I recently istened to a podcast episode about a preacher that regularly does what he calls street-evangelism. He does this in front of abortion clinics. He goes out there, often times with just a couple of other people, and speaks out against the atrocity of abortion. Sometimes he holds up signs that state the reality that abortion is murder. He gives pamphlets and information to the women entering the clinic on where they can go for help with their baby in hopes of preventing them from aborting their child. I’ve seen people do this kind of street-evangelism, as he calls it, and often wonder if it is does any good. It seems like most people just drive by and go on with their days without giving these people a second thought. Well, this man said he often gets asked this question, and how he answered really struck me.
He said that it is working because he is obeying God.
At first, I didn’t quite understand what he meant. It’s working because he is simply out there doing it? What did he mean by that? Then, the more he explained the more I began to understand. It was working because he was obeying God. His obedience was the point; not how many people decided not to get an abortion that day.
In John 15:5 God says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.” Essentially what this is saying is that God determines the fruit.
He calls us to obey Him, but He is the one that produces the fruit of our good works. Without a vine, a plant cannot produce any fruit. We must be anchored to the vine for good fruit to produce. God could produce all the good fruit on His own that He wants. He doesn’t need us to do it, but He does call us to do it. Therefore, God is the one who produces the fruits ultimately, and He calls us to do good work for the fruit to be produced so we may be a witness to His goodness and love to a hurting world.
It is not always up to us to produce a specific outcome in every circumstance.
At times in our jobs or other areas of our life a certain outcome is expected. We are supposed to perform specific duties with the intention of achieving something, whether it’s increasing revenue for the company we work for or putting away all of the dishes before the day’s end. Though certain tasks have a measurable end-goal in mind, the fruit God produces may not always be that concrete. Perhaps the fruit God produces looks more like a heart that is changing, a mind that is being molded to focus on scripture, or healing in a broken relationship. Though we cannot specifically say, “This person increased their capacity to love by 75% after I did a Bible study with them for 6 weeks,” the fruits of these things mentioned are no less valuable.
In our culture, we put a high emphasis on performance. Getting a higher level of degree in education, making more money, moving up the ladder in our jobs, and even obtaining newer and nicer things are all measurable means of progress that the world tells us we should strive for. We are often tempted to base our worth off of these worldly measures of success. It can be very discouraging to see this message out there in the world and then look at our lives and see we are not doing those things. On the flip side, we may be doing all those things and measuring up to the world’s standards, but still feeling discontent in our hearts. That discontent may be due to trying to live up to the world’s standards rather than God’s.
When we obey God, we may not always get the outcomes we think we should.
Perhaps we think we should receive additional blessings in life for being faithful with Bible studies, prayer, and going to church. Or, we think if we do enough work to help others we’ll be helped equally in return. If we really take a look at this kind of thinking, we are probably not doing these things for the good of others and the glory of God. Maybe it’s for self-glorification. We need a heart-check to see if we’re doing our good works out of selfish means, or maybe even with grumbling out of duty rather than a desire to serve the Lord. If this is the case, we should take this to God and ask Him to mold our hearts to become more like Christ.
Obedience to God is the fruit sometimes because we are called to obey God. When we obey Him, we are living life according to His word. It doesn’t always matter what the outcome is, but rather that we listened and obeyed our Heavenly Father. This in itself can be fruitful in a couple of different ways. For one, others may see us obeying God despite the lack of perceived fruitfulness. That will spur them on to obey God. They may find more joy and be further sanctified through their obedience because they watched us do the same.
The more God’s people are obedient, the more we can bring heaven to earth and be a witness to the gospel.
Secondly, the fruit that is produced from our obedience may never be seen by us. But that doesn’t mean it is not happening. Perhaps somebody is watching your good works and is inspired to be more faithful to God themselves. They may never communicate that to you. Maybe you donate money to a local charity. But you never see how that money was used to help feed or clothe someone in need.
The Lord is producing the fruit, you just don’t have a front row seat to see it for yourself. Thirdly, by obeying God we are engaging in spiritual warfare that God calls us to. When we set our minds on eternity, we see that obeying God is a way to defeat the enemy. When we do what God calls us to, His goodness and perfect ways are shown on this earth. That’s how we help bring His kingdom come.
Obeying God is something He commands us to do in His word.
Often times our good works will go unnoticed or unacknowledged. However, God tells us not to be discouraged, for we are building up treasures in heaven. Keeping our eyes focused on eternity helps us to see how our obedience is fruitful. Even if we can’t see the fruits here in this world. Remembering also that often times our works are bearing fruit, we just may never see it for ourselves. By remembering that we do not have to be perfect or do everything just-so, we can rest while doing work because we know God is the one who determines the fruit … not us.
This is very freeing!
In case you were wondering, the podcaster I mentioned at the beginning of this post went on to share a wonderful story. He said a girl who showed up to the abortion clinic and made the decision to keep her baby. When she walked out of the building, the podcaster provided her with resources on where to get help with her baby’s needs. He even offered personal assistance from himself and his wife should she need money or a place to stay. He noted that though many of the people who showed up that day rolled their eyes or gave him the finger, it made a difference in that young lady’s life. And it also saved a child’s life. Now THAT is some good fruit!
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