Nicole and I have now been in South Africa for two weeks. We have been taking in A LOT of information, doing quite a bit of research, with a few projects on the side. It’s been a great time of being fed (though I’m honestly getting a little antsy – I love being out and about with people, serving, etc. We have had a little bit of time for that, but for now the main purpose in South Africa is training and teaching so we can be more prepared for the going out part in Thailand).
We met with a new dear friend today who has the role of pastoral care in Justice Acts. When we met, she showed us this picture that a friend had painted for her.
After looking at it for a couple minutes, we talked about some observations we had. I wanted to share with you all what God had laid on our hearts:
– One thing that we felt God saying is that we were like one of the branches. I feel like we are super excited for Thailand, but at the same time we are nervous. Anytime you go on a trip like this, especially when you have received so much prayer and financial support, there seem to be expectations. I (Mike) probably place these expectations on us way more than anyone else would, but regardless, I feel them! You want there to be fruit, and to show people that all this effort wasn’t worthless.
However, I feel like in looking at this picture, one branch is such a small part of the tree. That tree is so much bigger than one branch. And whether that one branch produces one piece of fruit, or a hundred pieces of fruit – that tree is not reliant on that branch. It will still be able to produce the fruit regardless of that one branch. So even though yes God has called us and I feel He will use us to make an impact, God doesn’t NEED us. He doesn’t NEED anyone. He is so much bigger than all of us and all that goes on in the world but He allows us to be a part of what He is doing; in restoring the world to what it was created to do – glorify it’s creator. I felt like this was freeing knowing that salvation isn’t in our hands, but it’s in God’s which is WAY better 🙂 (“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” 1 Corinthians 3:7)
Nicole and I have never been to Thailand. But God has. God IS there. That’s way better.
– The second thing that stuck out from our discussion is no matter how hard you try, the branches can’t squeeze fruit out themselves. The way that fruit is produced is if the branch stays constantly connected to the trunk, which is connected to the roots. And as it continues to get proper nutrients from the soil, fruit will be produced.
Jesus seemed to have a thing for sweet gardening and plant analogies, in fact I would put money that he probably had the sweetest Chia Pet on the block. In John 15:5 He says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.”
As long as we continue to abide in Him, press into Him, remain in Him, let Him be our focus, we WILL bear fruit. How that fruit looks could be completely different than what we are expecting. But this gave me encouragement and hope. Sometimes I feel like I can get so caught up in goals and accomplishments, that I’m trying as hard as I can, hoping I can squeeze some fruit out. Instead, sometimes we just need to take a step back and remember where our focus should be. Remaining in HIM. As we continue to make Him our focus, our lives will continue to be transformed and we WILL bear fruit as a result.
How about you – do you ever get so caught up in trying to do ministry, trying to do good, trying as hard as you can to squeeze some fruit out, that you forget where the fruit comes from? That you don’t stay as connected to the source as you should?
I hope this is as encouraging for you as it was for me.
“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.” – Jeremiah 17:7-8