Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bear fruit where you are planted


Matthew 21:17: Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!"

The bible has a lot to say about bearing fruit. This passage from Matthew, however, has always really stuck with me. I remember when I first became a Christian, thinking "wow, that was kind of overkill." I mean, did Jesus REALLY have to curse the fig tree because it hadn't grown fruit? Maybe it was just a late bloomer. I mean, Jesus is a sympathetic guy, I thought he would have compassion on the poor fig tree. So what if it didn't have fruit, maybe it was just an off day? Surely it should be given another chance?

As I grew more mature in my Christianity, however, the cursing of the fig tree started making a lot more sense to me. When I went through the women's Christian Restoration Home in Milwaukee, one of the things the pastors used to always preach on was bearing fruit. I was taught that if you have the light of God in you, it should affect the people around you. If you are living out your Christian life the way Christ directs us to in the bible, and are speaking the gospel to people and telling them about Jesus, people around you will start changing for the better, and they will start getting saved. Not because of anything we do, but because we are allowing God to use us to accomplish his will. It's his power that changes people, we are just the vessels. People begin to change because of the power of God in you. You begin to bear fruit in the way of people around you who begin to transform by the power of God, because they saw the God in you and your Christian walk. You have no option to NOT bear fruit if you are in Christ, because the power of the Holy Spirit is too strong for people to be exposed to it and not be affected.

                                      

For whatever reason, though, I've noticed that there has become a trend among Christians where they are choosing NOT to bear fruit until they get to the point in life where they feel they are ready for ministry. Bearing fruit is looked at more like a career choice than an every day activity. Sharing the gospel is looked at as something that you don't do in everyday, mundane life, but rather a job position. "When I move, when I understand more of the bible, when God places me among the particular people group that I want to minister to, when I'm ready, then I will bear fruit. Then I will share the gospel. Then I will share my testimony. When I am in a position that I feel comfortable, then I will tell people about God." This, my friends, is not what God wants. It's not about us or our timing or our comfort. A Christian should never say that they will begin ministry WHEN. Your ENTIRE life should be a ministry. RIGHT NOW. Everything that we do should be for God's glory. Someone who has been saved for one minute can have an affect on an unbeliever. I work with drug addicts who get saved and are telling everyone who will listen about how God saved them as soon as they leave. They don't wait until they have the bible memorized, or they have a ministry team, or until they are commissioned. They do it out of the overflow of their heart and the power of the Holy Spirit, just like the disciples. The church has no excuse. People should be able to see the light of God in you, and want to follow it. Don't hide it, don't repress it, and don't save it to be used later.

Matthew 5:15: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

John 15:8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.



You see, when we put conditions on our evangelism, when we choose who, where, and when to minister, we stifle  the Holy Spirit. We put God in a box by saying we will only minister to who we have decided to. We miss out on all of the people that God has placed in front of us- the cashier at the grocery store, the drunken neighbor next store, the grumpy old man across the street, the lonely single mom at work- because they don't fit our "criteria." By saying that you are going to wait to start ministering until God has things set up the way you want them is working out of your own flesh instead of letting the power of the Holy Spirit work through you. Think of all of the souls that you are missing out on having an impact on because you're waiting for God to place you in your "mission." Your mission is right in front of you, right now! We live in such a lost, hurting world, and we should be telling the gospel to EVERONE we meet.

Another thing that I was taught in Milwaukee by my pastor, which has been proven time and time again, is that if someone isn't doing something where they are at right now, they are not going to do it in a different position later. Luke 16:10 says that He who is faithful in the little will also be faithful in much. If you are sharing the gospel right now in the little- to the gas station attendant, the grumpy old man across the street, the addict on the street corner- God can trust that you will continue to be trustworthy to do it in the much (ministries, missions, pastoring, ect.). If you are bearing fruit where you are at, you can be trusted to continue to bear fruit somewhere else. If you are not bearing fruit right now in the little, then you will not do it in the much either. To say that you will start ministering when you get to a different location, or around a certain group of people, while their are lost souls right in front of your face that you aren't filled with compassion to minister to, makes no biblical sense. If you aren't ministering where you are at, you're not going to minister in a different location either, because the spirit of God will not be stifled. Once God has touched your life, it's impossible to contain. There is no "waiting to share the gospel." You will want to tell everyone you meet. You will shout it to everyone who will listen, right where you are. Missions are very biblical and valuable, but if you look at the disciples in the bible, they preached Jesus everywhere they were. They didn't wait until they got somewhere else. We should be doing it continuously.p

As Christians, we do not have the luxury of deciding who is worthy of ministering to, and delaying sharing the gospel until it fits into our time table. People are dying right outside of the church doors, because they don't fit the criteria of people's ministries. Because they aren't in women's bible study, youth group, the worship team, or any other church ministries doesn't mean they're not worth ministering to. In fact, they probably need it more. But by being so focused on our "mission target" of people, we can overlook people that don't fit the mold. I can only imagine how much that breaks Jesus' heart. There are so many souls to be saved, and so few Christians that are willing to reach beyond their comfort zone to share the gospel with someone that doesn't fit into their ministry box. We should be sharing the gospel with everyone possible, whenever we can, because we are running out of time.

Which brings me back to the Fig tree. The reason that Jesus cursed the fig tree is because it wasn't bearing fruit. It was useless. Symbolically, it is the same as a spiritually dead Christian- one who is bearing no fruit. Jesus knew the fig tree was going to continue to be fruitless, because it wasn't bearing fruit where it was at. He could have moved it to a different country and replanted it in hopes of it bearing fruit. Or waited to replant it in a different season- when it was ready- and seen if it would bear fruit then. But he knew that would be, well, fruitless (ha!). It's the same way with Christians. If we are not bearing fruit where we are at, right now, then we are not going to bear fruit anywhere else later either. That's a lie that the devil tells us to keep us from proclaiming Jesus to those who need to hear. He says those aren't your people, someone else will tell them, this isn't your time to minister, someone else will tell them, you can start telling people about Jesus later. But it's not true. We should have fruit at all times, in all seasons, in all places. Maybe not in the same way, but the fruit should always be there. To not believe this is to be rendered useless in the kingdom of God, and forfeit touching all of the souls that God strategically places in front of us. Because as Christians, we are " a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." 1 Peter 2:9. There is no right place or right time to share the gospel. The time is right now, right where you're at. Bear fruit where you are planted, until God moves you somewhere else. Then bear fruit there. But don't wait. Never become fruitless, even for a season.

\