Scripture Passage for Daily Reflection
Thoughts for the Week
I have heard it said that “God didn’t call us to be fruitful, only to be faithful.” I understand the sentiment behind that statement - it is easy to get caught up in a competitive game of justifying ourselves by counting “converts,” increases in giving, attendance and other numbers games. The true measure, according to those who make this statement, is whether or not we (individually or corporately) are faithful to God and the way of Jesus. We plant the seed and care for the soil, but it is God who brings the growth.
And yet, we could look back to the beginning of the Bible and notice that God’s command to the first people was, “be fruitful and multiply.” I think a case could be made that while that text is speaking about the need for Adam and Eve to have children and populate the earth, it is also a prophetic text speaking forward to the mission of God’s people (don’t be satisfied keeping the blessing of relationship with God to yourselves - invite others into this life with you).
However, if we choose to stick with the claim that we should first pursue faithfulness rather than fruitfulness, we must be careful not to create a false dichotomy. There’s no need to see these two matters in competition with one another. Indeed it is God who brings the growth, and both scripture and experience testify that God is quite interested in bringing about this growth. If we are faithful we should expect to see fruit. We’ll see it in our own lives and the lives of those with whom we come into contact - Jesus said that fruit is the evidence of a healthy organism (whether its a fig tree, a disciple or a community of disciples).
Remember Jesus’ statement in Luke 10 - the harvest is plentiful, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his field.
For the church, fruit and harvest represent BOTH continually maturing lives of discipleship among the faithful AND introducing new people to the life of faith (those whose hearts the Holy Spirit is already at work preparing). If new people are “joining” the church but discipleship isn’t taking root in their (and our) lives, this should be an enormous red flag for the community of faith. However, we should also be concerned when months and years pass while the same group of people sits around looking at each other wondering (or not even thinking about) why nobody else seems drawn the message we’re proclaiming.
This week our prayers focus on the harvest and bearing fruit. I am convinced that if we are committed to living out the matters we’ve spent the last 6 weeks praying; if we live with gratitude, wisdom, faithfulness, courage, intent on discipleship, seeking partners, focused on God’s mission, then God WILL bring about fruit and growth in our lives and in our community. If we turn our attention to these matters in the church, in our local community, in the global community, among the poor as well as in our own lives, the Holy Spirit WILL bring us into contact with people who are searching for God even if they aren’t aware of it yet.
Certainly it is possible to put the cart before the horse in regards to “growth.” That is part of the reason we saved the theme of harvest and fruit for last in this season of prayer. However, in both our church planting work and in the ministry of Intentional People, we are engaged in serving others because of the work of Christ - the work of remaking creation and inviting all people to take their place around the table with Jesus.
Prayer for Sunday - The Lord of the HarvestLord of the Harvest, we praise you for your concern and compassion for all people. We rejoice that you have done all these things so that people everywhere may seek you and find you, though you are not far from any one of us. Lord, we give you thanks for the ways in which you have brought about growth in our lives and in our communities. God, we pray that we will continue to live fruitful, productive lives as your disciples; that our love for one another, for you and for our neighbors will be evident to all. We desire these things, O Lord, because we have seen them first in you. You are the God of steadfast love, you are the Holy One who has not stayed far off, you are the Lord of the Harvest. Father, we pray that you will continue to work in us and conform us more fully into your image. You are the only one who is worthy of emulation and you are the only one who brings about new life.
We began this season of prayer by focusing on gratitude and joy for what God has been doing, and we begin this final week with gratitude for the fruit and harvest that God has already brought. So...where have you already seen evidence of God bringing about growth in your life? For what do you need to express gratitude to God as we begin this week?