RJ and my co-worker Los have both independently complimented me on my growing message-giving skillz, which I consider a high honor. In Los’ words, “It’s a lot easier to follow your messages now than it was before.” Which is good, because I know I am a bona fide rabbit-trailer and I’ve got too many thoughts in my head that many times can just be left out.
RJ and I have both attributed this growth in message preparation and message giving to graduate school and the billions of essays I’ve had to write and presentations I’ve had to give. These essays and presentations have required a certain level of professionalism and also allow for a lot less lee-way in thoughts that aren’t directly related to the topic at hand. So I’ve learned to be more focused in message preparation and message giving, and more direct and intentional in supporting main points.
What I also noticed in how I prepare messages now as opposed to before is that before, I would draw out a general outline and wing it based off of that outline. Now, I first write the message in verbatim, what exactly I want to say and how I want to say it. It helps me be able to formulate thoughts more concisely rather than reaching in the moment, and it gives me a certain comfortability and familiarity in speaking what I have already written out. After writing out my message in verbatim, I make an outline based off of the message I have just written to go off of as I am speaking, with key phrases and sentences that I don’t want to forget to share.
Anyways, I am sharing tonight at our NavNite. Not exactly a full-on message, but not exactly just facilitating a discussion either. More like sharing some insights into a topic that means a lot to me: what it looks like to live fruitfully as a believer of Jesus. I thought that since I am preparing for this mini-message by writing it out verbatim, I might as well do it on my blog and share these insights with a wider audience. I’m already doing the work, so why not?
I hope these insights may encourage you in whatever season of life you are in, because I don’t think they are only applicable to college students. I think they are applicable at any stage in life to anyone who calls themselves a follower of Jesus.
This quarter in our Bible studies and in our large group nights, we are going through a series on what the character of a Christian looks like. Tonight specifically, we will be looking into what it looks like to live fruitfully as a Christian and how to live fruitfully as a Christian.
Now what does that mean? To live fruitfully? To bear fruit? Let’s look at a real life example.
When my parents first moved to San Diego, they were so excited about the idea of growing their own fruit trees. The problem is, every fruit tree they planted withered and died within weeks or months. Then they had to dig up these dead trees and plant new ones. This kept going on and on until one day, my dad excitedly told me, “There are bananas on the banana tree!” And we all ran outside, and sure enough, there were little bunches of bananas starting to grow on this fruit tree. It had started to bear fruit.
How is this translated to Christian living? What does it mean for a Christian to bear fruit? Well, I think it can be taken two ways. A Christian can bear fruit outwardly and a Christian can bear fruit within themselves. And it all starts with a seed, which according to Matthew 13 is the Word of God in our hearts. A Christian bears fruit outwardly in the lives they invest in, in the people they help grow in their relationship with Jesus, in the relationships in their lives, and in bringing other people into a new relationship with Jesus. Inwardly, a Christian bears fruit in how Christ-like their character becomes. Do they love like Jesus loved? Do they forgive with the same forgiveness of Christ? And so on. You get the picture.
I was reading through Proverbs 10 in my time alone with God yesterday, and a verse stuck out to me. “The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.” (Proverbs 10:7)
This might be morbid of me, but the first thing I thought about was death. And I thought about death all morning long. Specifically, I asked myself, “What do I want others to remember about me after I die?,” “What kind of legacy do I want to leave behind?,” and “What memories do I want others to have of me?”
As I sat with God thinking about these things, I thought, “Lord, I want the fruit of my life to last for eternity. I don’t want to build up my own name and “kingdom” just to have it waste away and be forgotten in a couple of generations.”
Because that is the truth of it.
King Solomon, the wisest non-God man to walk the earth, wrote about these things as well. He lived a ridiculously opulent life with any treasure he could desire, many women, he did great things in his time, he even built the Temple of God, and yet at the end of his life, he still wrote of it all, “Meaningless, meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” (Ecclesiastes 12)
You see, to live for myself would be to live to build up the Kingdom of Alice. And the Kingdom of Alice ends when I die. It is no more. But to live for God, to walk with Him, is to build up the Kingdom of God. It is an investment in eternity. And your story is written into the great story of men and women of faith, which endures forever (Hebrews 11).
So what does thinking about what you want your legacy to be have to do with fruitful living today?
Well, I just turned 30 this past summer, so ideally I still have another 2/3 of my life to live. But I think these are really important questions to ask ourselves before God today. And in answering these questions today, we can then get an idea of the choices we need to make in living fruitfully now, in order to get to where we want to be. Because time flies, and if you aren’t intentional about where you are going, before you know it you are at the end of your life regretting the decisions you have made along the way. King Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 12, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them.” Thinking about such things now is really for your good later.
One of the legacies I want to leave behind is a legacy of investing in and establishing women in their relationships with Jesus, and helping them to do so in the lives of other women. I also want to leave a legacy of being an instrument of deep healing in the lives of many. And I want to be remembered as a wife, mother, daughter, and sister who lived out the love of Christ in life-changing and life-giving ways. These are the legacies I want to leave behind.
So how do I live fruitfully now in order to get to where I want to go? How do we as believers of Jesus move towards the legacies we want to leave behind?
First and most important, we must stay connected with God. John 15:4 says, “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.” It is only in God that we are able to bear fruit! To be in relationship with God means we must be in His Word, we must be praying to Him, and we must be relying on Him for everything.
Sometimes people tell me, “Oh, I just pray for my times with God, I’m not really a reader!” To which I respond, “How can you possibly know what the heart of God is or how He might want you to live if you don’t even know what He is saying?” We NEED to be in the Word of God, and ideally, daily!
If you are new to being a Christian, or to the idea of spending time with God, you don’t have to read a whole book in a sitting every day. Start out slow! I myself am just taking 3 verses a day for this entire year, and that’s okay. You just need to start somewhere, and gradually you will build it up.
Second, and equally important, we must be obedient to God. Not in a legalistic sort of way, like our entire salvation depends on it. God knows our heart, and He just so desires for us to want to honor Him by trying to be obedient to Him. And that, my friends, living in obedience to God’s Word out of reverence and not obligation, is faith in action. That is growing to be more Christ-like, and that is fruitful Christian living.
And the great news? God is patient. He knows that sometimes, we can’t do it on our own and sometimes, we can’t completely overcome the things that hold us back. But He is gracious and helps us walk through whatever obstacles we are trying to overcome step by step, and gives us the strength to do so.
But again, how can you obey God when you don’t know His Words? You must be in the Word of God to live fruitfully in the Kingdom of God.
Thirdly, sometimes we just have to die to ourselves. John 12:24 says, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
Sometimes, we have to die to our own agenda if it conflicts with God’s, but that’s only because He has something far greater for us. Sometimes, we have to die to our pride and move towards someone who has hurt us in forgiveness. There’s just a lot of dying that needs to happen, for the sake of drawing others closer into the Kingdom of God and cultivating the character of Christ in us.
Fourth, surround yourselves with community that can encourage, support, be honest, and spur you on towards loving God and loving others, and living fruitfully. There are times when you so just don’t want to. There are times when you are burnt out. There are times when God’s way is just too hard. Allow other believers to help shoulder your burden. We really need others to thrive and be fruitful in our lives.
Fifth, living fruitfully isn’t about the finish line, it is about the steps taken to get there. For example, with regards to wanting to leave a legacy of being an instrument of healing, that legacy isn’t going to happen overnight. It began with a few steps, like filling out applications. Finding out what courses I needed to take before getting into school. Going to school. Etc. Etc. With such a huge leap, sometimes it is just too intimidating and we are just paralyzed in fear. But thankfully, God doesn’t call us to take a huge leap. He calls us to take steps towards the finish line.
Friends, I really encourage you to take the time to ask the following questions before God:
1. What kind of legacy do I want to leave behind? What do I want people to remember about me after I die?
and 2. What are the ways I can pursue fruitful living NOW in order to get to where I want to go?
Because I would hate at the end of your lives for you to look back and regret what has become of your life.
Remember, the decisions and choices you make today in pursuing God and loving others shape who you are going to be and what will become of your life.
Let us all commit to living fruitfully together and as a body of believers in Christ this quarter.