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Fruit Grows on Trees, Not on Small Plants

a Word About the Fruit of Faithfulness
Rick Joyner
Morningstar Ministries

The fruit of the Spirit is "faithfulness" (Galatians 5:22). The characteristics of the Spirit are called "fruit" because it must be cultivated and grown. It takes faithfulness, which is demonstrated by endurance, for any of the fruit to be grown. But how is faithfulness grown? This is important for us to understand if we are going to bear any fruit.

Fruit grows on trees, not small plants. A small plant may sprout and produce vegetables in a single season, but a fruit tree takes years to develop before it will bear fruit. This is why we are told it takes "faith and patience" (Hebrews 6:12) to inherit the promises. One reason why there is so little true fruit of the Spirit in the body of Christ today is because of the lack of faithfulness; faithfulness is demonstrated by endurance over time until fruit is produced.

I hear many complaints about how pastors and leaders tend to interpret faithfulness as how committed people are to their own vision. This may be true, but this is not necessarily wrong. In fact, to be faithful to someone else's vision is crucial for developing the maturity in Christians so that they too can bear fruit.

Know Your Own Purpose & Destiny

For many years, I have championed the need for people to know their own purpose and have their own vision, but this vision, if it is real, must fit together with a corporate vision. Also, the more significant the calling that we have, the longer and more difficult the time of serving someone else's vision will usually be before He will free us to pursue our own vision.

This is because we are the branches, and He is the vine. A branch cannot bear fruit without abiding in the vine, so His life must flow through us. We receive His life by grace, and we are told plainly that "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6 NKJV). It takes humility to serve someone else's vision. Without humility, we cannot expect His grace.

The greater the purpose that you have, the more difficult you can expect your call to serve someone else's vision to be. Because King David was called to not only be a king but to establish a throne that the Scriptures say even the Lord Jesus sits upon (see II Samuel 7:12-16), the greatest level of humility and faithfulness was required of David. He had to remain faithful to serve a king who not only had drifted from the will of God but began to oppose the Lord, killing his priests and even trying to kill David. However, David remained faithful to Saul even after Saul died.

It is an amazing thing to see how King David rewarded those who honored Saul by recovering his body and giving him a proper burial, but he went even further than this. It was the practice of kings who ascended a throne in those times to kill all of the offspring of any potential rivals. King David did the opposite and actually honored Saul's offspring, even allowing them to eat at honored positions at his own table. David remained faithful to Saul, even when Saul became unfaithful. By this, King David became one of the greatest examples of godly faithfulness in the Scriptures.

Of course, one who exceeds even David in faithfulness is the Lord Himself. He has remained faithful to man, even through all of the unfaithfulness and opposition of man. As the primary work that the Lord is doing in us is to conform us to His image, we can therefore expect to be called on to remain faithful to those who have been unfaithful to us. How many of us, knowing that our best friends were all going to deny us and betray us that very night, deserting us when we needed them the most, would still desire to have one more meal with them and even wash their feet to demonstrate our commitment to them?

Conforming to His Image

If we react to those who disappoint us or are unfaithful to us, then we are still immature. Everything that the Lord allows in our life is for the purpose of conforming us to His image, and if we want this to happen, we can expect to have to go through the same things that He did.

Paul the apostle prayed to be conformed to the image of the Lord's death (see Philippians 3:10), and his prayer was answered. He died with all of his unfaithful friends having likewise scattered from him, and most of the churches he had given his life to serving had already gone into apostasy. Paul probably died wondering if he had really accomplished anything through his life of sacrifice, but true sacrifice has a power to bear fruit that actually cannot be destroyed.

Paul had probably forgotten long ago about the few letters he had written from prison. But because Paul lived for the eternal instead of the temporary, there was an eternal quality to those letters that made it impossible for them to be destroyed. Those few letters with eternity in their hearts are probably still bearing more fruit for eternal life than all of the efforts of all who are in ministry today. But would they have been remembered if Paul had not been so faithful, even to the end, even unto death? Probably not.

We must resolve that our own faithfulness will not be determined by what others do. We must resolve to remain faithful, simply because it is the right thing to do. Even if it looks as if we will be alone and we cannot see any fruit from it, it is still the right thing to do.

Of course, the ultimate test of faithfulness would probably be in relation to a spouse. But is this not what the Lord Himself is daily going through with His bride? How many of you would have liked to have heard from your fiancÚ on your wedding day, "Darling, I am going to be totally faithful to you 364 days a year. I only want one day a year to mess around."

"You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." -- James 4:4

What's Your Focus?

How many of His people have not devoted themselves more to being joined to this world and successful in the world than being joined to Him? Is this true of us? Then we, too, are being unfaithful to the One who in all of creation deserves our faithfulness the most.

If you have a question about whether this is you or not, ask this question: what do you spend most of your time on, and what has most of your attention? Are you more focused on how to get ahead in your job or profession, making more money, or acquiring the things of this world more than knowing the Lord, getting closer to Him, and doing His will? If so, then at the very least you have lost your first love, and you are in spiritual adultery with the world.

It is also possible to be more devoted to our church or our ministry than to the Lord Himself. As ministers, we are called to be the friend of the Bridegroom who is helping to prepare the bride for Him, but how many in ministry are really just using the bride to serve themselves and their own ambition? Isn't this the most profane of all unfaithfulness?

In this way, we are not only unfaithful ourselves, but we are seeking to have the very bride of Christ joined more to us than to Him! By this, we are committing adultery with God's own wife!

This is a trap that causes many in ministry to fall, and this may well deserve the worst judgment on that day. What husband would want a wife that was so busy serving him that she had no time for him? What husband would want a wife that loved her job or her house more than she loved him? This, too, is an issue of faithfulness.

Many of us in ministry are disappointed at the lack of faithfulness of the people to our vision, when we ourselves are basically being unfaithful to the Lord, and the people can see it. They will ultimately be as faithful to us as they can see that we are faithful to Him.

Why do we so easily desert Him for that which has no true satisfaction? For the last three years, Jack Deere and I have scheduled an around-the-world ministry trip each summer to try to serve as many countries as we could in the few weeks that we have.

Each year, Jack is usually in the middle of some study that we spend time talking about, while sharing dozens of hours in airports and on airplanes. This year, Jack found a study on "happiness." The findings of this study were not only very interesting, but they were quite surprising. The study revealed that the amount of material possessions, or the lack of them, actually had no real bearing on a person's happiness.

Materialism is a Trap and a Deception

I pondered this quite a bit on that trip, especially in Africa, where it seemed the majority of the population had so little. Then, as if to emphasize this, while we were in Johannesburg, South Africa, my wife and daughters visited the famous township of Soweto. They had a wonderful guide who took them to Nelson Mandela's house and to the other historic sites of this shanty town where the revolution in South Africa had begun.

The guide was showing them the typical house, which usually had two rooms. One room was the kitchen where there was an open fire and where all of the children usually slept. A friend, who was on the tour, remarked how sorry he was for them to have to grow up in these conditions. The guide was surprised by this comment, saying that they should not be sorry for this because they had a very happy family, and the memories of his childhood were not of deprivation, but of all the good times they had together.

I grew up in a very unhappy family, with difficult and confusing problems, one of which was continued and serious financial stress. Because of that, I have been driven to do better for my own family. However, three times we have had to move from "dream homes" to much smaller and more difficult conditions, and every time I have witnessed the barometer of our family's happiness go up instead of down, and often quite dramatically.

Our over-devotion to materialism is a trap and a deception that is robbing us of true life. So, how is it that we could be more faithful to that vision than to the Son of God? It is a righteous thing to want to provide well for your family, but we must guard against this becoming an idol that eclipses our devotion to the Lord. When it does, the fruit will be bad for ourselves and those we are providing for.

We were all created to have fellowship with God, and there is never going to be anything else more interesting or fulfilling than this. The main thing in our life is to keep the main thing -- the main thing. How is it that we are so easily distracted from this? Unfaithfulness.

All True Ministry is Servanthood

The Lord develops faithfulness in us in many ways. One primary way is by having us devote ourselves to the visions and purposes of others. This is what all true ministry is: servanthood. This is quite a lost art in ministry today, but it will be recovered. When it is, we will discover that there is really nothing as fulfilling as serving the Lord and helping others succeed in their purpose. It is hard for the immature to see this, but this is actually the path for us to succeed in our own purpose.

Paul the apostle lamented that there were many teachers but not many fathers (see I Corinthians 4:15). That is true. A true father will get far more satisfaction from seeing his children succeed than even from his own success. This is why the true measure of an authentic New Testament ministry is for one to reproduce their ministry in others and have them succeed. If it was the nature of God to empty Himself of all of His glory and to lower Himself to become a man to serve the very ones who had rejected Him, then, we who were made in His image will also do this.

So, if the Lord requires the immature to go through a time of serving someone else's vision before letting them pursue their own, and if we are on the true path of true ministry, then our main devotion will not be to get others to support our vision as much as being devoted to helping those entrusted to our care to be prepared and released into their own purpose.

True ministry is never just faithfulness to our own vision, but serving others. In the Lord, that is the only way to fulfill our own vision: by serving Him and serving His people -- servanthood. True faithfulness to the Lord is just as He stated in Matthew 16:24-26:

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?'"

Faithfulness to a Corporate Vision

Faithfulness to someone else requires the laying aside of our own self-centeredness, even the fulfilling of "our ministry," and giving ourselves to the purpose of another. The Lord has made us so that this is the only way we can truly find our own purpose and fulfillment. There is no greater bondage than self-centeredness and no greater freedom than being the Lord's slave. However, the truly faithful will remain steadfast when it becomes hard, regardless of how much time it takes. True faithfulness will see the job through to completion.

Every leader learns fast that it is quite easy to get people motivated to start a job, but there will not be many left to see it through the hard work to completion. The resurrected Lord told five hundred people to go back to Jerusalem to wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit, but after just twelve days there were only one hundred twenty still there. The Lord knew this would happen, and He often causes things to take longer than we would like to thin out the crowds, getting rid of the unfaithful because anything of true significance must be built on faithful people. This is why He requires that we not only have faith but also patience to inherit the promises.

True Christian maturity requires that we learn faithfulness to a corporate vision, something that originated in the heart of someone else, which may or may not be the main thing on our heart, but this is needed before we can expect others to be committed to our vision. Few visions and purposes of the Lord can be accomplished by just one person, so it does require a joining together of others to accomplish them. However, the basis of our faithfulness must be to the Lord Himself above all other things, keeping Him as our first love. That is the basis of all true faithfulness.

One of the primary areas that demonstrates faithfulness is in our financial giving. Most Christians even have a knee-jerk negative reaction to this, but it is true and biblical. This is the reason why the Lord Himself was watching those who were giving in the temple. Jesus, being the true representative of the Father, demonstrated by this that this was something important to the Father. This is because where a person's treasure is, there will their heart be also.

When I was once inquiring of the Lord about how to know who to add to our staff for a position, the Lord said that I should look at his record of giving to see if his heart was really with us. Since then, I have concluded that this probably is truly the best barometer of a person's faithfulness. If their hearts really are with the Lord, they will put their treasures into His work. If their hearts are with you in what you are doing for Him, they will invest there. If they will not put their treasures there, then you can be sure their hearts are not really there either.

The very thought of this will cause a strong reaction in some, but those are the ones that you do not want to count on because they are the ones who will demand the most and give the least. When difficulties come, they will be the first to become disgruntled and the fastest to desert. In my observations, this has been true every time. Money is usually the ultimate idol -- what we put our trust in above the Lord, and where we put our treasure, this will be where our hearts really are. That's why if we are true shepherds, we have a basic responsibility to teach financial faithfulness to those entrusted to our care.