Why It’s Not All About Me
How many times do we think our joy and our sorrow are strictly that – our joy, our sorrow? It’s easy to constantly turn our heads down and look inward to see how we’re doing and how we’re measuring up. Did I read today? Am I growing today? How did I do last year? How do I want to mature this year? That is one aspect of our sinful nature – the constant need for evaluation of circumstances and situations to see how they change us, affect us, break us, build us, and remake us – and to think it’s all about us. We learn how to be a better person, a better co-worker, a better disciple of Christ, a better boss, a better friend, a better brother, husband, mother, wife, cousin, sister.
And if we’re not careful, sometimes we can think we’re the center of it all.
Make no mistake, rightful understanding of God comes from a rightful understanding of ourselves. So in one sense, our belief in Jesus, our trust in and confession of Christ as Redeemer and Rescuer, comes as we personally wrestle with the reality of our own individual need to be redeemed and rescued. While that is 100% true, the Scripture shows us that through the incarnation of Christ God was bringing his children, his people, back into the family house, back into the party, back into relationship with Himself. God’s mission was and is to reconcile an entire people. And because that’s true, how God works through the lives of common individuals has massive implications for how God wants to work in his people as a community.
Whether we know it or not, we produce output like crazy. It doesn’t matter if you think you struggle with productivity or not, you and I are amazing at production. Now, this is a little different than probably what you’re thinking. You may feel like you sit in front of your computer for 9 hours and when asked what you did all day you are lost for an answer.
God provides for us physically from his creation. God provides for us spiritually through his church.
Even during that kind of day, your rate of output is astronomical. Our output is like that because our hearts and minds are producing thoughts, emotions, reactions, habits, attractions, and fears 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Every second of every day we are yielding mass produce.
We learn this truth from Scripture.
The Bible is clear that we are producing people. The writers of the New Testament consistently relate our sanctification, our conforming more into the image of Christ, to a tree that produces fruit [Matthew 7:15-20; 12:33; Luke 8:15; John 12:24; 15:16; Galatians 5:22-33; Colossians 1:10; Titus 3:14]. We are producing output constantly, whether intentionally or mindlessly. And the Gospel of Matthew tells us that what comes out of us shows what’s inside of us. This is how we are known to be children of God, people indwelled by God’s Spirit. Just like in the physical world where an apple comes from an apple tree, an orange from an orange tree, so too in the spiritual world. That’s how it goes.
Physical Truth Is Spiritual Truth
But have you ever thought that was all there was to your fruit? I see patience in my life. I see love, I see self-control, wonderful. That’s good news. Jesus is working. We look to the fruit in our life merely as identifiers, a sort of spiritual name tag. Yes, we are known by our fruit, but that’s not all that our fruit is used for. To help us understand this, we need to think about the reality of God’s created order and how he has established his creation.
We know from Genesis 1:29-30 that God gave the plants and trees bearing fruit to Adam and Eve for food. He is clear about that. We understand the fruit from these plants are not for themselves. The oranges that come from the tree aren’t benefits to that tree. Rather, they are evidence of the health of the tree. Know this: what is true in the agricultural realm is true in the spiritual realm.
An orange lets us know what kind of tree we’re looking at. But also the fruit from that tree is for our nourishment. The fruit gives us life. The fruit provides for us. Why is this important? Because while the fruit in our lives shows us to be God’s children and a part of his Kingdom, the fruit we bear is not for us.
Make no mistake, rightful understanding of God comes from a rightful understanding of ourselves.
God bears fruit in his people in order to provide life and spiritual nourishment for the rest of his family. God graciously plants the seed of Christ in his people so that seed would grow and mature into a vibrant spiritually-producing plant in order to give its produce to those surrounding it.
Paul’s encouragement in 2 Corinthians 1 shows this beautiful truth so clearly. Paul tells his readers,
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.”
In other words, look, what the Lord is doing in your life, the way he is growing you and producing spiritual fruit from the gospel isn’t for you! It’s for others! He’s doing a work in you that isn’t solely for you, it’s for those around you, it’s for others in God’s family.
The prophet Jeremiah says when we trust in the Lord and root ourselves in Him, we will produce fruit in season and out of season, even when drought and heat come and try to stop production. The Lord wants us clinging to him in order that we produce heavenly fruit in every time in our life, when we’re struggling and when we’re not, when we’re in sorrow and when we’re in joy.
Just as God provides for us physically through the fruit from his creation, God generously provides for his children spiritually through fruit in the lives of others in his church. What the Lord is doing in us and through us isn’t just for us, the same way an apple isn’t for the tree it fell from.
May he grow us in order to be life-giving, soul-nourishing providers to those around us. Let him make us into an enormous open-air farmers market, all for the sake of his glory and the growth of his church.