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FIRST-PERSON: Wait expectantly for God’s harvest

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP)–If I want my life and ministry to be fruitful, I must cultivate good roots, eliminate the weeds and cooperate with God’s pruning by thanking and praising Him.

I must also wait for the harvest!

Growth does not happen overnight. It takes time. It’s not instantaneous. God takes two days to make a mushroom; he takes 60 years to make an oak tree. Do you want to be a mushroom or an oak tree?

When you examine your spiritual growth — or the spiritual growth of your congregation — you may wonder, “Why is it taking me (them) so long to get better? We’ve been at this for years, and I’m not seeing much change. We’re still struggling with so many problems. Why?”

Do you want the members of your congregation to be mushrooms or oak trees?

Spiritual growth, like natural growth, takes time. The best fruit ripens slowly.

Notice what Jesus says in John 12:24. He was talking about His death, but the principle applies to us as well. He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (RSV). When Jesus says, “Truly, truly,” He is saying, “Now get this! Tune in!” He’s saying, “Listen and listen good. This is really important.”

The point Jesus stresses here is that death precedes life. Just as a grain of wheat must die to produce fruit, so must we die to ourselves to produce spiritual growth. And dying to our own selfishness takes time.

Our tendency is to dig up the seed periodically to check on its progress, instead of trusting God to do His work in our lives. The truth is — Christ will produce fruit in our lives if we remain in Him. In John 15 — the passage on the vine and the branches — the key word is remain. We must remain in Him.

Remaining in Christ means keeping in contact with Him, depending on Him, living for Him and trusting Him to do His work in our lives in His perfect timing. Never give up. It’s always too soon to quit! Wait for God’s promised harvest and, in the meantime, enjoy His presence in your life. God is pleased with you at every stage of your spiritual growth. He’s not waiting until you’re perfect to begin loving you. He will never love you any more than He already does.

Are you seeing any spiritual fruit in your life and in your ministry? Perhaps you have memorized the fruit list in Galatians 5:22-23. If not, I’d encourage you to do so. The NIV lists the harvest as this: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Think about how these qualities could be seen in the life of Jesus, and count on Him to produce them in you by the working of His Holy Spirit. If you’re not seeing as much fruit as you’d like, don’t despair. Remember that growth takes time. I recommend that you commit yourself to focus on one specific fruit of the Spirit each month for the next year. Use that month to study that particular fruit in detail.

In addition, there are four very simple, practical steps to take if you’re serious about a fruitful, productive Christian life and ministry:

1. Begin cultivating deep roots by spending time in God’s Word every day. I know that should be a given for a pastor, but you would be surprised at how many pastors don’t make time for this.

2. Then eliminate the weeds in your life that eat up your time and energy and distract you from doing God’s will.

3. Next, cooperate with God in the pruning process by thanking and praising Him for what He is doing in your life. He is working to make you more fruitful than you ever thought possible.

4. Finally, wait expectantly for the harvest of spiritual fruit in your life. If you’ve followed the first three steps, the harvest is inevitable!

In 1968 a scientist discovered a 600-year-old seed necklace in an Indian grave. He planted one of the seeds, and it sprouted and grew. Though it had been dormant for 600 years, the potential for life was still there in the seed.

Maybe you feel like you’ve become spiritually dormant, but your desire now is to be fruitful. I have good news for you. It’s not too late! You can begin right now! Tell God you want to cooperate with His growth plan, and He will provide the power to change.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and author of the New York Times best-seller “The Purpose-Driven Life” and of “The Purpose-Driven Church.” He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers. ©Copyright 2004 Pastors.com, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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  • Rick Warren