Here's the problem: When you were called to ministry, you weren't called to produce results. Many of you will read that and object that God loves it when results are produced, when many come to know Jesus, and when more and more are simply showing up to be told of Jesus' work on the cross. That's true. God throws a party whenever one sinner repents and turns to him. However, those occurrences are simply statistics that indicate a movement of God's Spirit. Yes, God often uses faithful leaders in those movements, but we begin to walk down a dark and lonely road when we start to think that the goal of our ministry is to emulate others' impressive results.
Instead, you are expected to produce fruit.
But what's the difference? Here are some things you need to know about fruit:
Fruit might be an external or internal sort of thing. Not all fruit that grows as a result of being changed by Jesus is something people can see. In fact, I would argue that when we are faithful, most of the fruit that grows is something that happens inside of us, not around us. Paul's list of the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 all are internal qualities that reveal a life changed by Jesus: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.
Fruit can certainly appear in the form of statistical results, such as lots of people coming to know Jesus. I don't want you to get the wrong idea that visible signs of fruit in the form of big stats are a bad thing. For a few years, many of the people I hung out with in ministry through my denomination were very, very distrusting of large churches. The prevailing sentiment of most of these friends I did ministry with was that large churches or ministries just used gimmicks and money to lure people into being part of their Super Impressive and Shallow Church. I don't want to play psychoanalyst here, but I would guess there was a bit of envy at the root of this. As I've already said, we should celebrate when God does impressive things that involve more people coming to Jesus than we can count on our fingers and toes. Sometimes, God grows someone and the fruit that is borne is the reaping of a huge harvest (John 4:35). Praise God for that!
Fruit is the result of being rooted in Jesus. This might be the most important one. Clever people can produce results for a short period of time, but real fruit is grown when a person is rooted in Jesus. There is no real fruit apart from Jesus. And this is the real danger in striving for results rather than fruit. When we strive for results, we may get to a point where we want results at any price. When we strive for growing in Jesus, we get to a point where we want Jesus no matter the cost.
Fruit may grow, but it may not be the fruit we wanted. We'd all like to be a Paul, plant churches, see ministries, grow, and witness God do some amazing things. But maybe you or I have been called to be a Jeremiah. Maybe no matter how faithful we are, we will despair for a lack of tangible results in ministry. Even in these times, let us rejoice and praise God for the fruit that he is growing inside of us. It is no secret that we grow in our relationship with Jesus the most during difficult times, not good ones. When we cannot see the fruit being produced in the form of ministry successes, let us pray God would continue to produce fruit within us.
What do you think are some of the important differences between fruit and results?