“Aaron, come quick! You need to see this!”

Even though she was outside, my wife’s words were clear. With four children 11 years of age and younger, our home is rarely quiet, but it is not usually my wife making the ruckus. I was on my feet and into the backyard in a flash, ready to capture a cute photo or to corral a couple of wrestling boys.

It was neither.

Instead, Heather stood pointing to a green, fleshy blob hanging from a slender twig. Well, that’s what it looked like, but that’s not what it was. It was a peach. And she was right: I needed to see it. Why? Because there, suspended in mid-air, was the first evidence that the space-taking tree in our backyard could actually produce a peach. The peach tree could do the work of a peach tree.

Wesleyans believe God created and redeemed us to do good works (Ephesians 2:10) and that good works are the fruit of faith. But what does this mean? Look around your current space and reflect on your day. Are you reading this article on a screen? Is the room you’re in sufficiently warm or cool? Did you eat today? Those blessings are the fruit of a lot of hard work! Is hard work what Wesleyans mean by good works? What can we say about good works?

First, good works don’t make us right with God. Good works don’t balance out our bad deeds or undo the harm we’ve done to others. While we might wish it were so, good works don’t work backwards. Think about all the hard work of prior generations that went into you enjoying your day. Could we earn that? Certainly not! Likewise, our good works don’t earn God’s favor. God’s done too much for us to earn what we’ve received!

Second, good works are only possible with God. Look around, again, and reflect on the wider world. Does everyone have fair access to technology or shelter or food? Perhaps you have these important goods, but somebody gestured rudely to you in traffic or spoke ill of you behind your back. Maybe you did one of those things — without even thinking about it! When you look around, which seems stronger? The blessing or the bruising?

In his classic hymn “This is my Father’s World,” Maltbie Davenport Babcock wrote, “Though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” When we look around in the world, the wrong looks very strong. But it’s not just the outside world. Even for the believer, the wrong can feel so strong on the inside, too! Even when we try very hard, we cannot overcome all the world’s evil or even our own inclinations to harm. If the natural work of the peach tree was a peach, what about human beings? What is our natural work? What actions and attitudes come naturally out of our lives? Without God, we would not bear good fruit; we would not do good works.

Third, good works are evidence of God’s work on the inside. Just like the invisible, internal work of the peach tree was finally seen in its fruit, so does God’s work inside us show up on the outside. Good works are the fruit of faith that brings God glory. They show the hurting and broken world God is setting right. Trust me: If God can work to set me right, then he can set you right. Good works don’t undo evil, but they are the evidence God is addressing evil.

Eventually the tree produced six delicious peaches. I took pictures and showed them to far-off relatives, and my wife picked them and shared them with our children. Likewise, God brings fruit from faith to share his life and work with the world. God uses good works to shine in the dark and to speak in the silence.

So, what are good works? Essentially, good works are actions and attitudes that alleviate suffering because God’s love is in the actor. Because God is at work on the inside, good works come naturally to the believer! Not only do believers have compassion, but they act compassionately toward their neighbor. Being a friend, sharing a meal, training employees, changing a diaper, organizing a clothing drive, coaching a baseball team, speaking up for someone who is being treated unfairly — these are all good works when they are done in faith to God. Just like the peach tree produced fruit not by its effort but by its nature, good works just start showing up when God rules the heart!

I was shocked when the tree produced a peach because for six years it had grown nothing. Don’t grow discouraged if your good works seem meagre and ineffective. Good works might be slow in developing in believers, too. That unripe peach didn’t look like much to anyone else, but to me it was fruit. Likewise, good works might not look like much to others, but to God good works show his power surging in and through our lives. God takes great delight in your good works!

Wesleyans believe good works are the fruit of faith and in them God is glorified and his rule is revealed.

Aaron Perry is an ordained Wesleyan elder and director of Wesleyan Academic Initiatives for The Wesleyan Church, Fishers, Indiana.


Questions for reflection and conversation

  • The Wesleyan Church believes that God created and redeemed us to do good works. Good works are a demonstration of our faith. How do you understand this concept in relation to your own faith walk? What does this look like in the life of a faithful follower of Christ?
  • It is imperative to understand that good works do not make us right with God. Only true faith in God makes our relationship with him genuine. Our good works are an outpouring of our love for God and not a means of earning forgiveness. In what ways do you demonstrate your true faith in Christ as an outpouring of God’s love?
  • Good works are only possible with God. He gives us the ability to work for his kingdom good. What are some ways that God has enabled you to do good works? How can you employ these abilities in service to his kingdom?
  • Good works are evidence of God’s work in us. How do you invest in your relationship with God so that he can do his transformational work within you? Are there ways you can improve your investment in your relationship with God that will result in an outpouring of good fruit in your life?