How to Be Fruitful

Nine months ago, I finished school. I thought God was going to open up an exciting door for me to serve Him in ministry. I thought it’d be only a matter of weeks before diving into the next big thing.

Instead, God gave me a gap year—something I would never have chosen for myself. And it’s been the best, worst thing ever.

Perhaps the hardest part is that this last year has been a far cry from what I expected my life to be. One of the things that is most exciting to me about being a Christian is that God appoints us to go and bear fruit for His glory (John 15:8, 16). What could be more amazing than being used by God to transform lives? That’s why ever since God grabbed my heart in high school, I’ve dreamed of doing ministry full time.

So as I’ve been home in this last season, working odd jobs and decidedly not doing ministry full time, I’ve often struggled with restlessness.

With inadequacy.

With the feeling that I should be bearing fruit, but that I’m not.

“God,” I’ve often wondered, “doesn’t being fruitful mean a season of doing? Doesn’t being fruitful mean a season of working? Why, then, have You given me this season of WAITING???”

Yet as I’ve been studying Scripture recently, I’ve come to realize that seasons of waiting can actually be the most fruitful of all.

One person to whom God promised fruitfulness was Abraham (Gen 17:6). He promised Abraham that one day he would have a son whose family—the people of Israel—would go on to bless the whole world.

But first God called Abraham to a season of waiting. For 25 years, Abraham was forced to wait until Isaac, the promised son, arrived.

One episode during Abraham’s season of waiting particularly stands out to me. Realizing that God had kept his wife Sarah from having children, Abraham decided to take matters into his own hands by trying to build a family through his wife’s maidservant, Hagar.

And it worked! …sort of.

Abraham did indeed have a child, but instead of being the child of promise, that child was Ishmael, the father of Israel’s enemies.

Abraham tried to avoid a season of waiting by being fruitful in his own strength. But by taking matters into his own hands, he wound up introducing a complexity in God’s plan. Just think how things might have turned out if Abraham had waited patiently for God to make Abraham fruitful through His strength! God managed to work Abraham’s mistake into His purposes, but not without Ishmael proving a big headache for Abraham and his family (Gen 16:5; 21:11).

Abraham’s story reminds me that seasons of waiting are fruitful, because they teach us to abide. They allow our own strength to fail, so that we learn to abide in God’s strength. And according to Jesus Himself, only if we abide in Him will we bear fruit; apart from Him, we “can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Another thirteen years of waiting would go by before Isaac, the promised son, arrived (Gen 16:16-17:1). In those thirteen years, Abraham lost the ability to bear children in his own strength. By that point he was 100 years old, and his body was “as good as dead” (Rom 4:19).

So when Isaac finally arrived, guess who got the credit?

Not Abraham.

By calling Abraham to wait, God taught Abraham to let go of his own strength and abide in God. And in abiding, he became truly fruitful.

So even though I don’t know the exact way that God will use this season of waiting in my life, I know He’s in it, teaching me how to abide in Him. Seen that way, it’s been a fruitful season indeed!