Fruitful: A Forty Day Devotional: A Review
Everyone desires to live the “good life.” Most people want a productive and successful life, with happy relationships, pleasures, financial security, peace, and comfort. Some strive for a life of notoriety or fame on a grand scale and desire a platform and a ‘following.’ Productivity, good relationships, enjoying life’s pleasures, security and peace are indeed blessings from the Lord, and a platform can be well stewarded. Christians, however, ought to have a higher aim. We ought to, above all else, desire a life of fruitfulness. What is fruitfulness, exactly? What kind of fruit should we cultivate in our lives, and how do we do it? In Fruitful (Crossway, 2024), a 40-day devotional for women edited by Megan Hill and Melissa Kruger, we are directed to aim for a life overflowing with the beautiful fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Using the list of the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians chapter five, the various authors explain what each ‘fruit’ is and what it looks like in practice, challenging us to examine our lives and hearts to see if we are cultivating love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Recognizing that our growth in the Lord is a gift enabled by His gracious work of sanctification in us, we are exhorted to seek greater obedience to the commands of scripture: not as white-knuckled drudgery, but as a rewarding process of repentance producing actions and attitudes that are a blessing to others and glorifying to our God. We bear fruit by looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) as we practice loving him by our obedience.
Just as apples don’t go from flower to fruit overnight, so spiritual fruit grows slowly and steadily by the nourishing work of the Holy Spirit through the means of grace. Fruitful reminds the reader that hearing the Word preached regularly and meditating on it throughout our days is key. Prayer, alone and with others is vital. The sacraments point us to the realities of our identity in Christ and cause us to praise and thank Him for His work of reconciliation on our behalf.
Fellowship and relationships with other believers provide strengthening, encouragement, and opportunities to serve. These means of grace are the sun, soil, and water in the life of a Christian, ripening the spiritual fruit that we desire to see in our hearts and lives.
The authors encourage us to look to our Savior, because each of the fruits of the Spirit are found in fullness and perfection in Christ. It was love that led Christ to the cross to do the will of the Father, and being recipients of this great love should cause us to be known by our love for others. The joy of the Lord is ours because we have all we need in Him. We experience and promote peace because we have received reconciliation with God, and so know ultimate peace. Realizing how vastly patient and kind God is toward us gives us the desire to be patient with others. Our Triune God is perfectly faithful, good, gentle, and faithful. All spiritual fruit is a gift from our Father.
The mediations on self-control are especially encouraging, presenting this fruit as the one that allows all the others to flourish and grow. Speaking of Christ’s 40-day fast and temptation by Satan in the wilderness: “How was Jesus able to exhibit such self-control? The secret lies in understanding his highest goal. He wanted to eat, but he wanted something else even more. He was hungry for God’s glory. His food was to do the will of God (John 4:34). When bringing glory to Christ is our greatest desire, we can say no to anything that jeopardizes that goal.”
Each section of the book begins with scripture and is followed by a relatable application. Then, there are further Bible references to look up and meditate on. The chapters conclude with a model prayer to facilitate self-examination and to seek the Lord’s blessing to give growth. Incorporating the theme of fruit in a fun and creative way, a variety of from-scratch homey recipes are scattered between the chapters. The recipes for cobbler, muffins, sauces, and jams will inspire creativity in the kitchen, and reinforce the truth that physical fruit, like spiritual, is a sweet and gracious gift from God.
Women of all ages and stages of life will find here relatable, thoughtful, and uplifting meditations to “spur us on to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). Fruitful impresses the heart with the truth that living to glorify God through increasing fruitfulness is truly “the good life.”
Candice Dennis is married to Kevin, and they have eight children and one son-in-law, all of them loved. She currently homeschools the last three at home, is training to become a certified biblical counselor, and enjoys reading, decorating, thrifting, and generally being a homebody.