How Spiritual Practices Help Us Live a Fruitful Life With God

When we lived in the south of France during my junior-high years, we had a cherry tree in our small backyard. Our house shared walls with a row of houses on a busy street near the edge of town. My parents had chosen to rent this house for all the space it afforded us: three stories tall, and the first floor had enough room to host Bible studies, crucial to my parents’ work as missionaries.

The backyard was an unexpected bonus, and the cherry tree in the far corner was, well, the cherry on top!

Every spring the tree would burst with blossoms and by mid-June we were overrun with juicy red cherries. We would munch the fruit from the tree, and eventually collect all the cherries from its branches. My mom was overwhelmed by the abundance.

“What am I supposed to do with all these cherries?” she would ask.

A fruitful, flourishing life

The apostle Paul describes the life of Jesus-followers as similarly abundant in fruit. When we are led by the Spirit, the fruit will be “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

This is not meant to be a spiritual to-do list, causing shame and guilt in our hearts. Rather, it’s a description of what happens when we are led by the Spirit and rooted in Christ. Paul says elsewhere:

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” (Ephesians 3:16-17, NLT)

We produce fruit in our lives not from our own anxious striving, but from the “inner strength of his Spirit.” Our very rootedness in God’s love is the thing that keeps us strong (we are motivated by our rootedness in God’s love instead of fear in God’s judgement. There’s a big difference, here!)

In her book But I Flourish, Aimee Walker notes:

“If I want to live a fruitful, flourishing life, I must shift my emphasis from doing to being. I must learn to be present to God. I must cultivate intimacy with Him.”

No one aims to live a stale life, withering on a branch. Far better to become like the palm tree and the cedar described in Psalm 92:

“But the godly will flourish like palm trees
and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.
For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house.
They flourish in the courts of our God.
Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
they will remain vital and green.
They will declare, “The Lord is just!
He is my rock!
There is no evil in him!”

(Psalm 92:12-15, NLT)

How to cultivate a fruitful life

How do we cultivate the kind of intimacy with God that allows us to flourish and bear fruit?

The best way I know to connect with God in relationship is by engaging in spiritual practices. For a long time, I thought of these only in broad terms like Bible study, prayer, and corporate worship. Spiritual practices were what you did during a specific time of day set aside for God—a “quiet time” if you will.

But over the years, I’ve learned that connecting with God doesn’t have to be relegated to a specific block of time. I’ve discovered that there are plenty of spiritual practices that help me connect with God all the time, even throughout the most ordinary of days.

how spiritual practices help us live a fruitful life with God

Why bother with spiritual practices?

We do not engage in spiritual practices to “earn” our salvation in any way. Rather, we engage in them for three main reasons:

1. To know God more intimately

Sometimes, we know a lot about God—accumulating facts and Bible stories—but we stop there. Just like I wouldn’t commit my life in marriage to someone who I only knew from his online dating profile, why would I commit my all to a God about whom I only knew some dry facts, handed down to me by other Christians over time?

No, I would rather experience God for myself. Spiritual practices help me do this.

2. To become more and more like Jesus

The goal of every Christian is sanctification—the process of becoming more and more like Jesus. The apostle Paul tells us that “we are being transformed into [Christ’s] likeness” (2 Cor. 3:18) and that God “predestined [us] to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Rom. 8:29).

This transformation that causes us to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus happens over a lifetime. It is not a passive endeavor but instead requires us to model our lives after the character of Jesus. Spiritual practices help us engage in this effort.

3. To bless others with our fruit

We do not follow Jesus to reap rewards and blessings for ourselves, expecting wealth and prosperity in exchange for our faithfulness. Rather, the result of a deepening and growing relationship with God is the fruit we bear to bless others, obvious to everyone around us.

Just like my mom used our over-abundance of cherries to make pies and syrups for friends and neighbors, our intimate connection with God will result in an overflow of love towards those around us.

What counts as a spiritual practice?

So what, exactly, is a spiritual practice? John Ortberg, in his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted, defines it this way:

“Any activity that helps me live life as Jesus taught and modeled it.”

And how do we know if we are living like Jesus? Ortberg explains:

“…the true indicator of spiritual well-being is growth in the ability to love God and people.”

Defined this way, there are as many spiritual practices out there as we can think of!

Richard Foster, in his book Celebration of Discipline, divides them into inward (practiced individually and privately), outward (affects how we interact with the world) and corporate (practiced alongside others.)

Theologian Dallas Willard divides them into practices of engagement (connecting with God and with others) and abstinence (detaching us from hurry, clutter, and busyness.)

Adele Calhoun, in her book The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, categorizes spiritual practices according to our God-given desires (“How do I want or need to be with God?”)

Since the point of spiritual practices is to love God and people, I have found it helpful to divide them into four categories of connection: connecting with God through prayer, Scripture, others, and soul.

How can we engage in spiritual practices?

I’ll be taking a deep dive into just HOW busy women like us can engage in spiritual practices. Join me for a free 5-day challenge on Facebook from February 6th to 10th (2023) called “Spiritual Practices for the Busy Modern Woman.”

Each day we’ll be covering an uncommon or unconventional spiritual practice that is especially suited for busy women like us. There will be a short live video each of the five days with a practical takeaway for you to try on your own.

It’s my hope and prayer that this 5-day challenge will equip you with some new tools to help you connect with God on a deeper level.

You can join the Facebook group here, and I’ll be popping in to the group the closer we get to February 6th.

Our lives of faith are always better together… Let’s do this!

**For the password to access the Free for You library, be sure to sign up below to get The Scoop, a twice a month newsletter filled with helpful links to the best posts and podcasts to encourage you in your journey of faith and motherhood!

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*Feature Photo by Olivia Watson on Unsplash

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

4 thoughts on “How Spiritual Practices Help Us Live a Fruitful Life With God

  1. I’m having a crisis of faith, sort of. I’ve been reading your blog for a few years and am hoping you have some insight.
    When something horrible is happening in the life of a loved one (or my life), what do I make of “God is my refuge”, “God will protect me”, “God will keep me safe” type of verses, most of which are found in the Psalms and a few other OT books. Because God is not literally protecting my mom or keeping her safe. These verses are everywhere and quoted often by daily devotionals, so I see and hear them almost daily. Am I supposed to read all these many, many verses as hyperbole or allegory or are they meant for the Jewish people? Or is it talking about spiritual refuse? Or can I only receive comfort from these verses as they are referring to safety/refuge only in heaven? I have been struggling with this for over a year. In my mind I finally settle on “embrace the mystery” but sometimes that feels hollow. Thank you for any insight you have. Stephanie Belden

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    1. Hi Stephanie, thanks for reaching out! I’m sorry to hear that you are in a hard season of faith right now. I know exactly what you’re talking about when you referenced devotionals that pull from the Psalms and make everything seem rosy. But the Psalms are also a place of deep lament, where the writers accuse God of forgetting about us or abandoning us. (I’m thinking in particular of Psalm 22, 44, as well as Psalm 88 which doesn’t even end on a hopeful note whatsoever!) I think there are so many natural ups and downs in life that those verses of praise (God is my refuge, will keep me safe, etc) are just as true as when we are looking for God to rescue us and God seems nowhere to be found (also reflected in the Psalms). Personally, I don’t believe that we can only expect comfort in heaven. God promised to be with us always, and when God’s presence seems nowhere to be found in our darkest night, we trust anyway. It’s so hard. But I do believe that God can and does comfort us now. Two books that have helped me tremendously in this regard are: “Learning to Walk in the Dark” by Barbara Brown Taylor, and “This Too Shall Last” by K.J Ramsey. I’ll be praying that you are somehow reminded – daily – of God’s loving presence with you, even when circumstances seem grim!

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      1. Wow. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my email. It means a lot. I have printed it out and will reread it.

        I did some massive biblical researching and reading the past few days, including the email from you. It has helped tremendously when I remember what I have forgotten: That so many of the psalms and OT promises were written for a specific person, or group of people or even the Nation of Israel. So many of those promises were specific to time, place and people, and not necessarily specific to current believers, even though they can be comforting, and I remember now, do tell me about who God is. I can count on those promises to “protect me”, etc., in a spiritual way.

        I woke up at 10:30 last night and was awake until 4:30 a.m. thinking about so many things; NOT tossing and turning, but my brain was very, very busy! Towards 2 a.m. I was able (I think) to finally put those OT promises in their place, in my mind. Thank you for your part in that!

        And then I came full circle to the real problem for me the past 2 years: Romans 8:28. I used to say it and count on it often. Yes, it is comforting, super comforting. Until your mom gets dementia. Pastors say “‘all things’ means all things.” My husband Jerry keeps telling me that he sees God working through Mom’s dementia for MY good, or for the caregivers’ good through our love for them, and it will be for Mom’s good when she goes home to Heaven, and yes I get that. I get that suffering and bad things happen to everyone. The verse says that all things work for the good of those who love God. But dementia itself is NOT working for Mom’s good. At all. In any way, shape or form. She barely remembers who God is. Is God lying? Is it translated improperly? Do we as humans not get what God wants us to get? This is the verse that made me start thinking about “Embrace the Mystery.”

        I have gone around and around with this verse with my husband the past year. Last night I was thinking heavily on this. My brain works differently than Jerry’s. Jerry’s thoughts are “if the Bible says it’s true, then I believe it. I may not understand, but I believe it.” He thinks very much in black and white, very little gray. I want to make sense of things and if it doesn’t make sense, or if it seems like a Bible verse is not true (as Rom. 8:28 now does to me), I want to know what it means. My thinking is black and white and gray, equal parts. As I lay there thinking yet again about this verse, I thought “I think this verse needs to be in the gray area. In fact, the more I think about it, maybe it’s not even gray, maybe it’s almost transparent. If I can stick my hand through this transparent verse just hanging there in the gray, maybe I will see God grab my hand on the other side of it.” And tears started, but I tried not to cry as I didn’t want to wake up Jerry.

        Okay, I totally understand that you don’t know me at all, but I am perfectly sane and have no leanings toward the charismatic at all (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). Or maybe I can say it WAS 2 a.m.!

        But I kept picturing Rom. 8:28 floating in the gray, looking transparent or translucent, and I kept sticking my hand through it asking God to “grab my hand, tell me what I need to know, because I don’t want to keep wrestling with this verse anymore. I know you can do it, God, just tell me or show me or give me some kind of peace with it.”

        Anyway, I thought you might want to hear this since you invested time into your response. I will see how God answers me. It seems like a pretty decent ask. I’m not asking for the moon, or riches. Or is this verse going to be a thorn in my side all my life? I will see what happens. Again, thank you so much for your part in my story.

        May God send showers of blessing to you!

        Stephanie

        PS. Thank you for praying for me!!! ❤

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