in our lives is one of the characteristics of obedience to God. It
is also a key to a happy and fulfilled Christian life.
fruitfulness with business
world is driven by performance measures and outcomes indices. Coming
from such a framework, we are apt to confuse fruitfulness with
numbers, knowledge, activity and cost-effectiveness. Our culture
constantly reinforces the notion that if we want to be worthwhile and
productive people we must learn to stand on our own feet, stand out
in the crowd and aim for higher output. Church life can also be like
that, if we over-emphasise programs, participation and laws.
no mistake, God is interested in output. It is in the heart of God
for His work to continue and prosper. Whenever that purpose is
frustrated something is lost. Consider the sense of incompleteness
in the following: a net without fish; a well without water; a
banqueting table without guests; a shepherd without sheep; a field
without a crop (or a stalk without seeds), a proclamation without a
response; a promise without fulfilment; clouds without rain; a lost
coin that is never found; a sheepfold where a lost sheep is never
fruitfulness goes beyond mere activity. God is a Creator and He
loves his creation. The first command recorded in the Bible was to,
“be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth”
(Genesis 2). Having created the universe and everything in it out of
absolutely nothing (theologians call this “ex nihilo”),
he endowed plants, fish, animals and finally men and women with a
divine capacity to continue the same creative work. Fecundity is a
gift from God. Drought in our lives is a consequence of the Fall.
Every time a tiny seed is formed or germinates, every time a flower
is pollinated and turns into fruit, every time a life is formed in
the womb and brought into the world, a miracle occurs.
handiwork of God continues. I was at the birth of each of my
children and the sense of creation is overwhelming – how much
the One who made it all possible! The Bible says that all things
have been (and are still being) created for God’s pleasure
made man to be creative. He wants each of us to be fruitful and has
given us the mandate and means to do so. Imagine the result of doing
otherwise. The prophet Jeremiah lamented, “the harvest is
past, the summer is ended and we are not saved”. (Jeremiah
8:20) People were hungry and crying out for relief, but the crop
failed one again and they were left facing disaster. I know people
who are spiritually empty; they have nothing to show for busy lives,
their hands are empty and they pass by feeling they have not realised
the purpose for which they were born.
principle extends beyond the concept of bringing something new into
the world. It embodies the whole purpose of life. On one occasion,
Jesus disapproved of a fig tree without fruit at a time of the year
when it should have been covered with juicy figs. The Holy Spirit is
grieved at the life of a Christian without spiritual fruit. Our
fruitfulness brings glory to God and is a sign of our discipleship
(cf Luke 6:44-45).
concept of fruitfulness is used in the Scriptures to indicate a
non-hierarchical view of the church. Using imagery of the vineyard,
fruit-trees and fruit, Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are
the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, the same brings
forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing” (John
15:5). He wants our goal in life to be to produce fruit for Him.
Genuine Christianity is about producing fruit for God rather than
measuring ourselves against other Christians.
Often, when we talk about fruit,
someone will open the Bible at Galatians 5:22, 23, which teaches us
that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. An important
list, but being fruitful Christians and churches is much more than
these. The fruit of the Spirit fruit are largely about character.
What about the results of who and what we are? Striving harder to be
fruitful is not an adequate response. Jesus said, “Abide in
me.” Abiding is not striving. It is about relationship.
Fruitfulness is a natural consequence of a developing relationship
with Jesus Christ, not just what other people see in our lives.
It is much deeper and richer than
numerical growth or the amount of things we do. God is primarily
concerned about the kind of tree we are, rather than how busy we are.
If we are part of the correct plant, the quality of fruit will take
care of itself (Matthew 7:16-20). Fruitfulness is being like the
parent plant in nature and reproducing its life (cf 2 Peter 1:4).
wants to bless us and make us blessings in our community. When we
operate in His life, we are equipped to overflow to the world.
Filled so that we can overflow. Made fruitful so that others can
enjoy the benefits. Releasing faith so that the needy can be touched
by His presence. Spreading good news, restoring relationships,
filled with love, faith and the sense of His purpose. As people see
the appropriate fruit in our lives they will be attracted to Christ
for all the right reasons.
How to be more fruitful
If God wants us to be more fruitful,
how can this come about?
we have to strengthen our connection to Christ, graft ourselves
firmly onto the vine and draw deeply on the sap of the Holy Spirit.
absence of fruit in the branch of the vine casts doubts on its union
with the central stem If
we are really fruitful in every area of our lives, this will extend
to our family life, work, play, church, personal habits, words,
deeds, vertical relationship with God and horizontal relationships
with others. In the natural world, the
branches of a tree hold the leaves which, through the process of
photosynthesis, convert the sun's light they catch into nutrients,
which they then in turn move on into the plant. More leaves grow and
fruit is produced by the branches. Faith and fellowship with God are
like that (cf Psalm 1:1-3; 92:12014; Jeremiah 17:7-8). However, if
the branches are not solidly connected to the vine stem, the sap
cannot flow freely to nourish them, and fruit is not borne as it
Second, we need to allow God to cut
out of our lives things that hinder growth and fruit. The
planting and nurturing of a vineyard requires constant and intensive
care. No plant bears fruit instantaneously; it is the result of a
process, and so it is with us. Jesus said God will remove unfruitful
branches. Therefore, even a large, apparently thriving branch in our
lives may need to be lopped off because it is unfruitful; to leave it
there will impede the growth of branches that are fruitful. What
is the point of having prolific growth if the vine has lost its
goodness (cf Jeremiah 2:21)?
we need to allow the Holy Spirit to be free to reproduce His fruit in
our lives. Our role as maturing Christians' is to yield to the
Spirit of Christ in us. It is only His power, not our strength,
learning, wisdom or personal charisma that makes us fruitful for God.
Do we, as
branches, truly abide
in Jesus Christ—or do we only occasionally connect to Him? Is
the good fruit of God being produced in us through this on-going,
unbroken relationship with His Son? Are we being nourished by the
True Vine, and what evidence can we produce of our spiritual growth?
God evaluates us only in terms of our
growth to fruitfulness, expressed as Christ-like love and
personality. Such fruitfulness comes only from our interrelationship
with Him. God deals with us in whatever way will lead to further
growth - sometimes it is gentle, sometimes it appears harsh. It is
always for the same purpose, to bring out the fullness of our
potential as fruitful branches, deeply rooted through Jesus the vine,
and bearing fruit to the glory of God.
doesn't just happen by chance. To be fruitful in every-day life can
be daunting, as we all constantly fall short. However, if we truly,
perfectly abide in Christ as the true Vine, this process of
fruit-bearing is, as it were, natural or automatic, the product of
this mutual indwelling. The more we abide in Him, the greater the
fruit that is produced.
in the desert
does not depend on our personal circumstances (though how we react to
those circumstances is important). There are times in our lives when
we feel we are in a spiritual desert. It is hard to get excited if
there is nothing obviously sustaining us. No great church, deep
teaching, meaningful Christian friendships, only hot, dry, sandy
conditions that make us want to give up. But even there we can draw
on the life of the Spirit to sustain us. Let me give an example from
ago I travelled through the desert of northern Chile, near the city
of Arica. As far as the eye could see there was only sand. Sandy
plains. Sandy hills. Boring, windless, quiet. I was told it had
not rained there for many years. Some parts of the Atacama Desert
had not seen rainfall for nearly a hundred years. The Humboldt
Current, flowing north from the Antarctic region cools the coast for
many months of each year and creates dense fogs that hand around and
impede storm clouds. It was desolate land. No one lives there. The
water table was too low to consider planting a settlement, even if
there were justification for doing so.
months after my visit it rained. Clouds rolled in from the Pacific
Ocean and dumped inches of water across the landscape. Sandy hollows
were now pools. And life started to emerge. Scientists were excited
to learn that the hitherto parched wastes actually covered the seeds
of tiny plants, exquisite species that produced beautiful flowers and
tiny fruit. The seeds had been there all along, lying dormant, full
of potential. All they needed was precipitation. When that came,
millions of seeds burst into life.
seasons of our lives can be frustrating. We may feel nothing is
happening, that the odds are against us and we are buried by our
difficulties. The one person who continues to see the potential is
the Holy Spirit. He sees every seed, every life, every unborn dream
and vision, every hope that appears to be going nowhere. When he
comes he causes even the desert place to spring into life and fruit
to be produced. Humanly speaking, it may not be much to look at, but
given the odds its existence is a miracle.
made you to be creative
made you to be creative. Are you “abiding” in Christ,
getting close to him? Is the Holy Spirit conceiving in your life the
small beginnings of new fruit that will remain, evidence in your life
of the presence and character of God, of who and what He called you
to be, for His glory? This is the first step to maximising your
potential and a satisfying life.
trusting God is the only pathway to true fruitfulness. The world
offers other options, other standards, but none results in lasting
fruit. Only as we place our faith in Christ for daily guidance will
we bear fruit for eternity. Begin each day by reading God's Word. As
He reveals His mind to you, obey everything you understand and ask
for wisdom when you don't. The Holy Spirit will teach you what you
need to know. That's the way to bear healthy fruit that will last
Whatever your personal circumstances,
you can make a difference. The fruit the Holy Spirit develops in
your life can be the very thing that attracts others to Christ.