You're standing, once again, in that overgrown wood that you can't really call a garden. There is hardly anything redeeming about it. It's packed with rocks and thorns. Vines block out the sun from reaching the ground. The place is a wreck. You've visited the unkempt property for weeks now but haven't seen a change. Once more, you spend the morning staring at the weeds and thorns, trying to get motivated. You have no idea what to do. You reiterate your need for some advice.
You reach for your back pocket, seeing if the seed envelope is still there. You find it and pull it into the sunlight. After flipping it over, your eyes rest on the handwritten phone number scrawled across the envelope flap. The feed store clerk’s number is a gardening lifeline. You reach for your phone, and in another second, the line is ringing.
“Hello,” a lady says on the other end.
“Garden department, please,” you say.
“Well, Honey, you called my kitchen phone. I could go and pick up the one by my bed if you want.” The woman says.
“Is this Bart’s Feed Store?” you ask.
“Nope, it’s my house,” she says.
"Oh, sorry, wrong number," you say and hang up embarrassed. You must have typed the digits wrong. You look at the envelope again. Within another few seconds, you've dialed, and the phone is ringing once more.
“Garden department,” a lady’s voice says. You’re almost sure it is the same voice.
“Uh, is this—” you start to say, but she cuts you off.
“Still my house,” she says.
“Oh, I’m really sorry. She must have given me the wrong number or something.”
“Who are you trying to reach?” she asks. You look at the envelope and read the numbers.
“I said, who not what number." she says. You glance back at the envelope flap. Before you can read the name, the woman says, "It's written right there next to the number in blue ink."
"Aunt Loola?" you say, letting the question color your tone.
“The one and only.”
“You gave me your personal number?”
“I only work at the feed store one day a week. I always give my home number in case of a gardening emergency.”
“It’s not an emergency,” you say. “It’s just that I— I— have no idea what to do. How do I keep the tree from drying out? How do I make sure I’m not overwatering or under watering? How do I—” you trail off.
“You got to learn to ask the right question first.” she says.
“What do you mean?” you ask.
“See, there you go again asking the wrong question,” she says as she chuckles warmly. You begin to pace in the yard.
"When you first rang my phone, you asked for the garden department; when you got an answer, you assumed that something had gone wrong. Usually, people are asking the wrong questions." she says.
"Oh, ok," you say, taken aback. This feisty old lady was bold. You smile at her gall.
“Since you’re just getting started, I’ll give you this one for free,” she says. “The question you have to ask is this: what’s the goal of your garden?”
“I— uh,” you stall out.
“The ultimate purpose of the garden is—” her voice is expectant.
"You kind of caught me off guard there," you say.
“Ok. Is the grand gardening goal to water the right amount?”
“No, I don’t guess so.”
“That’s your first assignment, to figure out what the ultimate goal of your garden is,” she says.
“Assignment?” you ask. “I didn’t know there would be homework.”
“Hey, you planted the seed.”
“I know,” you say. “I guess I was expecting some advice that is a little more specific.”
"You don't need specifics; you need to figure out what your garden's goal is," she says. When you don't respond right away, she adds, "Ok, Honey. Thanks for calling. Call anytime."
The phone beeps, and the call ends. "Well, that was weird," you say, returning your phone to your pocket. You stare at the seed pouch. After a long moment, you glance to the garden, considering what Aunt Loola said.
As bizarre as the conversation was, you see a seed of truth in it. You planted the seed without any consideration for the goal. What is the goal? You think. You’re pacing now, hand on your chin.
"What is the goal," you say, exasperated. The question swells in your mind. It begs an answer. As you look at the wild patch of overgrowth, the question echos, ringing louder as it morphs and changes. "What's my ultimate goal here?" you say louder this time.
Hidden under the immense tangle of weeds and thorns is the tiniest sprig of a fruit tree. The last time you saw, its growth was stalled by the intense competition. Though it hurts your hands, you part the thorns with your tender palms. Down below the brush, you can see that the sprig is still alive, but it's in danger. If it doesn't find a path to the light, it will inevitably be choked to the point where it can never bear fruit.
“What’s my ultimate goal?” you say. With a sudden parting of the clouds, you realize the desired result. You see the purpose of the garden, the tree, the battle, the struggle. This single goal will drive you forward. You sharpen your focus and fixate on the one thing that matters. The goal is to bring that fruit tree to fruition. “FRUIT,” you shout with joy. “My ultimate goal is fruit!” It’s like a bit of bottled lightning loosed in your mind. You have a new goal, a new purpose, a new mission.
The grand garden goal is fruit. You want fruit to spring from the tree. You want that sweet outcome. You suddenly feel the goal automatically reorganizing your priorities. You feel invigorated and energized. Realizing the purpose of the garden gives you hope and excitement. The ultimate goal becomes your guiding star. It becomes your compass bearing. It's a great feeling. You reach for your cell and dial.
“It’s fruit, abundant fruit!” you nearly shout into the phone. Aunt Loola giggles with excitement as you exclaim.
“That’s right. The grand gardening goal is fruit!” she confirms.
“So, now what?” you say, ready to get started.
“Now it’s my nap time,” she says. You hang up feeling a sense of accomplishment. You’ve found your purpose.
Now, are you ready to find out what the ultimate purpose of your Christian life is? Do you want to know God's goal for your life? I've made you wait long enough. Are you ready? Here it is:
Jesus said that He came to do two things. He came to give life (eternal) and to give life more abundantly.1 If you've believed in Jesus for eternal life, then the point of you sticking around any longer is to have abundant life. Since you have already received Jesus' gift of eternal life, assuming you're a believer, the next step is to realize that your ultimate goal, the magnificent purpose of your remaining time on this planet, is to have an abundant life.
Paul talked about the same idea when he said, You belong to him who was raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God.2 The goal of your time on Earth as a believer is that you bear fruit abundantly. That’s what you’re here for. That’s why God didn’t just suck you up into Heaven the moment you believed.
Now, some may give a sigh of disappointment, thinking that sounds pretty stuffy and boring. Wait just a moment. This is what you're designed to do. This is what you're here for. Before you leave the garden in a huff, let's see what a fruit-filled abundant life would look like. For that, Paul gives us a simple answer.
Paul said, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.3 You should breathe a sigh of relief. In fact, you should be jumping up and down right now. The goal of your life is not to be locked into endless prayer meetings or to constantly have your nose in the pages of your Bible. It's not even to check the attendance box at church. The ultimate goal of your life is to have more joy, peace, and love.
Don't you want to have more joy, peace, love, and the rest? Of course, you do. In fact, it's why about fifty billion self-help books are written each year. It's why people are experimenting with eastern meditation. It's why others are chasing the almighty dollar. It's why most people do, well, whatever it is that they do. People want these things.
This is amazing news, right? The goal of your life, according to God's word, is something you already want. Don't we have an impressive engineer that designed us? He made us to want what he designed us to have. He created us to have eternal life, but also to experience that eternal life abundantly.
Imagine for a moment what your life would be like if it were defined by a greater abundance of joy. Really. Stop and think about it for a moment. God's goal for your life is that you be abundantly joyful. What would your life be like if you were fully at peace? Imagine having an abundance of peace in your mind, your relationships, your finances, your job. Life is beautiful when you're at peace. Envision, if you can, that your life was marked by an overabundance of love. How wonderful would that be? The same is true of all of the fruits of the spirit. Life just gets better the more of these fruits that grow in your garden. You won't find these fruits in any other garden. Only in God's Spirit are you going to be able to see this incredible goal develop in you.
Let’s answer one obvious question that might come up. Does Abundant life mean that we can expect abundant wealth, health, and luxury? Can we anticipate that there will be a complete lack of suffering if we are experiencing abundant life? Nope. You're on Earth, aren't you? You're still going to go through your fair share of troubles and trials. However, you can see the difference that abundant life makes when you go through those trials. Having abundant life means that you'll be able to handle various kinds of suffering while still maintaining joy, peace, and love. You'll be able to maintain self-control and gentleness even when your circumstances are deteriorating. You'll be able to stay faithful in the midst of a world falling apart.
Do you want abundant life? If you have a somewhat fruitful life already, do you want a more abundant life? I know I do. I want my life to be so jam-packed with fruit that I can't hold anymore. I hope that's what you want as well. I hope you're so fruit-hungry that you can already taste it.
We’ll get to the how in a bit, but first, I want to answer a question that some might ask. In the next chapter, I'll explain why God wants you to have an abundant life.
1 John 10:10
2 Romans 7:4 CSB
3 Galatians 5:22-23