Don’t we all long for success and to create something of meaning from our lives, maybe even a legacy through which we will be remembered? This isn’t necessarily a bad goal…unless of course, if what we are actually desiring is to build our own kingdoms and reap the glory. There is a difference between what we consider success in this world, and what God considers success or fruitfulness in his kingdom. In our daily lives how often are we asking ourselves and God if we are being fruitful?
Fruitfulness is evidence of the Holy Spirit at work within us, producing spiritual qualities that reflect God to the world. These qualities or ‘fruit’ are not produced or sustained by us- they are not things we can just work harder to achieve, they are practices that require spiritual refining and discipline, which only the Holy Spirit can do in our hearts. One of the greatest things to realize in this world is that we cannot change our own hearts, nor the hearts of others. A life of fruitfulness is the result of a Christian being matured in their walk with Jesus, listening to his voice and learning to seek and obey all that God desires. The journey of refining is a process through which we are pruned, where the dead things in our lives can fall away and the good can be strengthened and encouraged on. Through this refining, good fruit can actually be produced in our lives. Jesus describes it in gardening terms like this:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…..This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:1-2,8 (NIV)
We are actually identified as his through the fruit that we bear. This brings glory to God- that others might see him through our lives. This is his kingdom’s work! So in these days, are we striving for worldly success or are we asking to be fruitful disciples?
So what is the fruit that brings God glory?
“But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 (AMP)
Isn’t this great news that the fruit is a result of his presence within us and not about us earning it in our independence? The 12 step process the leaders and the women in our programs use for personal recovery and transformation is a powerful tool in recognizing the ways we try and control our lives and the things we use as “coping mechanisms”. God is constantly working through this tool of the steps to show us that he is the author of our life, that he can be trusted and that he is the one able to do the heart surgery necessary for healing, freedom and fruitfulness. The growth can seem so small or slow at times, that we can often miss the significance of what God is doing in and through us. Yet fruit, like anything planted, takes time to grow, so it is important to have community that can encourage this process.
So let’s not be discouraged, for we are in this journey with a good God and the people/ community he has placed around us to thrive, so we can be “…certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6 (NLT)