You started that ministry that God told you to. You moved to that city that God told you to. You left that job that God told you to. You loved the difficult people that God told you to. So after all of your diligence, patience and obedience you have one question...LORD, WHERE’S THE FRUIT?
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has asked God that question in frustration. Well, after a few days of frustration, God answered me and I am grateful that He did.
Maybe you’re the one that God instructed to step out in faith and start a ministry. After prayer and preparation, you launched the very thing that God put on your heart to do and NO ONE attended your function or event. “What’s going on, Lord? I know that You put this in my heart to do so why aren’t I seeing any fruit from it. Why didn’t anyone attend? Why aren’t people interested? If you told me to do this to help people and advance Your kingdom, where are the people?” That was me!
Maybe you’re the one that God instructed to take a leap of faith and start a new job or leave a job. You knew that it was God instructing you and it even took you outside of your comfort zone. Or maybe God has pressed upon your heart to show genuine Christ-like love to someone that you would categorize as a difficult person. It could be a rude boss (that was me, too); an irritating co-worker (that was me, too); a stressful family member (that was me, too); or a complete stranger who clearly needed to receive the love of Christ (and yes, that was me, too). Or yet, maybe you’re the one that it wasn’t just one thing but years of you being patient and obedient to whatever God called you to do and you’re wondering where’s the fruit (also me).
As people living in this natural world that we see, our view of success or “fruit” from what God instructed us to do at times gets skewed. While we live in the world, we are not of the world so our views, expectations and successes shouldn’t be measured by the world’s standards or even in the world’s suggested timeline. If you host an event, the world’s view of success could be having a packed housed or many people raving about the event. While on the other hand, God’s view of success is being obedient to what He instructed you to do.
I think our frustration comes in when our expectations don’t match God’s expectations. Sometimes in the middle of it, it’s hard to see exactly what God’s expected end results are for the assignment that He gives us. It’s in those moments that it becomes easy to slowly take on the world’s view and possibly get disappointed when the end results don’t pan out the way that we desired or expected it to. I recently went through brief moment of intense frustration with God and what He wasn’t doing in my life.
I had been counting down the days until the sale of my first book, Beauty for Ashes. I invested so much time, energy, money and myself into the book that I knew God wanted me to write. Hundreds of people showed interest during the writing process and I was encouraged with how well it would sell when the time came. I mapped out in my mind how everything would turn out. I even began to make future plans based on those assumptions and expectations. When the big day came, my hopes were high! As the sun went down on that first day of sales, so did my countenance, hopes and patience. Despite the hundreds of people who voiced interested in my book, my book sales didn’t reflect that same interest.
“Lord, I did what You wanted me to do. And actually I’ve done this, this, this, this and that—all things that you wanted me to do—and I haven’t seen any fruit from any of it. Other people can spit on the ground and something would grow from it but I’ve been trusting You, obeying You and being patient for years and I don’t see anything.” I kept trying to encourage myself saying that it was only the first day. I previously told God during the writing process that even if my book only transformed one person’s life it would be worth it. All that went out the window. My frustration was at its peak after a few days of stagnated sales. It was around that time that God got my attention and showed me how my perspective was a bit askew and reminded me what His fruit actually is.
While money, position, promotion or “numbers” may be produced by following God’s plan, it’s not a guarantee. His fruit is clearly laid out in Galatians 5:22-23:
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
It wasn’t so much that I thought I would write a book an become famous or anything but I had a very natural expectation of the book’s “success.” Shortly after He reminded me of His perspective, I regained my composure. I meditated on Matthew 6:19-34 and my perspective realigned to His. While my book didn’t bring in the waves of sales and support that I was expecting, it began to open doors that were much more fruitful. I was afforded the opportunity to minister to a few ladies who reached out to me because of my book. I was overjoyed to be able to encourage and pray with women whom I've never met because of the connection formed from my book. This was the real fruit, lives being changed even if it wasn’t the masses.
So just as I encouraged myself, I encourage you. If you are in a situation where you have been faithfully pursuing God’s plans and you feel like you’re not getting the results that you expected, take a step back. Remind yourself of what is actually valuable to God and what success looks like by His standards. Don’t forget that everything that we go through prepares us for what God wants to do through us for others. At times the very fruit that God is producing in us is patience or joy or faithfulness or perhaps self-control. How will you react when things don’t unfold the way you want even when God is the one instructing you to do it? Be encouraged, Sis. The fruit is closer than you think.
Your sister in Christ,