How quick we are to scrutinize, label, and condemn our own effectiveness! In a culture that thrives on branding and labeling anything and everything, we hasten to assess and label ourselves before the rest of the world can do so. We announce that we are fat, ugly, inept, uncoordinated, ignorant, incapable, or unintelligent — often before anyone has even considered viewing us as such. That way, we reason, we beat everyone else to the punch! We proclaim as truth the things we are certain that other people will think about us — regardless of whether or not our proclamations are valid.
Perhaps we even believe that God has called us to be involved in certain relationships for the purpose of showing them His love, kindness, support, or generosity. Perhaps we are trying hard to simply be gracious to a difficult family member or to be helpful to a less-than-receptive neighbor. After a few attempts to muster our courage and do what we feel called to do, we sense our efforts are fruitless, ineffective, and even ridiculous. We lose heart and decide that we are useless to God and everybody else. All our efforts are futile, and we see no change in our situation or anyone else’s attitudes. There you have it: we brand ourselves as barren and useless and our efforts as fruitless.
Think about it, though . . . moments after planting a seed in the ground, do we run back outside and yell at that seed? Do we scream that it is a stupid, worthless, good-for-nothing seed because it has not sprouted ten minutes after being planted? When there is no seedling visible the next day, do we continue reviling it as barren and hopelessly unproductive the next day? I, for one, have not done that (yet!), and I do not know anyone who has. Calling a seed barren before it has a chance to even sprout would be ridiculous! It is a fact that some of the most significant creative growth happens to that seed before it ever shows signs of sprouting up through the soil. Similarly, a baby experiences the most miraculous and mysterious phase of development before his or her presence is even visible on an ultrasound screen. Much of God’s creative work is accomplished in secret — in the places we cannot see with our human eyes or comprehend with our limited understanding. In fact, God knows that we lack skill in perceiving His work. He declares: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19a)
Moreover, even if we COULD accurately and consistently perceive the work and fruit of God’s hand in our lives, God never assigned us the job of Holy Fruit Inspector! We need to repent of our haste in pronouncing ourselves barren and useless and instead embrace His life. He is faithful to finish what He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6), and His life in us WILL produce fruit that remains (John 15:16).