My previous post was unfinished. In fact, I pursposely left the following question open for a few days:
How do we go about taking root below and bearing fruit above?
Greg’s comment reminded us that the idea of living in a vital relationship with God involves reliance upon God’s goodness, grace and guidance. Just like Hezekiah, Greg and his wife spread their challenges out before the Lord. They prayed over them just as Hezekiah did and God was always faithful to provide …. God was ever faithful and eventually pointed [them] in a different direction altogether.
Concerning taking root below, Kathy writes: As Max Lucado says, anchor deep, real deep In the LORD so the boat of life won’t be blown out of the water. The only place we CAN anchor deep, root downward is through communication, constant communication with God, with Jesus. Prayer, His Word, time with other Believers, quiet meditation on Him, fully immersing ourselves in Him. God will bring the fruit bearing when we are totally and constantly anchored deep in Him.
Dee adds her contribution to the conversation when she writes: “How do we go about taking root downward and bearing fruit upward?” This way – By being totally immersed IN the Word, OF the Word and spreading the Word to all we meet day by day, in all situations, in all faithfulness and steadfastness, in all affirmation of God’s great love and grace for us all, and in all confidence that in the end, His might will prevail, His love will conquer, all wickedness will perish eternally and all who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose will live eternally with Him.
Kiersten’s succinct reply speaks volumes. With crystal clear clarity she writes: I suppose for me, I focus on sending my roots downward: “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jer. 17:7,8
These are, in my estimation, excellent thoughts. Each of these comments seems to underscore the idea that our focus should be on taking root below. God will provide the fruit above, if we anchor our hearts in Him. Every time I think about this idea I am drawn back to John 15:1-8, where Jesus says: 1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 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. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
My sense is that, in general terms, we should realize that the ability to be in the game is not of our own doing. It is by God’s grace, not our goodness that we are able to discuss how we live fruitful lives in the kingdom. It is because of God’s choice to include us in His plan that we have a part. Thus, any discussion of “how” must start with an acknowledgement similar to the Apostle Paul’s in 1 Corinthian 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”
Beyond this point, though, it seems beneficial to ask, “What is involved in taking root below so that we might bear fruit above? How does this process unfold in our lives? While there are surely many things that could be written and said about each idea, I will suggest three things with respect to each category in hopes that these will help each of us to take root below and bear fruit above.
FIRST, THREE THINGS INVOLVED IN TAKING ROOT BELOW:
(1) Choice… Psalm 1:1-3; Joshua 24:14-15 and 1 Peter 3:15. God has given us the “power” of choice. In the final analysis this is the only thing we really “own” in life. Interestingly, in a sense this is all we need for eternal life. While the alternatives are many and varied, the main issue is choosing to do God’s will. Solomon’s wise counsel in Ecclesiastes stated it in the affirmative: The last and final word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you. (Ecclesiastes 12:13, The Message)
(2) Change… Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:11-16; and 2 Peter 3:18. From my point of view, this is one of the most beautiful concepts in the Scriptures. While it is true that you cannot harvest figs from thistles, in Christ thistles can be metamorphosed into fruit bearing trees. How cool is that!! By God’s grace a Jesus-hating, church-persecuting, sin-filled Saul of Tarsus was changed into Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles. What an example! If this man could be changed, then anybody can be changed!
(3) Challenge… John 15:1-8, esp. vs. 5 and 6. The core challenge is easily stated. Taking root downward involves being totally immersed in Jesus, remaining in Him. This is done in a host of ways: reading, memorizing, meditating upon, praying through and teaching the Scriptures; contemplating the vastness of the cosmos that declares God’s glory; marveling at the miracle of life every time you see a new born baby; thanking God for the hope of eternal life every time you are faced with death; blending your voice with that of others in a beautiful sacrifice of praise—the fruit of our lips that confess the name of Jesus. There are a thousand things that could be written here. Suffice it to say that our challenge is to draw near to God. If we do, God will draw near to us!
SECOND, THREE THINGS I BELIEVE TO BE TRUE ABOUT BEARING FRUIT FOR THE LORD:
(1) Bearing fruit is a consequence of taking root below. It is not a performance test to be “passed”. Fruit bearing sometimes gets presented this way, doesn’t it? This robs us of the joy of Christian service. Bearing fruit for God is not about what we are doing. It is about what God is doing through us. Hence, the joy of being part of God’s work in the world. This is always how Paul framed the discussion. When he reported to others about the mission work he had been doing he generally said something similar to what Luke reports in Acts 14:27, “On arriving there [Antioch], they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.”
(2) Bearing fruit is a calling, no a quota to be filled. How many times does the work of the Lord get us wrapped up in counting nickels and noses? How many times has the faithfulness of a follower of Christ been evaluated exclusively on the basis of how much she or he has done for or given to the work of a particular congregation or ministry. It’s so easy to get our priorities out of whack. Paul engaged in a planting ministry, just as God had called him to do. Apollos focused on watering. But, God made things grow! Nobody can do everything; but, everybody can do something! Be what God called you to be and He will bless your efforts with fruit according to His good pleasure. Don’t worry about meeting a spiritual ministry quota shaped by human desires and designs; just be faithful to your calling in Christ Jesus!
(3) Bearing fruit involves having a heart that is right with God, not following the right system which God is obligated to bless. How many seminars, workshops, Bible studies and sermon series have touted the latest and greatest sure-fire methods of realizing your spiritual potential by following a set systematically taking a series of steps, diligently pursuing a prescribed set of goals or purposing to do a number of specific things? Sometimes these things work. Sometimes they work for a lot of people. But, I suggest to you that they work, not because they are ingeniously designed; instead, they work because they are followed by people whose hearts are tuned to God and doing His will. They “work” because God blesses those who follow after Him with their whole heart!
When everything is said and done I think God speaks to us with precision when the Holy Spirit inspires Paul to share the essence of his prayers for his fellow believers. I don’t think it would be going too far to say that Paul’s prayers suggest that he wishes his fellow believers would take root below and bear fruit above. It is my belief, also, that we should follow the example of Paul and pray thusly for one another:
Colossians 1:9-13… “9For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Philippians 1:9-11, “9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, “…we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
© Bill Williams
August 15, 2006