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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 (John 15:5).
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. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (Gal 5:22-25).
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds (John 12:24).
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Rom 5:1-5).
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:29-31).
I’ve been reading through Mark in my devotions lately and one thing stuck out majorly to me.
Jesus is wrapping up his teaching following having a potential disciple turn away from him. I featured this passage in “Correction Stems from Love.” This man wanted to become a disciple of Christ, but Christ called out something in his heart that prevented him, and the man chose not to follow. So Jesus teaches on what all it takes to follow him, then he wraps up with saying what the rewards are:
… homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.
It’s kind of funny: Jesus is listing the rewards, all these great things, then suddenly he just drops, “And oh, by the way, you’ll suffer for me,” and then he lists the best reward of all, eternal life. It’s like the song on the old Sesame Street: “one of these things is not like the others!”
If I were one of the listeners, I might have asked, “Wait, Jesus, can you just back that up a second? What came before eternal life?”
Rich Orrell, one of my mentors I’ve mentioned before, dropped this bomb on me: “You have to go out to the end of the limb. That’s where the fruit is.” As my friend Jason Patterson said, God wants you so far out on the limb you can’t even see the tree any more.
And as I read these things, and as Rich dropped that wisdom bomb on me, and as the Spirit reminded me of what Jason Patterson said at our Fall Retreat two years ago, I saw how these things connected together.
As Paul says in Romans, suffering produces perseverance, which produces character, which produces hope. And hope comes from the Spirit (though it’s not specifically listed in Galatians 5, it underlies many of the things in the list). And right after listing the fruits of the Spirit, Paul talks about “crucifying the flesh,” concluding “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
All these things tie together.
If we belong to Christ, if we are truly his disciples, we become part of the universal family of Christ. It is a family that spans thousands of years and every language and ethnic barrier on the planet. We truly receive sisters, mothers, fathers, brothers, and children when we become a disciple of Christ.
Then, as we follow him, we will also suffer. That is part and parcel with following Christ. For how can we say we follow the one who suffered and died for us if we don’t suffer as well?
But that suffering is not in vain. We suffer for Christ, and it produces fruit. And this fruit shows that we are truly Christ’s. You know a tree by its fruit; you know a Christian by his or her fruit. Suffering is a nutrient that causes the seed that falls to the ground and dies to sprout and to grow and to bear much more fruit.
And by that fruit, we know that we belong to Christ, and thus we know that we will get our inheritance, that which is hoped for:
So what are you going through right now? What about your life just sucks? What makes you say to God, “How long?”
Embrace it. Because it is for an eternal purpose. It is to your eternal benefit!