There is a balance to be struck here. If the gospel is your core message, growth is a good thing. As you are impacting people for the kingdom, they are bound to want to pat you on the back. But if you stick your finger into the wind of public opinion to determine the success of your kingdom work, it will feel like a wild goose chase.
2. There is immediate fruit.
I once mentored a young woman named Amanda. Every single Wednesday for more than a year, I picked her up from school, took her out for pizza and tried to get her to care about Jesus. She was a closed book! She sealed up her heart like a vault at Fort Knox. She never opened up to me, never showed enthusiasm for what I was showing her in the Word, never gave any indication of interest in the things of God.
If you had asked me during that year, or in the several years following, if my ministry with Amanda was fruitful, I would have said, "No way!" But there was growth in Amanda's heart I could not yet see.
Fast forward nearly ten years, and I got a letter from Amanda. She told me what a difference that year made in her life. She wrote about God's Word like the living and active book I so wanted her to take interest in. She told me she's now a wife and a momma, seeking to honor Jesus in her home. Spiritual fruit hung in big bunches from her life, but it didn't grow quickly. That growth took years.
In Matthew 13:4-9 Jesus told us this would happen.
"And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear."
Did you know that radishes grow quickly? In only 25 days you can plant a radish seed and then pull it up and eat it with your dinner. Pears, on the other hand, grow slowly. It can take up to twelve years for a pear to grow from a seed to ripe, juicy fruit, ready to eat.
I don't know about you, but I'd take a pear over a radish any day of the week. Sometimes the best fruit takes time to develop. That's as true in ministry as it is in vegetable gardening.
Just because the impact isn't immediately felt, doesn't mean what you're doing for the kingdom isn't fruitful.
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