Saturday, January 7, 2017

REturns on God's investment

“Here you are at nearly 92 still writing and publishing your Christian books. Why would you have written five more new books recently? Why not just REtire?”

I often get that question. I have given a lot of thought to that through the years and I do have an answer. It's because God obviously likes fruit. My books have been a part of my fruit that I offer God. I write to please Him irrespective of whether anyone buys or reads them--although I hope they do!

In fact, God insists that we produce fruit all the seasons of our lives, in season and out of season (Psalm 92:14). Advanced age is not an excuse. He has given us life and gifts and opportunities to bear fruit for His glory. He has lovingly invested these in us and expects a return on His investment. Just as in Jesus' parable of the landowner who planted and prepared a vineyard and then committed its care to vinegrowers. (Matthew 21:33, 34) At harvest he had every right to expect fruit from the vineyard. At harvest God fully expects fruit from us, from me.

Fruit bearing is not optional. If we don't bear the fruits of the Spirit in our personal lives and character (Galatians chapter 5), He cannot use us to do His works. If we produce just a little, He prunes us so we will bear more. (John chapter 15) He is after an abundance: we older Christians are to be “full of sap and very green” (Psalm 92:14) not wilted or dried up. He is after a harvest of thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold especially from those to whom He has given long life and the most investment. We are the most accountable.

The Christian life is not a matter of works for salvation. We receive that by God's grace alone not by our own efforts. Nevertheless, throughout Scripture we are reminded that God will judge us by our works. Our work is bearing fruit. God, who knows our inner spirit, will sort out our works at judgment time whether they have been combustible or indestructible as gold and silver and precious stones. (I Corinthians 3:11-13)

There are many kinds of spiritual fruit just as there is a variety of fruit and vegetables.  God certainly doesn't expect everyone to write books. We are not expected to bear the same kind or quantity of fruit as someone else. Being busy is not the same as bearing fruit nor is it a substitute. It is like the wax or plastic fruit that is displayed on some tables—neither palatable nor nourishing. It doesn't count with God. Neither is quantity the same as abundance. It is irrelevant how many books I've written. We are not to be in competition with other fruit bearers.  

As in Jesus' parable, God has committed one talent to some, two to others, and five to some. (Matthew 25:14) The one talent person is not held responsible for God's investment of five, but only for the one. The five talented is accountable for bearing five times as much. “To whom much is given, of him shall much be required.” By “talent” in the context of the parable, Jesus was referring to money and not a gifting or talent as in a natural ability.

I'm accountable only for myself and what God has invested in me. I want to be a responsible steward. Yes, I'm keen on giving Him a good return. I welcome each new day as one more opportunity to put more spiritual fruit into a “basket” to present to Him. I certainly have nothing against REtirement or REst. Both are good re-words. Both have their place and time. But while God gives me the mind and creative ability and strength and earth-time, I want to work on filling my “fruit basket” to overflowing.

That imaginary and invisible “basket” is an indestructible one because it contains fruit that God “preserves.” Jesus talked about “fruit that remains.” I have sent it on ahead. My spiritual fruit, and your genuine fruit is the only kind that reaches heaven as its destination without rotting or spoiling. It can't be burned up or stolen en route. Here on earth we now have a freeze-drying process but that still has its limitations. The fruit in my basket offered to God reaches heaven immediately and waits in God's storehouse or big freezer or however the angels preserve spiritual things that remain until the judgment.

So—am I still writing now that I've finished these recent books? Of course! My other baskets of fruit have already reached heaven's storehouse. I've taken a new basket and have started filling that up with more fruit. What you are reading here today might be part of a new book!

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