Thinking about fire is often not comfortable. Homes burn. Forests burn.
On the other hand, metal is purified through fire. Through that fire, many beautiful and amazing things are made.
Just like in our own lives, fire serves different purposes in the Scriptures. The number of times it is mentioned is numerous.
Most of us are familiar with the story of the three companions of Daniel tossed into the fiery “pit”. Nebuchadnezzar (though really those around him) used it to kill the three. Instead, God used it to show God’s power and might, and the protection of those loyal.
This is not to say that we should all jump into fiery pits. On the other hand, the world is full of many other kinds of fiery pits.
There is a thin line between a fire of refinement, and a fire of destruction. Without God’s saving hand Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would have died. That is often the case with us.
Yet, Jesus drew a different picture. Jesus’ picture was that of fruitless lives. For those who view themselves harshly, these words of Jesus are hard. They can even be faith-destroying.
What is good fruit? Is it only the fruits of the Spirit? Is it only disciples? Is it only baptisms? Is it only giving water to the thirsty? Is it only loving the unloved?
The hard question for too many Christians is not what good fruit is, but what is enough good fruit. If a parent has five children, and only 2 follow the Lord, is that enough good fruit?
If one is joy-filled and generous of heart but doesn’t “see” a single person come to Christ through them, are they still producing good fruit?
If you are one of the blessed that doesn’t view life through the how much is good enough lens, be grateful that you aren’t, and be grace-filled toward those who are.
In a performance-based culture, such as in the United States, how much fruit is not a small question. For many, this may indeed be why they shy away from faith and faith questions. If you will be judge by how much fruit, why walk into a judgmental situation?
The flip side of this is also bad. Not counting the fruit has other issues, such as not equipping, discipling, and holding one another accountable. This flip side has also become an issue in the church. In not counting the fruit, it’s hard to evaluate (including, but not only, self-evaluation) one’s spiritual life.
The fact of fruit (or lack thereof), the quality of fruit, and the quantity of fruit are all valid questions that Christians should ask of themselves and others. Truth must be balanced in love and grace; that way we are all willing to hear and confront the truth.
Lord Jesus, if our hearts our weighed by the thought of fruit, lighten our load. Holy Spirit, guide and prune us that we produce fruit for God’s glory. Father God, we put our very being into your hands, trusting you with your creation. Amen.
1)Do you ever count your fruit? Why or why not?
2) Evaluate your fruit right now. After “evaluating” your fruit, what is your conclusion?
3) How does the fire of refinement and destruction apply to producing fruit?