Faithfulness or fruitfulness?

A few months ago I blogged about success – sovereignty, success and spiritual job satisfaction, actually.

How do you measure success in Christian ministry? Does it have to do with popularity? Is it measured by the number of people who listened to you preach yesterday the number of people who download your podcast or the number of people who read your blog?

You can read what I wrote, but I reflected a bit on the point in John the Baptist’s ministry where his disciples noticed that Jesus was attracting bigger crowds than John. I concluded with a question about success:

But what if it was simply to be faithful to what God has given you to do?

Faithfulness to what God calls us to do.

That’s success.

They say that the Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, only had two converts. With a record like that, you would hardly be planning to invite him to write a book about successful evangelism!

But he was faithful.

And it was faithfulness that Jesus noted in his parable of the talents. ‘Well done, faithful servant.’ God looks for, and rewards faithfulness.

But something else caught my attention this morning. Something that Jesus said:

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit…

Fruitfulness.

Not just faithfulness.

Here’s why I think this is important.

I think it’s possible to rationalise a lack of fruit by taking shelter in a form of faithfulness. It’s our job to be faithful, we reason, and it’s God’s job to take care of the results.

The thing is that that’s right. Ask John the Baptist. Ask someone who has wept and prayed as they have worked hard in barren spiritual terrain. If they didn’t believe in the sovereignty of God, they would despair. And God forbid that we should attempt to sit in judgement on them.

So let’s leave other people out of this for a moment and think about ourselves. Just you and me.

  • Is it possible that we have settled for a lot less than we should have, and done so in the name of ‘faithfulness’?
  • Is it possible that we have reduced ‘faithfulness’ to a series of box-ticking exercises while we have eliminated all risk?
  • Is it possible that we have looked down our noses at people who have taken risks, have asked for, and attempted big things from God, even if their theology doesn’t quite match our understanding?
  • Is it possible that we need to re-evaluate the extent of our faithfulness if we find that there is little in terms of fruitfulness?

Here is one of those both/and things that we need to keep hold of: God rewards faithfulness and he is glorified by fruitfulness.

At the end of the day, he is sovereign. Success is still about being faithful to what he gives us to do.

But it is thoroughly biblical to be both faithful and fruitful.

What do you think?

 

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2 thoughts on “Faithfulness or fruitfulness?

  1. Good point. And then we have to ask What is fruitfulness? Lots of converts? Growth in our ministry? Or personal fruitfulness – growth in love, patience, humility, gentleness? Maybe you should write another blog…..

    1. The immediate context of this is prayer (Jn 15:7) and abiding in Jesus (the Vine). “Ask whatever you wish…”

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