“Faith & Fruit”
We have recently returned from a wonderful 4-week return visit to Indonesia where we served as OMF missionaries from 1968-1980. One of those special “God-ordained moments” took place one morning while on our way to breakfast in a local hotel in Rantepao, Sth. Sulawesi. An Indonesian man stopped us and introduced himself to us. He asked me: “Are you Rev. Roberts?”
“Yes,” I responded.
“Do you remember once visiting Buakayu?” was his next question.
“For sure,” I answered with growing interest.
He then told me some things he remembered when I together with a small lay training team ministered in his village back in 1970! (He was then in his last year of primary school.) Among other things he said was how he had been impressed by my teaching and also my life. He shared his memory of observing me going off alone to pray.
Why do I share this with you? Certainly not to boast. You see, in my slowness of heart to believe God, with hardly any ongoing contact with these people, I had sometimes wondered if those early years bore any lasting fruit. I had focused upon the human factors: our youthfulness, our inexperience in missionary work, those inevitable language mistakes et al. In His kindness, God put this brother in our way to remind me that He works powerfully, even through our weaknesses. He also wanted me to grasp this lesson for our present and future ministry as well – to trust in Him to do the “exceedingly above all we could ask or imagine” whether we see or hear of the fruit or not.
God has probably given you similar encounters, sending a brother or sister to tell you how some word of counsel, some act of love, some Scripture you shared had left an indelible mark in their lives.
Such God-ordained moments impact us both negatively and positively: negatively, for we are rebuked for seeking after signs of His work through us; and positively, as we are reminded that though we may see ourselves as “weak” or as “failures,” God has sovereignly stepped in and performed more miracles of grace.
I’m not saying that it’s OK to be lazy or careless in ministry because the Lord will bless anyway. We would be heading towards great danger if we let down our spiritual guard or fell into a lazy mindset, as if no matter what, whether we prepare ourselves or not, whether we minister with a right spirit or not, people will always be blessed through our ministries.
However, having said that, let’s focus on the fundamental issue of faith and fruit: Jesus calls us to trust in HIM to produce lasting fruit. Just before Jesus was forcibly taken away from His disciples to be crucified, He encouraged their troubled hearts with these words: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 15:16) This is also His Word to you and me. He calls us to keep believing that whenever we minister in His name, trusting in the empowerment of His Spirit, He will bring forth fruit.
Maybe God wants to say to you and me today: Do not look for or depend upon outward signs to reassure you that I am at work through you. Learn to keep your eyes on ME. Trust Me to do My work both as you prepare yourself to minister, while you are ministering, and in any moment of doubt that follows.
Whenever God chooses to bless and encourage us through one of those awesome God-encounters, rejoice! But let’s not stake our faith on that. Let’s ask Him to keep growing in us more fruit that remains, especially “the fruit of greater faith” in His great faithfulness and grace – a faith that does not seek after or demand a sign!
Equip & Encourage International
Graham & Frieda Roberts
June 16, 2003