These next two findings were perhaps among the most life changing for me at a particular period of my life. God so used these two quotes that my daughter printed and framed them as a gift for my birthday that year. They are still displayed in my home...and I keep multiple copies on hand in my file :) In my early blogging days (about a year and a half ago now), I did a series on the Vine and the branches. It was in one of the blogs in that series that I shared my story and my precious "quotes." Here's the story again. I pray you also will be blessed as I was.
By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. John 15:8
When you think of "fruitful Christians", who comes to your mind? Billy Graham? Mother Teresa? Beth Moore? John Piper? Others?
Mother Teresa, painting by Elizabeth Loyd Filson
What is it about them that makes them "fruitful" in the John 15 sense of the word? ...displaying godly character? ...doing good works? ...teaching the Bible? ...leading many to Christ?
My guess is that the main reason they are fruitful is that each has allowed the Lord to live through his/her unique life in His unique way, despite criticism, opposition, and perhaps even jealousy by others.
And I think it's the same for us too! The Lord wants to show forth His glory in a unique way in each of our lives:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Gal 5:22-23
As each one has received a special gift, use it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold [multi-faceted, multi-colored, variegated] grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so by the strength which God supplies, so that in all things, God will be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11
But there are hindrances to the fruit-bearing process. One of the biggest "blockers" to unique fruit-bearing is jealousy...and related evils, like comparison and competition, one-up-man-ship, expectations, holding offenses, and the like. All of these will kill the fruit the Lord wants to produce in our lives.
Think about it! If we are always comparing ourselves to "other branches," we have our attention off of the Lord and what He may be doing in and through our lives. What a waste of precious time and energy...much less spiritual fruit!
As I was in the midst of writing this blog, our pastor gave an amazing sermon on jealousy and competition from John 3:22-30. He said that jealousy minimizes what we have and exaggerates what we don't have. Quoting Rick Warren, he pointed out, "Envy is resenting God's goodness to others and ignoring God's goodness to me." What a sin against our Creator and Redeemer!
But there's also a "flip-side" to this issue. What if it's obvious to you that someone is jealous of you and competitive toward you? And that someone is important in your life, like a sister or brother or spouse or friend or in-law or co-worker or neighbor? How do you handle that? Do you shrink back from what you feel God is doing in and through your life so as to not cause problems or so they don't think you are showing off. Or do you continue to live your life, focusing on the Lord despite criticism and "emotional walls" that may go up toward you in those relationships?
Several years ago, I was struggling with this very issue. It was at a time when our son was a student at University of Dayton. Jeremy was being inducted into an honor society, and there was, of course, a ceremony with speeches etc. I was happy to be there but somewhat dreading having to sit through long speeches.
Wow! Was I surprised! God in His grace used the short, but pointed speech of the college chaplain to speak to my heart. I don't remember what he said, but I do remember two quotes he used which changed my life that very day.
I'll close with these quotes and with the prayer, dear sisters and brothers, that the Lord would set you free to be His unique abiding branch. Then you will bear His unique fruit to the glory of the Father!
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you. Be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, others may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today, people often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway. If you give the world the best you have, it may never be enough. Give the world the best you have anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and other people anyway.
Often attributed to Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us… And as we let our own light shine, we give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Nelson Mandela 1994 Inaugural Speech