Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11—NIV)

I have tried my hand at growing fruit trees and, despite the efforts of groundhogs, deer, and children, have enjoyed the taste of homegrown fruit. The mind conjures up memories of the crisp sweetness of an apple picked on a quiet, sunny, September afternoon. That moment of enjoyment was the conclusion to a whole year of preparation, investment, vigilance, patience, and anticipation.

As an amateur orchardist I found that growing an apple is not so simple. There has to be the preparation of the soil before planting for many years of fruitfulness to occur, the choice of compatible trees to increase yield, removal of other plants which can harbor apple tree diseases, study invested in learning the nature of the tree and of the pests which attack it and its fruit, trimming branches with space wide enough to "throw a cat through" as a fellow fruit grower put it, physically removing bugs from the branches and spraying at beneficial times. All this for the taste of apple pie!

Particularly striking to me was the apple tree requirement for a given number of sub-freezing hours in winter in order to produce a crop the following fall. The number of hours was substantial. The trial of the cold when no fruit is possible is what paved the way for fruit to be borne and enjoyed in the idyllic season. God has illustrated in nature the vital truth of our text.

The chastening trials prepared by the paternal hand of God in which He places His adored children are not pleasant for the time being, they are trials. But as sure as the quiet harvest season follows the long sub-freezing days, so the trials yield ("give over") the fruit of righteousness. James 3:18 and Philippians 1:11 speak of this particular fruit. It is a fruit of character, a fruit of conduct, and a fruit of converts. Grow this fruit along with the fruit of holiness (Romans 6:22) and the fruit of praising lips (Hebrews 13:15).

The word "trained" translates the word we get gymnasium from in our day. It means exercise, struggle and strive together. The harvest of the savory fruit is the product of the nature of the living tree coupled with several very necessary factors. The cold snaps, prevailing against the predators, enduring trimming with a view to fruitfulness, cooperation among the saints, and submission to the Lord of the harvest are all orchestrated together to produce in you fruit that remains. Keep your eye on the Master-gardener through the glowering, stormy days knowing that the sunny days of harvest are sure to follow! Are you preparing for fruitfulness even in the difficult times?