We are to “be fruitful” – that’s God’s command at creation. “Be Fruitful and Multiply” (Genesis 1:28). It is also what God expects of us as Christians. Jesus said that we are ordained to bear fruit. “I have chosen and ordained you to bring forth fruit that remains” (John 15:16).
So, what is fruitfulness? Some Christians see it only as getting other people to become Christians – winning souls, notching up scalps. Others think of the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ – looking for the right responses coming out of them. Others think in terms of measurable productivity. Ministers think in terms of sermons preached, numbers in the congregation, and so on.
An insight into what ‘fruitfulness’ involves can be seen in a miracle that took place in Israel’s history, as the people wandered in the Wilderness south of Israel. A group of rebels challenged Aaron and Moses. God responded by causing Aaron’s rod to blossom. Each of the leaders of the 12 tribes brought their personal rod to the temple. They were placed in God’s presence for the night. The next day 11 rods looked just the same as they did the day before. They were dry sticks, made from tree branches.
Aaron’s rod, however, had undergone a transformation. The dry almond tree wood had miraculously come to life again, but more than that it had blossomed and produced ripe almonds ready for eating. This miracle confirmed that God accepted Aaron differently to the way He treated the other families in Israel. Aaron’s family, the Levites, were in a special relationship with God that allowed God’s life to flow into them and bring fruitfulness not found in the other tribes.
In the historical account, given in Numbers 17:8, we are specifically told that there were three levels of fruitfulness evident in Aaron’s rod. God could have simply produced one crop of ripe almonds. That was perfectly sufficient to show the miracle of God’s touch on Aaron’s rod. But instead, the record accounts for various stages of fruitfulness all occuring at the same time.
The dead stick had ‘buds’. These are the promise of blossoms and they show that the stick is alive. Simply re-awakening the stick’s life-blood, so that it began to form buds, would have been a miracle. However the stick also had bloomed a batch of blossoms. These are the promise of fruit. Once each blossom was germinated it would form the fruit. So buds and blossoms were evident at the same time. And further, there were ripe almonds, fully matured and ready to eat.
Fruitfulness, then, can be seen at various stages in a person’s life. The green, fresh skin of a tree signals life, but not fruitfulness. The buds that signal fruit is on the way. However many buds form into blossoms which do not progress to fruit. Final fruitfulness is not found in buds or blossoms but in the ripe, matured fruit.
Your fruitfulness as a person should be seen first by evidence of life in you. There should also be evidence of buds – the signal of blossoms forming in your life. Then there should be blossoms, with all their promise of fruit forming in due time. And finally there should be the mature fruit, harvested and ready for enjoyment.
Let me relate that to the fruit of evangelism – leading new people to a place of faith in Christ. A ‘fruitful’ person will have fresh contacts with whom there is an open relationship opening the way for sharing the gospel. They will have others who they have had meaningful discussion with, leading them to a mature understanding of the truth. And they will have others who have been led to a mature understanding of faith and who have chosen to accept the new relationship God has for them.
Fruitfulness involves the whole process – from the bud to the harvest. So don’t just look for the ‘scalps’ or the notches in a person’s Bible (so to speak), but look for a lifestyle of fruitfulness displaying the breadth of fruiful characteristics, such as was found on Aaron’s fruitful rod.