This post was written earlier, really for my own benefit–because I was going through some difficulties and I wanted to make sure I was on track with God’s purpose for me. Well, I have been benefited by it and I pray you will be too.
Everything has a purpose and was designed to accomplish that purpose. A hammer’s purpose is to drive nails, and a paint brush’s purpose is to paint walls; and they were made to accomplish that task as efficiently as possible. God made people for a special purpose too; and we were designed and put together just for that purpose. If we fail to do what we were designed to do, we slow down and make less effective the things God is trying to do through us in the world and in His kingdom. In our failure we grieve God. That I think is the worst sin. It is like a hammer saying to its designer, “I think I’ll paint a house;” and like a paint brush saying to its designer, “I think I’ll drive some nails.” Think about it. If you had designed something and people were not using it the way you had intended, how would you feel? Grieved.
I have been caught up with a book for the last 18 years. It hasn’t taken every minute of my time, but it has always been at the forefront of my mind; it has always been the thing that has been my primary concern—that it be written and published. It is written now and in the process of being published. But now there are snags in the road and I am burdened, and a bit troubled by the slowness of the process. I am questioning the whole thing. Have I really heard from God? Is this book worth all the effort? On a broader scale, the question one must ask is: what is a person’s primary purpose in life? For me, the question is, is this book (Prayer A to Z) really the thing that God has planned for me to occupy my time with? Does it fit with the great purpose He has for me (and for all of us)? Therefore, this is why I am studying this topic—to find out if I am on track with His purpose for me, or am I on a rabbit trail, seeking not His will but my own.
John 15:16 tells us clearly what a Christian’s purpose is. Here Jesus said to His disciples, and He is saying to us,
You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.
Well, it can’t be any clearer…
Our Purpose Is To Bear Fruit and that Our Fruit Should Remain
But what does it mean to bear fruit? And how do we accomplish that? Here’s what Wycliffe has said:
Previously the fruit meant love. Now it was to mean love in action, the heralding of the message of salvation and the winning of souls.
That the fruit “remain” would mean of course that those souls saved would continue in faith—be true believers.
Others suggest that fruit here (in Jn. 15:16) is not only souls but the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22)—that if we let out love for one another flourish we will produce spiritual fruit. Still others say our fruit is our good works, which includes spreading the gospel. We see this idea in Ephesians 2:10—that we are created for good works.
Wycliffe suggests that John 12:24 holds a close connection to the meaning of fruit in John 15:16. In this verse it is indicated that to bear fruit one must die to the things of this world for the sake of Christ. The illustration presented is that of a grain of wheat. If it does not die it will not germinate and grow. But if it dies it grows and produces much grain.
Earlier in John 15 Jesus talked about abiding. Abiding He said is the way fruit comes to us. And if we don’t abide in Him we are fruitless—good for nothing. This of course makes sense, because as He illustrated, unless we as branches abide in Him as the Vine, we will not grow and produce anything. We must be connected to Him and draw nourishment from Him just as a grape vine is connected to and draws from the stem.
So here are two ideas about how to bear fruit: die to self and to the things of this world, and abide in Christ. Makes sense.
In the last part on John 15:16, Jesus talks about prayer, “…that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” What is He really saying here? That if we bear fruit God will give us whatever we ask for in prayer—as a reward? This kind of seems what Jesus is saying, but I don’t think so. That idea doesn’t follow with the rest of scripture. So what is the connection between bearing fruit and answered prayer?
Well, earlier in John 15:7 Jesus tells us that answered prayer comes by abiding. And in John 15:5 we see that fruit comes by abiding. Hence, abiding bring both fruit and answered prayer. Or perhaps we can say that answered prayer is the fruit, or at least part of the fruit. I think we can also certainly say this: when I abide in Him my prayers will be according to the will of God; and through those prayers He will bring His fruit—to me and to others.
Therefore, I would say that prayer seems to be at the heart of it all; that without prayer we will have no fruit. Prayer I believe is the spark that ignites the action for the work involved with producing fruit. And I think we can say this: prayer helps us abide and abiding helps us to pray. And they both work together to bring fruit. In fact, they must work together; for true pray is abiding prayer.
So we have the opposite of what the verse seems to say. Answered prayer is not a result or a reward for our fruit; rather it is part of the fruit and really the basis or the heart of the fruit. Think of answered prayer as desire fulfilled, fulfilled in the form of fruit when we abide.
Here is the entire thing as it happens: (1) God puts a desire in out heart to do His will. This is the beginning of prayer. (2) We continue on with that desire as we meditate on God’s Word and pour out our heart to God. This is praying. (3) As a result of this abiding prayer, our heart is softened and changed and energized so that we love others more, and we have the love and joy and peace of Christ. And we begin to tell others about Him. This is fruit. So, you see, prayer is through it all. It is that which energizes us to abide, and it is that which emerges out of our abiding heart, which in turn brings about fruit.
So when we read “…that whatever you ask the Father in my name He may give you,” the assumption here is that the “whatever” we are asking for is good fruit, primarily the fruit of souls, but also I think the fruit of the Spirit and good works (Hence, we can ask for anything in this world that is according to God’s will, because, if it is in God’s will it will be good fruit). Therefore, fruit is to be the purpose of every Christian and the thing that we should be praying for and have our heart set on.
The conclusion in all of this, which I have found for myself, is that since prayer (abiding prayer) is at the heart of the production of fruit, it is of vital importance. I cannot abandon my drive and burden for prayer in order to take on a higher calling of bearing fruit—because it is not necessarily a higher calling. They are both connected as one. Yes, fruit seems to be the primary purpose of every Christian, and it needs to be our focus, but it cannot be done without prayer. For me, I need to hang on to my calling to teach prayer through my book and ministry, but always with the focus of bearing His fruit—all to the glory of God (Jn. 15:8).