Twenty-three years, then hard hearts

I’ve been reading through Jeremiah lately and in chapter 25, something Jeremiah said to the people of Judah convicted me.  Here’s what he wrote:

For twenty-three years, from the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, to this day, the word of the LORD has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened. You have neither listened nor inclined your ears to hear, although the LORD persistently sent to you all his servants the prophets, saying, ‘Turn now, every one of you, from his evil way and evil deeds, and dwell upon the land that the LORD has given to you and your fathers from of old and forever. Dot not go after other gods to serve and worship them” (25:3-6a).

So often I am disappointed if someone does “get” the gospel immediately.  Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend and we discussed what it means for a church to be “successful.”  For Jeremiah, it meant faithfully preaching God’s word, even if people didn’t listen.  It mean being patient because transformation is a process, and sometimes God takes his time with grace. And even after 23 years, Jeremiah didn’t give up his warnings and pleadings to turn back to God.  He faithfully kept speaking as God called him to.

O Lord, keep me faithful to your word, and help me teach it lovingly and truthfully.  Keep me from complaining when someone doesn’t listen, and help me remember where I was before you saved me.


One Reason We Sing

I think a huge reason for my spiritual ups and downs is the fact that I tend to look at my subjective feelings more often than I look at God’s proven faithfulness and goodness.  As I spent time reading the Bible earlier in Psalm 13, my heart rejoiced with David’s words:

I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me (v. 6).

David didn’t say that he wanted to sing because he had a great quiet time that morning.  He didn’t say he would sing because things were going perfectly (actually, they were going quite poorly if you read the whole chapter).  David did not look to his feelings when searching for motivation to sing praise to God.

No, David went right to the core.  His motivation was the rock-solid foundation that God has dealt bountifully with him.  That is, God has been overly gracious to him.  When I am in the dumps — for any number of reasons (mostly stupid ones) — I need to remember that God has dealt, and is dealing, bountifully with me.  He is being more gracious and kind to me than I could have ever hoped to deserve.  And that is more than enough reason to sing in joy to him.


Does God Really Only Call Us to Be Faithful, Not Fruitful?

Quite often lately, I have heard the phrase, “God calls us to be faithful, not fruitful.”  Working as a campus minister in the Midwest, we can pull that statement out to make us feel good about ourselves when moralistic college students don’t respond to the gospel.  There are two ways to interpret this sentence.  One is biblical; the other is not.  The non-biblical interpretation says, “Just do what God calls you to do, but don’t worry about results.  You don’t have to bear fruit.”  The biblical interpretation of this phrase is simply this: “Our faithfulness to God’s service will produce eternal fruit, proving that we are truly God’s people.”  This has to be the case, because after all, God does call us to be fruitful.

Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit [my Father] takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit…By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
– John 15:2, 8

John makes it pretty clear.  If you don’t bear fruit, you will be cut off.  In other words, if you don’t bear fruit, you prove yourself to not truly be in Christ.  However, who is the one actually causing the fruit to sprout, blossom, and mature?  It’s Jesus.

[Jesus said,] I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
– John 15:5

If we look in Paul’s epistles, we see this same theology of faithfulness and fruitfulness.  Paul would say, “God has called me to be faithful.  If I am faithful to his kingdom’s work, he will bear much fruit in and through me.”  Look at how he puts it in 1 Corinthians 3:5-7:

What then is Apollos?  What is Paul?  Servants through whom you believed as the Lord assigned to each.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives growth.

If you are a sower, then plant.  If you are a sprinkler, then water the ground.  Be faithful in your work, then expect with faith, in the power of the Spirit, that God will give the increase.  He will grow the fruit and he will credit that fruitfulness to your account and not cut you off.  In this, God is glorified and it proves you to be a true disciple of our Lord and Savior.