuing on in their ministry.
Jesus talked about how to bear fruit in our lives, stating that if we abide in Him and He abides in us, we will produce fruit.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.2
Jesus also said: I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth…. At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you.3
When we have Jesus and the Holy Spirit abiding within us, we will bear fruit. If we are following the leading of the Holy Spirit, if we’re open to the direction of the Spirit, we will be fruitful. He will move us according to His will if we’ll let Him. He will lead. He will show us where to go, what to do, and how to do it. If we will follow and do what He’s showing us, we will bear fruit.
God’s Spirit dwells in you personally, leading you, giving guidance that is tailor-made for you. You have a personal connection to the Lord and His Spirit, and He will specifically lead you according to His will and your willingness. And when He does, you’re meant to follow according to your personal faith. Don’t feel bad if the way He leads you is different from how He has led you in the past, or how He is leading others today. Don’t be hard on yourself if you’re not bearing the kind of fruit you did before. Don’t be dissuaded from following God’s direction.
From what Jesus said, fruitfulness is connected to God’s Spirit dwelling in us, from which we can infer that it’s also connected to us following where the Holy Spirit leads. As an individual, where the Spirit is leading you personally is where you will be fruitful. Where God leads you is where you should go. When you follow, the fruit will come.
It won’t necessarily be quick fruit. This time in your life may be like the first few years of the orchard, which will bear much future fruit after a period of preparation and growth. Or the Lord may lead you to a variety of things, some of which bear quick fruit and others that bear fruit for a season, and others that will bear fruit later—but for a long time. There may be some seasons that require all work with no fruit, followed by seasons of 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.
Originally published June 2011. Adapted and republished July 2013.
Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso.
1 I mentioned this concept a couple of years ago in “Offensive Briefing #9: Collaboration,” published August 2009.
2 John 15:5 ESV.
3 John 14:16–17, 20 KJV.