A couple of days ago I wrote concerning success, the world view of success and what might be a better way of contemplating success. Success in the worldly sense is fleeting, but success according to the fruit of the Holy Spirit leads us to eternity. Disciples living faithful and fruitful lives nurture and care for others, strengthen them and help bring others to faith, faith in the One who saves, faith in our Lord and God. Thus, disciples who are successful are not evaluated by their material goods, words or deeds, but rather by their humility, compassion and service toward others. With every disciple that is called fruitful or successful, it is God who is praised and glorified.
Living a fruitful life for the sake of the gospel means living well. It means living according to the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth and following his example. It isn’t simply enough for one to say to another “Jesus loves you” and not live as an example of such love. As Christians worship and proclaim the love of God in Christ Jesus at worship we must remember that our worship does not end as the pastor or assisting minister gives the exhortation “Go in peace; serve the Lord.” This is not an ending, but the beginning of another week at worship and living as a disciple of Christ in ministry and mission. It is the beginning of another week of being a proclaimer of the gospel and an example of Christ’s love for the world.
Living a fruitful life for the sake of the gospel means living among God’s faithful people and practicing the marks of discipleship in the community of believers. Daily prayer, weekly worship, reading the Holy Scriptures, having spiritual friendships, serving others and giving alms are all marks of a life of discipleship. Living such a life is not easy, it takes faith, courage, trust and of course discipline. Yet, this life of discipleship is the example our Lord Jesus set for us. Living well, therefore, means living in community with Christ among God’s faithful people and doing these together. As we encourage one another in faith, God equips and empowers us to do the work of the gospel, inviting those who have not seen or heard the good news to come and see the goodness of God.
Lastly, if living well means following Jesus’ example thereby becoming faithful and fruitful disciples, it must also mean having faith enough to confess those instances when we fall short of God’s expectation. Since the day Adam and Eve bit into the forbidden fruit, humanity has been captive to sin. By our very nature we are sinful creatures in need of a Savior, that we might receive God’s mercy and grace. As John writes in his first epistle,
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9).
As we confess our sins, repent (turn away from sin) and receive God’s forgiveness, we must learn to live as forgiven people. Just as God forgives us, we forgive those who have sinned against us. Forgiveness is complete, it is a restoring of relationships that have been broken and it is the balm that heals the woundedness that exists between brothers and sister in Christ. Once forgiven, we do not revisit those sins upon our neighbor.
Living well is not always easy. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ often means making personal sacrifice. It means following Jesus even as God leads you to those places where you would rather not go. It means admitting that sometimes we are wrong and fall short of God’s expectation. It means coming to repentance and asking God’s forgiveness then receiving His grace with thanksgiving. Such faithful living produces good fruit for the kingdom of God.
God’s desire is that we live well in the Lord. As God’s calls us out to faithful living in mission for the gospel, we are blessed to know that as we go we do not go alone; Christ is with us. And when our sojourn through this earthly life continues unto its eventual end, we can rest from our labor knowing that as we have lived well and produced good fruit for the kingdom, our life has been a success. Thanks be to God!