Tag Archives: Spiritual Maturity

Are You Useful to the Master?

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When I was a child, I read the story of Jesus and the fig tree in Mark 11:11-21. In the story, Jesus was traveling from Bethany to Jerusalem when He became hungry. Seeing a fig tree on the side of the road, He went to inspect it. Although the verse indicates it was “not the season for figs,” Jesus was still upset when he found it barren. In fact, He cursed the tree so that it withered and died.

As a child, this upset my sensibilities. I pictured this little tree trying to grow on the side of the road, doing everything right in accordance with the seasons God ordained. Then God came along and cursed it! It just didn’t make sense. Eventually, I set the verses aside on faith, figuring that I was missing a deeper spiritual point.*

 

Useless

Years later, we  studied trees and plants in my Bible classes. That’s when I learned that the fig trees of Jesus’ day produced fruit for ten months out of the year. However, if fig trees are not properly fertilized in the first three years, they’ll stop producing fruit altogether.**

When Jesus found the fig tree in April, it wasn’t technically fig season, but there still should have been figs ripening on the tree. Instead, the tree had no fruit at all. Because it was barren, it would always be barren. Jesus used the situation to explain that if we don’t bear spiritual fruit, then we aren’t being useful for the Kingdom.

 

Be Useful

The term “useful” doesn’t sound very spiritual today, but Paul referenced it several times in his letters. At one point, he stated, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things [wickedness], he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21 NAS).

Although every person is loved and valued by God, not everyone is useful to Him. And what a shame it is to be in the Church Body and have no spiritual fruit to offer it!

If you want to make yourself useful to the Master, you need to be willing and able to heed His call.

 

Be Willing

Make yourself spiritually and physically available to God. If you’re too focused on your to-do list, or you’re consumed with worry, then you’ll find it hard to hear the voice of God. On the other hand, if you don’t care about your fellow man, then you won’t care about the assignments God gives you.

To be willing, you must also be humble. If you only care about working in the spotlight, then your motivation is on “self” and not service. You must be willing to accept any assignment God gives you (even if it’s sorting the mail).

 

Be Able

A lot of people are willing for God to use them, but they aren’t able. Now, it’s true that God can use anyone for His service, but He can’t use anyone for any service. For example, if you want to share the Gospel with others, then you need know the Word. If you want to tell people about Jesus, you need to know Him personally. If you want to minister to people, then you need to love them.

Likewise, if you feel called to a specific area, then you should learn all you can about it. For example, if you see yourself writing books to minister to people throughout the world, then you need to learn the craft of writing, including the world of publishing and marketing. These topics are not mundane or secular when they are necessary tools for your godly service.

Paul specifically said that we must be holy and sanctified to be useful. (See 2 Timothy 2:21.) Therefore, you should repent of past sins and avoid sinning going forward. Despise wickedness and love righteousness. (See Psalm 45:7.) Above all, make God the top priority in your life, and everything else will follow. (See Matthew 6:33.)

 

A Servant’s Prayer

Are you tired of being spiritually barren? You have the power to change that! Decide in your heart that you want to be useful to the Master and His Kingdom. Here’s a simple prayer to help you become willing and able to accept God’s assignments:

“Lord, I feel like I haven’t been very helpful to you. Please forgive me and change my heart. Help me to want to be helpful. Instruct me so that I can be useful in the areas you need me. Then grant me assignments that will glorify you and bless your people. In the name of Jesus, the perfect servant. Amen.”

 

[Click to Tweet: It’s true that God can use anyone for His service, but He can’t use anyone for any service. #bigsisterknows]

[Click to Tweet: What a shame it is to be in the Church Body and have no spiritual fruit to offer it! #bigsisterknows]

 


* Some Scriptures don’t seem to jive with our understanding of who God is. When in doubt, have faith that God is in control, He loves you, and He had good plans for you. Stand on the sure foundation of faith while you continue to seek knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

**W.E. Shewell-Cooper, Plants, Flowers and Herbs of the Bible (New Canaan, Conneticut: Keats Publishing, Inc, 1977), Page 53-56.

 

Bearing Fruit: The Evidence and Opportunities of Faith

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Photo and design by Ashley L. Jones.

 

If you’ve been going to church for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard of the phrase “bearing fruit.” People who use this phrase are usually referencing Galatians 5:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23 NAS).

I used to think that bearing fruit was something only the most spiritually-minded people could do. That’s because it seemed like only the grandmas and grandpas of the church could adequately display these fruits, such as kindness in traffic jams, patience in line at the store, and peace when everything seems to be falling apart.

And yet, as I study the concept of bearing fruit for my book Girls with Gusto, I realize that I’ve been mistaken.

Bearing fruit isn’t just for spiritual giants! Learn how at BigSisterKnows. [Click to Tweet]

 

The Image of the Vine

In John 15:1-5, Jesus used the image of the grape vine to describe our relationship to Him and the Father:

  • Jesus is the True Vine
  • God the Father is the Vinedresser (or vine gardener)
  • God’s people are the branches of the Vine

He then says, “He who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5b NAS).

This makes more sense when you understand the structure of grape vines. The grape bunches that you buy at the grocery store are cut from branches, which are connected to a vine. Although the branches produce the grapes, they cannot live on their own. Instead, they are dependent on the vine, which is the life source of the entire plant structure.

We rely on Jesus just as the branches rely on the vine to survive and produce grapes. As we tap into Jesus, we begin to access His essence of pure love. As we experience more of God’s love, we begin to overflow with it and all the fruits of the Spirit that derive from it.

This means that all believers—each and every one of us—can display the fruits of the Spirit.

 

A Fruitful Expectation

Jesus also explained, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, [the Father] takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2 NAS).

This shows that, not only are we able to bear fruit, we are expected to do so. If we don’t, it is a sign that we are not actually connected to the Vine of Jesus. However, when we do bear fruit, we give evidence of that God’s holy nature is alive within us. He then refines us so that we can bear even more fruit. Perhaps this is why we prove ourselves to be disciples of Jesus, and we glorify God the Father, when we “bear much fruit” (John 15:8 NAS).

 

Evidence and Opportunities

On one hand, “bearing fruit” is the evidence of our relationship with God; on the other, it is the opportunity to receive and share in the love of God.

A great example of this is the story of Joseph in Genesis chapters 37-50. After his brothers sold him into slavery, Joseph was accused of a crime he didn’t commit, and he ended up in an Egyptian dungeon. Even so, Joseph remembered his God. Perhaps that’s why God used Joseph to warn the pharaoh of a pending famine. Joseph heeded the opportunity, and his leadership and good stewardship saved countless lives, including those of his own family. Then, when he could have turned his back on the brothers that did him wrong, Joseph chose a better path. He took the opportunity to display mercy, forgiveness, and love.

Throughout his entire story, Joseph took every opportunity to do God’s will, and his character was filled with the fruits of the Spirit. Although we think of Joseph as a spiritual giant, we are expected to display these very same fruits of the Spirit in our own lives. Likewise, our opportunities to serve God may seem less important than Joseph’s mission to save the kingdom, but we should treat them with the same respect and gusto that Joseph exemplified.

 

Encouragement

I encourage you to examine your own life. Does your character and your actions give evidence that God is alive in your heart? Are you seizing the opportunities God sets before you?  If not, take a moment to get back on track by saying a simple prayer like this one:

“Lord, I’m sorry. I’ve missed the opportunities you’ve given me, and I don’t really see the fruits of the Spirit in my life. Please clean my heart and help me to focus on you. In your grace, give me more opportunities to serve you. Help me to hear your guiding voice, and give me the strength and courage to act accordingly. Thank you in the name of Jesus. Amen.”

 


Has someone affected your life by bearing the fruits of the Spirit? If so, I’d love to hear about it! Please leave a comment below or on my Facebook page.

 

 

Classes, Manuscripts, and Radio Interviews, Oh My!

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Navigating_Meme

 

This month, I’ll begin teaching a 5-week course called Navigating Your Spiritual Journey at my alma mater, the Tallahassee Christian College and Training Center. I developed this class based on 13 years of research on the topic of the spiritual journey, which is the topic of my non-fiction manuscript, Girls with Gusto. In the class, students will learn the eight major steps of the spiritual journey and will be able to identify where they are on the map and what they need to do to advance forward.

Every semester, our local Christian radio station, Wave94.1, interviews a faculty member about his or her class. This semester, they picked me! So, for more information on this class, my manuscript, and the college, check out my radio interview. (I added photos and memes I’ve shared on this site or posted on social media to make it more fun.)

 

I hope to see you later this month at TCCTC. If you’re not in the area, or you can’t commit to the 5-week class, don’t worry—I’ll continue to share encouraging posts with you right here at BigSisterKnows. As always, your prayers (as well as your Likes and Shares) are sincerely appreciated!