When the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our hearts, the result is fruit. Lots of it. And yet even Christians can forget that without the grace of God working in and through us, we can become barren and unfruitful. In 2 Peter 1:5-8 we have a list of things we are to diligently add to our faith (virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, etc.) and the conclusion is that “if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ: (vs. 8).
Now we can be very, very busy people, with a calendar booked for months ahead, but that is not the same thing as being fruitful. I’ve been trying to come up with a definition of fruitfulness, and I know that it isn’t connected to busy-ness. Obviously, it must be connected to the fruit of the Spirit, but I don’t think it’s the same thing as love, joy, peace, patience, and the rest. At the same time, it is undeniably the Holy Spirit who makes us fruitful. So here’s my attempt at a definition: fruitfulness is Spirit-filled obedience to God.
The reason I like this definition is because it does not limit us to one kind of fruitfulness or one kind of obedience. One person may think that being fruitful means evangelism, and for another it might mean hospitality. We are each called to obey God in our own circumstances, not our neighbor’s, and all our obedience must be by the grace of God. Obedience involves a whole lot of good works, and work is certainly involved in fruitfulness.
The passage I cited above says that we are to add to our faith. Faith is the beginning point, not the end. We are to be diligently pursuing virtue (that means working hard at it). Paul bragged in 1 Cor. 15:10 that he worked harder than anyone else, but he quickly added, “yet not I, but the grace of God which was in me.”
Being busy is not the same thing as Spirit-filled obedience. Though fruitfulness may sometimes mean a heavy schedule, other times it might mean saying no to certain activities, commitments, or invitations. We all make choices every day, and we ought to ask God to direct our decisions. Once we understand the duties in front of us, we want to diligently pursue God’s pleasure as we do them. If I’m pleasing God, then I can be confident that He is making me fruitful.
So often we think of having a fruitful life as somewhere else. Not here. Not this house. Not this sink of dishes. But this is simply discontentment. We can be fruitful and obedient where ever God has us, with what ever circumstances He calls us to. So look for your duties. They are always right in front of us. God does not play hide-and-seek with us when it comes to our duties. Apply His grace to your situation. Work diligently and pursue virtue and knowledge and patience as you go. And throw in a whole lot of hymn singing. That is fruitfulness.
If you can’t approach your duties this way, then you might just be busy.