The thought wouldn’t let go. You’re not making a difference; your efforts are for nothing. Why stay? Such self-assessment only fed my discouragement, which grew to the point where I started wondering if I shouldn’t leave the field after all.
It’s only natural to want to see the results of our work. However, because of the nature of our service, seeing fruit isn’t always a given. Sometimes, it doesn’t show up until after many years. Or we lose contact and never see it. We may overlook some fruit because it takes a different form than what we’re seeking. At times, what looks like a crop is, in reality, a passing emotional experience. Simply put, evaluating the presence or absence of fruit is wrought with difficulties.
How, then, can we know if we’re producing fruit?
The evening before his death, Jesus shared valuable insights into crop-production. In John 15:4, he declared himself to be the only source of fruit. Just as a severed branch is incapable of growing grapes, so we can’t bear fruit unless we abide in Christ. The Greek verb “abide” refers to place and time. In other words, Jesus is telling us to continually stay close to him, to daily plug into his power and follow his lead, to place ourselves in his care. In this way, we put ourselves in a position to receive everything he has for us.
In John 15:5, Jesus went on to make the incredible promise that if we abide in him, we will bear much fruit. He didn’t add “maybe,” “under certain circumstances,” or “on a good day.” What’s more, he didn’t say that there would only be a tiny crop. Instead, he promised an abundance. I picture the time when the disciples had such a large catch of fish that their boat almost sank.
Whenever I have doubts about the fruit of my service, I go back to these two verses. First, I evaluate the closeness of my walk with Jesus. Am I abiding in Christ? And second, I remind myself of the Lord’s promise to provide fruit in abundance.
What are barriers that interfere with your abiding in Christ? How do you overcome them?