I want to say right away that there is a danger that comes with learning, because it brings a gratification of it's own. This can be deceitful, because we know that we aren't supposed to be hearers only, but also doers. The gratification that comes with learning can come before we do anything. If we take learning or understanding as an end in themselves, we will not follow on to do what the understanding was given to us for. We have to realize this or the understanding that we accumulate will only further bind us in a place of self-deceived disobedience. We must act on our understanding to fulfill the purpose for which it was given to us…. With that said:
There is a process the Lord takes us thru on the path to being a useful and contributing member of his body. Below are a few thoughts about it. Keep in mind that the parable of the sower tells us two of the four seeds don't result in any fruit, one brings no fruit to maturity, and one is fruitful. (Seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest. luke8:15) Notice the word patience, as it is an essential ingredient. This writing is intended to shed a little light on this process in hopes of helping you advance into ultimate fruitfulness!
It is key to realize that becoming fruitful is a process, and to embrace it, if we are to navigate it successfully. As your proficiency grows, so will your fruitfulness. You are also likely to encounter things beyond your control that impact your fruitfulness negatively. Don't let that stop you. It is not a permanent setback, only a slowdown. You must keep moving.
As you read, try to connect the dots from your own experience to what is written here. This will help you make the most of the experiences you have had, both good and bad. Try to observe, stop and think, and see if there are consistent elements that have surfaced in the process you have been in. Unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. john12:24 (one interpretation – no one is fruitful on their own / nothing significant and long lasting is done solo)
These are just a few highlights in the process we go thru to becoming fruitful in any type of effort, including missions of every length. I say missions because I have recognized much of this while participating in short-term missions training and campaigns. I don't believe, however, that these ideas are restricted to this context. Truth should be applicable across the venues of life.
Becoming exposed to something new can be a little dizzying. We are intrigued, impacted, and sometimes thrown off by a whole new world, whether of ideas or geography. At this point, usually our feelings drive us along more than what we know, which is sort of a courting or honeymoon stage. Feelings aren't bad, because they are the seeds of action. Feelings alone cannot survive, as they need to be coupled with action if we are going to learn how to cooperate with what we are feeling, and follow the Lord into the places He is leading us. This can be a lot like the sprout with no root in the parable of the sower. When the sun comes out, the plant with no root (feelings but no action) withers because it has no root. Because we don't know anything, but we are having strong feelings, we can be moved around by the feelings in ways that don't make sense and / or don't reflect reality. When we have feelings that are bigger than our grid to process the feelings, we fall back on our worldview to stabilize us. This is when our words, attitudes, behavior betray our worldview in ways that reveal us as beginners. We are experiencing something we have no grid for, and we are trying to apply our perspective onto and upon a scenario that is too big for it. This is a normal part of the process, but we should not stay in this stage too long. We must realize that we don't know what we don't know until we know it, and keep moving.
As we “keep moving” thru our feelings, with an understanding that we need to grow to become useful, we will pass thru what we are feeling into an ability to interpret the new environment, including how to cooperate with it and the cast of characters that are in it. If we persist, we develop a body of knowledge around the actual, which is things as they are, not as they initially appear. During time we cultivate abilities to go with and compliment what we are feeling (readiness stage). As this time concludes, we will have persisted past the wind swept beginning stage and begin to understand what bearing fruit means.
Part of being fruitful is learning how to cooperate with others. With whom are we called to co-labor? We must seek to recognize, understand, and enter into these relationships. It is often not who you want to work with, but who you should work with. This is where we enter into the commitment stage. Unless we commit, we will be stuck in the readiness stage indefinitely, as the bible says, “ever learning, but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.” I want to say that this commitment is principally to the Lord and to His will. He is the one who is guiding us, directing our path. He will bring others into our path that we should work together with, but the principal commitment is always to the Lord, because the Lord and / or circumstances could change these scenarios and working relationships. And it's not only your decisions that affect the situation. The other party or parties actions / decisions are equally impacting. We are focused on following Jesus and loving and serving others, and we have to be careful that this doesn't get switched around on us.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. The idea here is exponential reward, and this can be the most difficult to part of the process to persist in. The closer you get to people, the more you see their “humanness” or flaws and the more tempted you are to despise them. If you do despise them, it will break down the environment of goodwill / unity that creates the fruitfulness. This is one of the reasons we are constantly instructed in the scriptures toward humility, because pride makes us unyielding toward each other, which will destroy our ability to work together, and thereby steal the potential fruitfulness that is present.
Lord Jesus, help us to navigate forward, help us to join You in Your efforts and impact, becoming like You, a fruitful vine in a challenged context. Amen.