The other day I was reading John 12:23-26 and was struck by the message in verse 24: If the seed doesn’t die, it remains alone and never bears fruit.
It made me think of the little seeds of basil, parsley, and cilantro I had just planted in my garden. In order to be transformed into beautiful and useful plants, the seeds have to die.
If I refuse to put them in the ground and cover them with dirt, they won’t bear fruit.
The Fruit of the Spirit
This is true for us as well: If we want the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control), we need to walk in the Spirit and die to our own desires and have-to-haves (Galatians 5:13-25).
If we refuse to die, we’ll be like those little seeds I just planted, only a tiny little shadow of what we could become if we allow God to do anything with us.
Just think of your own renewing of the mind project, if you’re working on one. Is there anything you need to die to in order to see the fruit of the Spirit? Here are a few examples:
Things We Made Need to Die To If We Want to Grow
- If I refuse to die to my desire to do what I want when I want, I won’t get the fruit of self-control, which is what I need if I’m doing a weight loss project or a breaking a habit project.
- If I refuse to die to my “right” to have everyone treat me the way I think they should treat me, I’ll miss out on the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and gentleness, which is what I need if I’m working on an annoyance/anger or insecurity project.
- If I refuse to die to my desire to finish my to-do list at all costs, I’ll miss out on the fruit of joy, peace, and possibly love, depending on what’s getting in the way of a completed list. Plus I’ll have a hard time letting go of stress and worry.
- If I refuse to die to my desire to have a comfortable life, avoid decisions, and do whatever I feel like doing, I’ll miss out on the fruits of self-control and faithfulness, which is what I need if I’m working on a goal or a procrastination project.
The truth is, if we want to grow and mature as Christians, we need to die—just like those little seeds I planted.
As I was thinking about this, I thought it would be interesting to compare gardening with personal growth. This is what I came up with:
The seed has to die to get the fruit. It’s the only way.
We have to die to ourselves to get the fruit of the Spirit. It’s the only way.
The early stage of the process is a little dark and dreary. The seed is underground in the dark for quite awhile.
Growth is a spiritual battle, and the spiritual battle is often most intense in the beginning of the growth process. It can feel a little dark in the beginning.
The fruit takes a LONG time to grow. More than a few weeks!
If you dig up the seed before it grows long enough, you won’t get the fruit, even if you’ve already put in a lot of time to water and weed it.
If we stop doing spiritual warfare and renewing our minds, we won’t see the fruit either unless God surprises us with instant transformation. Too often we stop too soon — right before we would have seen some growth if we had persevered.
The better we take care of the tree (or the basil, parsley, and cilantro), the better the fruit will look. Our job is to plant, water, and weed, but God is the One who makes the fruit grow.
The more we do our part in transformation, the more we’ll grow. Our job is to renew our minds, abide in the Word, memorize the Word, walk in the Spirit, abide in Jesus, and fight with spiritual weapons. God is the One who makes the fruit (of the Spirit) grow.
There is more fruit some years than others.
Don’t be discouraged if you’re not seeing fruit. Check to make sure you’re doing your part (see the square above this), but if you are, don’t worry about the results. God’s in charge of transformation. Believe that He who began a good work in you will complete it (Philippians 1:6).
I’ve also written a study below that I’ve been using when I don’t feel like dying to whatever God is calling me to die to. If you’re struggling with the same thing, I hope this helps!
Personal Growth Study
- Think of your own life. In what area(s) of your life is God calling you to die?
- Why do you think He wants you to die in that area of your life?
- What would dying in this area look like? In other words, what you have to be willing to do (or give up)?
- When you think of doing that (or giving that up), what are you most afraid of?
- Read Philippians 2:3-8 and John 12:23-26. Why do you think God asks us to die to ourselves?
- When we die to ourselves, we receive two different types of fruit: the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and the fruit of the impact we can have on the lives of others. Who will you serve by dying to yourself? (Note: It’s a given that you’ll serve God, but who else in your life would be benefited by you dying to yourself?)
- Read Galatians 5:22-23 again. Which of the fruit of the Spirit will you receive through dying to yourself in this area of your life? Circle any that apply: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and/or self-control.
- When you think of everything you’ll gain by dying to yourself, is it worth the sacrifice?
- Spend some time meditating on Galatians 5:13-25, Philippians 2:3-8, and John 12:23-26. (I came up with this study through meditating on John 12:23-26!)