Faithfulness or fruitfulness – which would you choose? What would you say is the more important of the two?
I read somewhere that, “God requires faithfulness, not fruitfulness.” I would have to say that is not true. The person who said that was perhaps uninformed or a little immature. I say this because I believe faithfulness is the pathway to fruitfulness. Faithfulness will always produce fruitfulness. You cannot have one without the other! The opposite of faithfulness is unfaithfulness and the opposite of fruitfulness is barrenness; both of which are to be avoided at all costs.
Faithfulness and fruitfulness are connected whether we like it or not; just as unfaithfulness and barrenness is. They work in tandem; as a partnership. They can never be separated. Faithfulness is part of our spiritual fruit as Christians. Hence, I say again, they are tied together. You can’t have one without the other. Faithfulness refers to character and fruitfulness is the evidence of that good character.
To be faithful basically means to do the right thing at the right time, whether you have an audience or not; and this is regardless of your situation or circumstance. Fruitfulness means bearing fruit; it means being fertile and productive. When we are faithful we will bear good fruit.
Which brings me to that wonderful passage in John 15: 1-8. In it we see a beautiful picture of fruitfulness linked to faithfulness.
In the Passion Translation it reads, “I am a true sprouting vine, and the farmer who tends the vine is my Father. He cares for the branches connected to me by lifting and propping up the fruitless branches and pruning every fruitful branch to yield a greater harvest. The words I have spoken over you have already cleansed you. So, you must remain in life-union with me, for I remain in life-union with you. For as a branch severed from the vine will not bear fruit, so your life will be fruitless unless you live your life intimately joined to mine. I am the sprouting vine and you’re my branches. As you live in union with me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you—but when you live separated from me you are powerless. If a person is separated from me, he is discarded; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire to be burned. But if you live in life-union with me and if my words live powerfully within you—then you can ask whatever you desire, and it will be done. When your lives bear abundant fruit, you demonstrate that you are my mature disciples who glorify my Father!”
What is Jesus teaching us here about faithfulness and fruitfulness?
· We cannot have either without being in union with Him. Fruitfulness is directly linked to our relationship and union with Christ. There must be a point, a moment of conversion, where we acknowledge our sin and receive Jesus as our Lord and your Savior.
· He is the true sprouting vine. Jesus is the truth – the only truth. Some might say there are other religions or self-help techniques that can give you a better life. And maybe there are some things that can help you live a better life, but what we need to focus on is the life here after – life after this world. What about eternity? What happens after this life? Only those who believe and abide in Jesus through salvation (union with Him) will live a glorious life after this one.
· Remaining in Christ brings lasting change and transformation. Which means conversion, as important as it is, isn’t the only focus. It’s not how you start your “race” that matters, it’s how you finish it. Too many decide to follow Jesus and then the trials, troubles and disappointments of life spring up and choke the life of God out of them and they give up. Remaining means staying the course. It means moving from ‘convert’ to ‘true disciple’ of Christ. It means becoming like Him. That’s called discipleship – moving from immaturity to maturity. It’s not a passive thing! It means you and I need to ‘work’ in partnership with Christ in our transformation. I am not talking about working for our salvation; I am talking about partnering with God in our transformation. It’s about being changed from one degree of glory to the next as we become more like Jesus. That can only happen in relationship.
So, how is your relationship with Jesus? Is it healthy? Is it strong? Is it growing as you tap into the sprouting, life-giving Vine? Is He your source? Are you working that relationship out? Love is spelt – TIME. Do you go to Him for advice, help, perspective, wisdom and guidance on everything? Are you becoming fruitful, displaying more of His fruit in your everyday life? You can only become like the one you truly know. If your answer is no, then perhaps the problem lies in the joining. Remember you are the branch and He is the Vine. A branch cannot grow or develop and produce fruit unattached from the life-giving source – the Vine.
· Pruning by God is necessary for faithfulness and fruitfulness. Pruning is designed to bring about more fruit in your life. God isn’t content with just a little fruit or some fruit; he wants much fruit. He’s not content with occasional faithfulness or a little faithfulness; He wants absolute faithfulness. And so, he doesn’t just prune those areas in us that are barren or lifeless; he also takes healthy fruit bearing areas and prunes them, so they can be more fruitful. He is committed to our growth, development and maturity. He is committed to seeing much more of Himself in each one of us.
I believe faithfulness produces fruitfulness. Fruitfulness is a by-product of our union with Jesus. It’s the evidence that we are becoming like Him. Both of these working together in us, releases a power-filled testimony to the glory of our Lord.
2018 is the year of unceasing fruitfulness! The condition to that promise is that we need to stay connected and planted and let the Divine Gardener do what He needs to do to ensure ongoing fruitfulness in us. He is so faithful to that task. Will you be faithful? Will you be fruitful? It’s up to you…