Every day I sit with my kids, one after the other, and I teach them. I drag the proper spelling of words out of their bored minds. I cajole good handwriting out of their scribbly fingers. I explain again and again and again how fractions work or how counting by threes works or what a past participle is. I mark up papers with a red pen and teach and explain and beg them to get it right this time before my head explodes. Sometimes their progress zooms forward like a fighter jet. Sometimes I feel like I am the mule dragging their unwilling minds up a very steep hill. Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart.
In the mornings we sit at breakfast and they squirm and kick each other under the table and stand up to get the cereal box and interrupt to inform me that someone isn’t listening as I lead them through morning devotions. They dutifully recite John 15 with mouths full of scrambled eggs, offering criticism because someone said “this is my command” instead of “this is my commandment“– completely missing the point that the commandment is that they love one another. I plead and cajole and I pray for them to have tender hearts and most days I feel like I might as well be pleading with the refrigerator to love its neighbor the broom cupboard. As soon as I say “amen” they are off, racing to the sink to fight over who gets to wash dishes first. Motherhood is not for the faint of heart, either.
Every week we show up at church to teach the kids from God’s Word. Numbers are low. I open the Book and tell them the old, old stories– awesome stories, true stories, about the Red Sea and the battle of Jericho and Elijah calling down fire. About a Savior who paid for our sins so we wouldn’t have to. About a God who loves them. They slouch in their seats and whisper to their neighbors. They ask questions about completely unrelated topics. They rush through memory verses for a piece of candy and can’t remember a single word five seconds later. A week later they can’t recall anything about the story, the verse– anything except how so-and-so promised the coveted corner seat or that we could play soccer this week at game time. Teaching children isn’t for the faint of heart.
Can I be honest? Many days it feels like I am teaching rocks instead of kids. Argumentative rocks. Sometimes I wonder if there is any point at all to the time and energy these things require. Seriously. We all want to make a difference. We want to see some kind of fruit for our work. And we are promised fruit, right?
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
We will reap– that sounds like a promise to me!
And don’t forget this one:
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Do good–> reap a harvest. Abide–> bear fruit. Seems pretty straightforward.
So what about when we don’t see the fruit? What about when we are actively choosing to abide in Christ, actively drawing on His power so we do not grow weary, actively seeking His direction for each obedient step, and we still are seeing no fruit? I am not an expert in these matters. I have not mastered this life in Christ; after 32 years as His child I feel like I am just starting to step out of the kiddie pool and into the deeper waters of this vast ocean. But God has been teaching me.
1. God’s Schedule Isn’t My Schedule
I am small, and my life is barely a blink in the vast incomprehensible ages of eternity. In due season isn’t according to my tiny timetable. God is eternal and everlasting, and He sees time completely differently than I do. He promises a harvest– but I must trust His good timing.
For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.
2. God’s Ways Aren’t My Ways
The way God brings forth fruit in our lives and ministries isn’t always the way we expect. It is seldom a linear, logical progression. I might be praying and working really hard in one direction, only to discover unexpected fruit in another area completely. I might be pouring my life into the church kids with little to show for it, but meanwhile God is growing His good fruit in the life of someone else in the church. This doesn’t make sense to me, honestly. But so many times, as I have followed God in obedience in one area, He has given fruit in an area I was barely paying attention to.
Often the fruit shows up in my own life. When God wants to cultivate patience in my life, He gives me a kid who needs to learn fractions and has a mental block about it. And while I pray for that child to understand and for wisdom to help him get it, God is growing patience in me, and a deeper compassion for my child.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
His ways aren’t mine. I must submit to that and trust Him– and keep my eyes out for fruit in unexpected places. God is never not at work.
3. God Desires Faithful Obedience
Faithful obedience means trusting God enough to do what He has given me to do, day after day, week after week. It means showing up again and again and giving all I have, even when there seems to be nothing to show for it. It means surrendering my expectations and my desires to His will, His timing.
My faithfulness to my calling is based purely in the faithfulness of God. Is God faithful? I believe He is. I say that– but am I living it? As I live it, I am proving His faithfulness to myself and to those who might be watching my life. Here’s truth– God has never stopped being faithful to me, though I have many times proven unfaithful to Him.
If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.
So when I can’t see what He’s doing, the least I can do is be faithful to Him. And as I step out in faith and obey my good God, I experience His grace in unexpected ways.
4. He Is Always Enough
Sometimes my desire for fruit is based more in my own pride and desire for affirmation than in a real desire for God to be glorified. When I don’t see the fruit I am hoping for, striving for, well, in that moment God is still enough. As I faithfully follow Him and trust His timing, His perfect ways, He draws me near to Himself. I follow in Christ’s footsteps– He was obedient to His Father also, and at the Cross His life surely looked like a failure– and I meet Christ there.
Friend, if you are struggling to see the purpose of your work, looking for fruit, frustrated by the hard days of seemingly pointless work, may I suggest you look to Jesus? He is your strength, your help, the Author and Perfecter of your faith. He is the joy of your heart, the Bread of Life that keeps our souls satisfied. One moment in His glorious presence, one glimpse of His love for you– it is enough to keep you going.
He is amazing. Keep abiding in Him, and let Him do His good work in you, in His time, in His way, all for His great glory.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? . . . We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.