By Hugh Whelchel
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
God has always been with us at work. And he wants us to be fruitful there as well as all the other areas of our lives. Yet, we often find it difficult.
During a recent trip to London, I had the incredible opportunity to spend time with Mark Greene and some of the staff of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC). John Stott founded LICC in the mid-1980s, and over the years they have worked diligently to “engage closely with Christians on the frontline to develop the wisdom and practices that can help us all live fruitfully for Christ in a complex and rapidly changing world.” LICC views Christians in their everyday work (not just missionaries overseas) as serving on the “frontlines” of God’s mission in this world.
The following quote from John Stott serves as a cornerstone for LICC’s work, “Contemporary Christians are called to the difficult and even painful task of ‘double listening.’ That is, we are to listen carefully both to the ancient Word and to the modern world, in order to relate the one to the other.”
One of the tools they have developed through this way of thinking about the way we interact with the world is a framework Mark calls his “6 M’s for fruitfulness.” It’s a simple framework for helping Christians see where they are fruitful in their everyday lives and how to think through ways to be more fruitful:
- Modeling Godly Character – On our frontlines, godly character is both modeled and displayed. This character includes love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).
- Making Good Work – There is dignity and value in the everyday tasks we do, and everything we do, we do for Christ.
- Ministering Grace & Love – God has shown us grace and love, how might we minister to those around us? How do we go the extra mile for others?
- Molding Culture – How can we influence the culture on our frontlines so people will flourish more? How do we find ways to make a change for the better?
- Mouthpiece for Truth & Justice – Becoming champions of right living and fair dealing in our everyday lives by combating lies and working for justice.
- Messenger of the Gospel – Growing in confidence in talking about Jesus with people on our frontlines.
The “6 M’s” is an excellent tool, but let’s take a step back and ask why fruitfulness matters at all. What do we find in scripture about this idea?
Fruitfulness in the Old and New Testaments
The picture of bearing fruit is an archetype image in both the Old and New Testament. We read in Psalm 1,
Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.
In one of his most profound statements about true discipleship, Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches, and the only way we will ever bear the fruit that matters is to be in him.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples (John 15:5-8).
Even the Apostle Paul picked up on this theme in his letter to the Colossians:
We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God (Col. 1:9-10).
As we look across the entire scope of scripture from the opening chapters on creation to the closing vision of the new heaven and new earth, we see this idea of fruitfulness woven throughout God’s word. It symbolizes God’s plan for the restoration of his entire creation through his son Jesus Christ. As we are obedient to God’s word in our own lives, we bear the fruit of righteousness which comes from the Spirit working within each of us as believers. As Antony Billington, another member of LICC’s staff writes:
Fruitfulness, then, is bound up with the larger biblical drama of creation and redemption, God’s relationship with his people and his plan for the nations. And it’s our privilege as disciples of Christ to take our place in his grand scheme, working out the implications of the gospel on our frontlines, our lives reflecting the scope of his reign, our relationships displaying the arrival of the kingdom and anticipating its future completion, all the while bearing fruit to the glory of God.
As it says on LICC’s website, the opportunities to bear such fruit are endless: “With Christ, there is no ordinary. With Christ, every encounter, every task, every situation brims with divine possibility.”
This article is reprinted with permission from the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (www.tifwe.org).