For the person unsatisfied with life, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). There is a spiritual hunger in the heart of man that cannot be satisfied with the husks of this world. The prodigal son spoken of by Christ in Luke 15:11-32 discovered this truth, repented of his sins, and went back home. When we do not feed on Christ, we become despondent and full of despair and depression. One of England’s finest preachers was Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892). Frequently, during his ministry, Mr. Spurgeon was plunged into severe depression, due in part to gout. In a biography of the “Prince of Preachers”, Arnold Dallimore wrote, “What he suffered in those times of darkness we may not know…even his desperate calling on God brought no relief. ‘There are dungeons’, Spurgeon said, ‘beneath the castles of despair.'”
For those who are spiritually blind, Jesus said, “I am” the Light of the world” (John 9:1). In 1835 a man visited a doctor in Florence, Italy. He was filled with anxiety and exhausted from lack of sleep. He could not eat, and he avoided his friends. The doctor examined him and found that he was in prime physical condition. Concluding that his patient needed to have a good time, the physician told him about a circus in town and its star performer, an English clown named Joseph Grimaldi (December 18, 1778 – May 31, 1837). Night after night he had the people rolling in the aisles. “You must go and see him,” the doctor advised. “Grimaldi is the world’s funniest clown. He’ll make you laugh and cure your sadness.” “No,” replied the despairing man, “he can’t help me. You see, I am Grimaldi!”
For the heart that is unsure and feels unsafe, Jesus said, “I am the door” (John 10:7), meaning that Jesus is the door of safety. On the Ark which Noah built there was only one door. But all who walked through that door into the Ark were safe from death and destruction. I am not sure who compiled these statistics, but it is said that an average person’s anxiety is focused on 40% of things that will never happen, 30% on things about the past that cannot be changed, 12% – things about criticism by others, mostly untrue, 10% about health, which gets worse with stress, 8% about real problems that will be faced. The only way to have peace of heart and confidence in the future is to trust in Christ.
“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
but wholly lean on Jesus name.
For the person who has lost their moral compass Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11), meaning that Jesus is a Shepherd who can be followed. The moral compass of the heart must be God. Some years ago, when the news broke that Joseph Stalin’s daughter had defected from Communism after fleeing Russia. Many people were startled. Her statement, given to reporters who met her plane in New York, told why she defected: “I found it impossible to exist without God in one’s heart. I came to that conclusion myself, without anybody’s help or preaching. That was a great change because since that moment the main dogmas of Communism lost their significance for me. I have come here to seek the self-expression that has been denied me for so long in Russia.”
Svetlana Stalin’s struggle was a terrible one. To leave Russia, she had to leave two children in Moscow and realize that it might be, as she said, “impossible to go back.” But she paid the price in order to find God and freedom. The sixteenth century French philosophy, Blaise Pascal, said there is within every person a “God-shaped vacuum.” He’s right. Historians, Will and Ariel Durant observed in their summary volume, The Lessons of History, that “there never has been a significant example of morality apart from belief in God.”
For the uninformed, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Proverbs 14:12 notes that, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” A black preacher introduced a guest speaker with the following: “The man we have speaking to us is a man who knows the unknowable, can solve the unsolvable, and can reveal the inscrutable.”
For the person who feels dead, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26)
Thinking of the fullness and duration of this wonderful life, W. B. Hinson, a great preacher of a past generation, spoke from his own experience just before he died. He said, “I remember a year ago when a doctor told me, ‘You have an illness from which you won’t recover.’ I walked out to where I live 5 miles from Portland, Oregon, and I looked across at that mountain that I love. I looked at the river in which I rejoice, and I looked at the stately trees that are always God’s own poetry to my soul. Then in the evening I looked up into the great sky where God was lighting His lamps, and I said, ‘ I may not see you many more times, but Mountain, I shall be alive when you are gone; and River, I shall be alive when you cease running toward the sea; and Stars, I shall be alive when you have fallen from your sockets in the great down pulling of the material universe!’”
For the fruitless one, Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (John 15:1-8).
What is spiritual fruit? The New Testament gives several answers to the question.
First, developing Christian character is fruit. If the goal of the Christian life may be stated as Christlikeness, then surely every trait developed in us that reflect the Lord’s character must be fruit that is very pleasing to Him. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23). Peter urges the development of seven accompaniments to faith in order that we might be fruitful.
“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8).
Second, right character will result in right conduct, and as we live a life of good works we produce fruit. “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).
This goes hand in hand with increasing in the knowledge of God, for as we learn what pleases Him, our fruitful works become more and more conformed to that knowledge. When Paul expressed how torn he was between the two possibilities of either dying and being with Christ, or living on in this life, he said that living on would mean fruitful labor or work. “But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not (Phil. 1:22). This phrase could mean that Paul’s work itself was fruit, or fruit would result from his work. In either case, his life and work were fruit. So may ours be.
Third, those who come to Christ through our witness are fruit. Paul longed to go to Rome to have some fruit from his ministry there (Romans 1:13), and he characterized the conversion of the household of Stephanas as the first fruits of Achaia (I Corinthians 16:15).
Fourth, Christians may also bear fruit with our lips by giving praise to God, and by thankfully confessing His name. “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name (Heb. 13:15). Our lips bear fruit when we offer thankful acknowledgement to the name of God. And this is something we should do continually.
Finally, when we give of our resources to advance the work of the kingdom of God, we bear spiritual fruit. Paul designated the collection of money for the poorer saints in Jerusalem as fruit. “When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain” (Rom. 15:28).
When Paul thanked the Philippians for their financial support of his ministry, he said that their act of giving brought fruit to their account. “Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account” (Phil. 4:17). (Charles Ryrie, So Great Salvation). Freely we have received God’s grace so that freely we might give to the work of the Lord and reflect His great grace.