A Process, Not an Event
There is a process the Lord takes us thru on the path to being a useful and contributing member of his body. 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 that we must embrace the process, if we are to navigate it successfully. I attempt to highlight some stages or signposts you will pass on this journey below, and as you grow more proficient in your faith, so will your fruitfulness grow. Don't be surprised, you are also likely to encounter things beyond your control that impact your fruitfulness negatively. Don't let that surprise you, and don't let it stop you. It is not a permanent setback, only a slowdown. You must keep moving. When this happens, heal up, and get back in the fight!
As you pass these signposts, try to connect the dots from your own experience to what is written here. This may help you recognize some of the experiences you have had, both good and bad, in a different light. Try to observe, stop and think, and see if there are consistent elements that have surfaced in the process you have been in. Though you may not have realized it, the life of faith itself is one long process, from the time you meet the Lord, until your stewardship on Earth is complete.
These are just a few highlights I have observed in the process toward fruitfulness, and I believe they are true in any type of effort, including missions of every length. I mention 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 is equally applicable across all venues of life. If you find truth or wisdom here, grab it!
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 often fall back on our worldview to stabilize us. This is when our words, attitudes and 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.
It is hard to persist in the context of things we don't understand without giving up, but 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,. This will include understanding how to cooperate with this newness and the cast of characters that introduces us to. By persisting and not giving up, we develop a body of knowledge around the actual, which is things as they are, not as they initially appear. Over time we cultivate abilities to go with and compliment what we are feeling, which round us out in readiness. Now we are coming into a place where we can put to use that great big heart full of feelings in a useful and meaningful way. As this time matures, we will have persisted past the wind swept beginning stage and enter fully into understanding what being fruitful actually 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 some way in between. Nothing of significance is accomplished solo, despite what the movies decry as 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 these working relationships. 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. Even if things went wrong in ways beyond our control, He will not leave us orphaned, He will come to us. The interpretation here is that He will connect us again in a way that suits His purpose, and all things, now and forever, will work together for our good, because we love Him, and we are called according to His purpose!
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. This is not just one plus one equals two, but the idea here is exponential reward! This can be the most difficult to part of the process to persist in, because anything worthwhile, and with so much promise attached to it is guaranteed to be bitterly opposed. Also, 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 your co-workers, it breaks down the environment of goodwill and unity that is the underlying foundation for 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 opportunity that is present. And, have no doubt, nothing pleases the heart of darkness like theft of potential. But this shall not be your fate.
God's grace be your's in your journey into increasing fruitfulness.