One of the greatest desires and concerns that I have is that my life and ministry is fruitful. It does not come from a fear but from a heart that wants so much to please the Father. He has blessed us so much that I want to bless Him in return. Being fruitful in life and ministry is what pleases Him. He gets more joy out of our fruitfulness then we do. He created mankind to be fruitful in the first place, not just fruitful in the physical realm, but also in every area of our lives. When Jesus walked past the fig tree that was not fruitful and cursed it, He did that because it was showing leaves on the outside but was not bearing any fruit. John the Baptist told the people he baptized to show the fruit of repentance.
First, let us talk about personal fruit. Jesus was in the upper room with His eleven remaining disciples. Judas Iscariot had left to set up his betrayal of Jesus and Jesus begins to teach. The teachings between chapters 14-17 of John are Jesus’ parting words and His final instructions before His death. This makes these teachings so important. One of the teachings that Jesus gives deals with bearing fruit and is found in John 15:1-11. In verse 4, Jesus gives us the key to bearing fruit. This is what He says, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” Jesus is letting us know that if we are not abiding in Him, it is impossible to bear fruit. The condition to personal fruit is that we live in Him. It is His life flowing through us that makes us able to bear fruit. We need to keep in mind that bearing fruit is not contingent on abiding but abiding in Christ is contingent on bearing fruit. Some would say that if you are not bearing fruit you are not in Christ. That is simply not true. We abide in Christ by faith in Him. We do not abide in Him by bearing fruit. Remember, fruit is for showing that we abide. So, when you trust in the death and resurrection of Christ, you are abiding and because you are abiding you can bear fruit.
Verse 5 says, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Bearing fruit comes naturally to those who abide. I have just planted two blackberry bushes. In two years, those bushes will become fruitful. If my neighbor would hear me out there in two years saying to those bushes, now you need to start bearing fruit, he would think there is something wrong with Leon. Maybe he would say, you have planted them, fertilized and cared for them. You do not need to tell them to bear fruit. These blackberry bushes will naturally bear fruit. Because we are in Christ, we as believers will eventually bear fruit. If that fruit is not natural, it is not the fruit of the Spirit but something that we have forced into existence.
There is another thing that I want us to look at. Jesus said that we would bear much fruit. The Greek word that John wrote means a large quantity of fruit. It takes time to bear much fruit. This is not something that happens instantly. We start to bear fruit from the time we come into Christ, but bearing much fruit takes time. So, be patience with yourself. Jesus is the one who causes you to bear fruit.
Within every piece of fruit that I know of is a seed or many seeds. These seeds were placed there for the proliferation of that fruit. When that seed is sown it has within it the ability to produce more fruit. When we bear fruit for others, we are allowing that seed to produce fruit in the lives of others. That is where a fruitful ministry comes from. My “hero” church in the Bible is the church in Thessalonica. It was an amazing church. I have been told that there are Christians in Turkey today that can trace the beginning of their faith back to that church that Paul and his team started so many years ago. If you study the way Paul approached that church and the initial messages that he taught and wrote, you will see three things that Paul brought to that church in its infancy. They are faith, love and hope. I do not believe that Paul only taught those things, but that he and his team bore the fruit of those things in their lives.
When we bear the fruit of what God has created by His grace inside of us, we do not bear it for ourselves. We bear it so others can receive it and then begin to bear that fruit in their lives. It is no mystery to me to see the people of a church or ministry start to bear the fruit of its leadership. When we minister to people, we sow the seed of the fruit we bear into their lives. That is so important to keep in mind. No matter what your ministry is, whether that is raising children, caring for others or teaching the Word, your fruit is what will affect the lives of the people you touch. In other words, when we love someone, they then can use that seed and bear the fruit of love. When we are patient with someone, they have seen the fruit of patience and then can allow it to produce that fruit in their lives. I have told pastors around the world that the greatest message you will ever preach is how you live your life. We need to keep in mind that bearing fruit in ministry is the responsibility of each person. I am responsible to bear fruit but what the next person does with it is their responsibility.