The Crucial Difference Between Producing and Bearing Fruit
Have you become so busy trying to change the world for Christ that you have no time for Christ to change you?
This is the third of seven blog posts that are excerpted from my upcoming book, Steward Leader Meditations, which is scheduled to be released in June. It is my heartfelt prayer that this book of Scriptural texts, meditations, action steps and simple prayers will bless leaders on their journey toward kingdom faithfulness and effectiveness. These meditations are also part of our new online course, Becoming a Steward Leader which is now available exclusively through The Steward’s Journey. There is more information on this course at the bottom of this post.
May you be blessed by these texts, thoughts and prayers.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33).
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:1–5).
A number of years ago God confronted me with a significant fallacy that I had been living with for most of my adult life. It had to do with John 15. I had always considered this text to be a charge to be producers of fruit as followers of Jesus. To me this meant setting and achieving goals, seeing tangible results for our work, and making an impact on the kingdom of God. It threw me into a lifestyle of incessant busyness—all for Jesus, of course.
Then one day he laid on my heart the realization that John 15 may not be about producing fruit at all. Again and again Jesus uses the term “bearing,” and there is a significant difference between producing and bearing fruit. The former focuses on my work for God, the latter on God’s work through me. John 15 is less a call to action than an invitation to intimacy. Eleven times Jesus uses the term “remain.” There is an undeniable link between remaining in an intimate relationship with God and the extent to which our lives will bear this fruit.
There is one more piece to this puzzle. It is in how we define “fruit.” If the fruit in our life is always defined as the product of our labor, the work of our hands, the outcome of our own efforts, then we will completely miss the message of John 15. Consider instead that what Jesus is talking about as fruit, the apostle Paul later defined for us as the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5.
This shift in definition was one of the most shocking discoveries of my Christian life.
Instead of demanding of me the driven life of trying to do good things for God, Jesus is inviting me into relationship with him that is so deep, so intimate that my life will be filled with the Holy Spirit. As that Spirit works in and through me, my life will bear love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
The impact of this fruit on the people we lead will result from what God is doing in us and through us and not just from what we are doing for him.
In fact, our driven-ness for doing may be the single greatest obstacle to the Spirit’s work in us as leaders. We can become so busy working for God that we lose the depth of relationship with him that is required for him to work in us. When our work becomes our fruit, it carries no power to change or transform.
What kind of fruit is being produced in your life and leadership? Are you so busy trying to do what God wants you to do that you have lost the depth of relationship with him that will allow him to live in and through you? To what extent is the fruit of the Spirit being poured out through your leadership into the lives of the people you lead and serve?
Send an email to three people who know you well. List in your email the fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5 and ask them to what extent they see this fruit being borne out in your life. Be open to their response to let it guide you in seeking deeper intimacy with God from which this fruit will flow.
Close your time with this prayer:
Gracious Lord, I confess to you that I can too easily focus on the work I am doing for you at the expense of letting you work in me and through me. You know, Lord, that I want to be fruitful for the kingdom. Forgive me if I have misunderstood what that means. I look at my life as a leader and wonder to what extent the fruit of the Spirit is being experienced by people whose lives I touch each day. Sometimes I see that in my drive to produce fruit for you, I have actually taken on attitudes and actions that are in complete contradiction to this fruit. Please forgive me. I deeply desire a more intimate relationship with you. Please change my heart and attitudes and help me become a fruit bearer for the kingdom of God. I want the Holy Spirit to flow through me, but I’m not sure how to get there. So come, Holy Spirit, overwhelm my spirit and create in me a fresh and clean heart. I yield myself back to you for this purpose. In Jesus’ name, amen.
If you are in a position of leadership we are excited to announce the recent launch of our online self-guided course, Becoming a Steward Leader. This 50-day course will help you understand what it means to lead as a steward leader. Steward leaders are different because they are free to lead with courage and humility.
This is a process that has transformed leaders around the world.
If God has called you to a leadership position, whether a pastor, non-profit leader, business leader, government or military leader, or as a parent, church leader or community leader, you cannot afford to miss this opportunity to discover for yourself the freedom and joy of the steward leader.
Discover what it means to truly lead from a place of joy, courage, and humility.
To learn more about the Becoming a Steward Leader course, click here.