The fruit of the Spirit ripens after harvest. Bananas go from green to yellow as they sit in the grocery store. Avocados are not ready to eat until they have darkened too. Likewise, strawberries grow sweeter after picking. These thoughts resonated with me this week as I thought about the fruit of the Spirit that still ripens after we die.
Last week I flew to Arizona to sit with my father-in-law. He was in the hospital. I just learned he had metastatic cancer that was rapidly spreading through his body. He stopped eating and drinking and had only days to live. A ninety-five-year-old vessel that I never knew to be sick a day of his life. Even in his old age, he lived alone, drove a car, worked in his yard, helped the neighbors, and fully comprehended his surroundings. This was a man that spent his life carrying for his family. In addition, he was the primary caregiver for his wife who died from Alzheimer’s. He was, as Little Pot knows, a fruit-bearing vessel with many branches and much fruit.
A vessel returns to dust while the fruit of the spirit ripens
A vessel returns to dust and can no longer produce fruit. Or can it?
My father-in-law died Monday. Throughout the last few days, as I helped make burial arrangements and began to go through his life in pictures and documentation, I’ve thought about the legacy he leaves behind. The fruit that he leaves will continue to ripen even though he is not here.
This man adopted a baby boy and a baby girl over fifty years ago. Consequently, he and his bride chose to raise two children from unplanned pregnancies. Providing them with a Christ-centered home meant I would one day meet a godly man, marry him, and benefit from the fruit of the Spirit they produced. As we often do, reflecting on someone else’s life can cause us to evaluate our own.
Over the past several years, I’ve considered how God produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control through us. God grows that fruit through the earthly vessels we occupy. After all, this website, inspirational children’s books, and creative teaching resources are created with that purpose in mind. However, this past week, I realized the fruit of the Spirit still ripens even when the vessel no longer exists.
The fruit of the Spirit ripens after it is picked
Therefore, I am thankful for the love my father-in-law grew and the joy he felt knowing he would soon be with Jesus. At one point these past few days he looked up at me and said, “1 Peter 3:10.” When I asked him what that verse said, he quoted the first phrase “The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night”. He then said, “The Lord is coming for me tonight”. I know he also was wanting everyone around him to know that their time would come someday and they needed to be ready too.
He had already had a tombstone engraved for himself when his wife passed. He had 2 Corinthians 5:7 etched into the marker. As I read that verse and all the surrounding verses it became apparent this was a man that confidently knew he was leaving an earthly vessel to receive a new heavenly body.
2 Corinthians 5 – Leaving this vessel behind
Verses eight and nine speak of preferring to be away from the body and present with the Lord. They explain that our goal in both circumstances must be to please him. The groaning and longing for Christ in this life (vs. 4) fashions us for God’s purpose of fruit-bearing. Likewise, God’s gift of the Holy Spirit guarantees us what is to come after death (vs. 5).
The question then remains for each of us, have we received this gift of the Holy Spirit? Do we know as confidently as my father-in-law did that God’s spirit is what is producing love, joy, peace, etc. through us? It is available to us if we choose to accept it. When we believe that Christ died in our place and forgave us for our sins, we are reconciled to Him and will live lives for Him. (vs. 14-17). It is that simple.
Explaining death to children
Explaining death to children, however, is not so simple. We want them to know that while this person is no longer with us, parts of them continue to live on in our memories. Knowing that God can produce the fruit of the Spirit through us as we live can give substance to the goodness we leave behind. Children are able to observe fruit can be replanted and grow through different vessels. The following books can help you explain death to children.
Being the fruit-bearing vessel God wants you to be
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