Friday, April 2, 2010

Pleasing God (part one)

Have you ever tried to please someone who thought they were perfect?  It's a losing proposition.  No matter how hard you try, you feel like it is never good enough.  Frustration ensues.  For some people, complacency sets in.  They give up, they quit trying.  "Why bother if it never seems to matter?" they ask themselves.  Others may have thier frustration lead them to rebellion.  "If I can't please them, I might as well do what I want to do" they might say.  "At least I will live my life my way, and have fun doing it!" Thier rebellion usually leads them somewhere they don't want to go, and thier happiness is elusive, darting around the next corner, the next road, the next unfulfilling relationship.

We serve a perfect God.  At times, I think our response can be like the ones I described above.  We view God as oppressive, as expecting too much out of us.  We strive for perfection in our own strength, defining that perfection from what we think God wants, and then we give up - tired, defeated, and sometimes a little rebellious.....

Colossians 1:9-12
"For this reason we also, from the day we heard about you have not ceased praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects - bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of all patience and steadfastness, joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the saints' inheritance in the light."

So what does this mean?  How does this scripture help us to serve a perfect God? According to this passage, we can quit defining our own ways to please God!  It directly addresses this issue. 

According to Paul in his letter to the church in Colossae, God is pleased when:
*We bear fruit
*We Grow in knowledge
*We rely on His Strength, showing patience and steadfastness
*we joyfully give thanks to God

Bearing Fruit - Developing Your Branches
Have you ever thought about planting a fruit tree.  I have.  I always run into the same problem.  It takes so long for it to bear fruit!  I would plant one, but I am not sure I want to put the time and energy into a tree that I amy never enjoy the fruit on.  We might move before then, and then it would all be a waste!  Sometimes I think the same way spiritually.  I know that I have the seed of life planted within me.  It needs to grow, to be nourished.  It takes time.  The payoff might be elusive, and at times, it seems like more work than what I think I might get out of it.  The result is stunted growth.  In areas of my life that should have larger, strong branches ready to bear fruit, I have puny stems with a few leaves on them.  Other branches, I have developed well, but the weight of these branches in proportion to the ones I am lacking in, makes me struggle to maintain my balance.  A proper tree spreads its branches evenly, and grows cohesively.  This allows it withstand wind storms, heavy rain, drought and hail.  When I choose to develop one area, and don't address others, I am weaking my ability to withstand adversity from the devil.  I will spend more time trying to keep upright, trying not be unrooted, trying to bend without breaking, that I lose sight of the fruit I was intended to bear, and I switch to survival mode.  The devil likes this.  I am an easy target for being a dissuaded, complacent, frustrated, tired Christian.  I am not threat.  A single storm might take me a year to recover from.  When instead, I allow each branch to be developed by God, in His time and focus on the areas he wants me to grow in, and the way in which he intends to make them grow, I am firm.  I am unshakeable.  I am mighty.  I bear a lot of fruit!  When the devil tries to attack, I don't fight with my own strength.  I allow God to easily bend and move my branches through the storm.  I maintain my balance, I maintain my peace, and most importantly I remain firmly rooted in Christ.

Bearing Fruit - Different Fruit Types
When you think about a tree that will give fruit, I usually think of an apple or pear tree.  The problem I have, is that sometimes I see a pear tree and I want it to produce apples, and sometimes I may see an apple tree that I want to produce oranges.  Of course, I am speaking spiritually.  God has created me as a special kind of tree.  I bear the most fruit when I join him in trying to bear the fruit he made me to bear.  If I was an apple tree and focused on bearing pears, I would bear very few fruit (apples) because I was so focused on trying to bear fruit that I was not created to bear.  If I accept that I am an apple tree, and focus on bearing superior apples, I may be so prolific that my branches would bend under the weight.  In additon, the number of apples would be so great, that the one harvesting may not be able to keep up!  A few apples may just drop and rot on the ground, and help to produce a new apple tree (spreading the gospel)!  If I am to bear a large quantity and great quality fruit, I need to join in God's purpose for my life, and accept who it is that He made me to be.  I also need to accept that he made others to bear other types of fruit.  Sometimes we look at others and expect them to bear fruit they were not created to bear.  We ask them to assist in projects they don't like, or don't feel especially skilled for.  We want them to act a certain way, to dress a certain way, to share the gospel a certain way, to raise thier kids a certain way, and we deny the fact that they may be created to display different fruit than we do.  In fact, their fruit is unique to them!  Just like ours, thier fruit is priceless to thier Heavenly Father, as long as they too, have recognized how God made them and have joined Him to bear the fruit He asks them to bear.

Bearing Fruit - Different Fruit Purposes
Some fruit is not intended to eat.  Or at least, not intended for fresh consumption.  Take the coffee tree.  It produces a red berry.  Inside that berry, is a seed that breaks into two halves.  These halves are roasted to create the coffee bean.  If you decided to eat a coffee berry in it's raw state, without proper preparation, you would be in for a bitter, deceptive surprise.  Don't be fooled though!  The fruit is intentional. The fruit is created well.  Don't assume it is a burden, or a waste.  From face-value, from the raw state, it may not seem useful, helpful, or a blessing, but sometimes God wants our fruit to be prepared.  He gives us fruit that takes time and energy to develop into a rich aroma!  Our fruit may be intended for a special task, that no other fruit can accomplish.  It may take special preparation.  It may take additional time.  It is worth it.  Allowing the grower (God) to harvest this fruit, to peel away the extra layers (you know - the ones that make it look nice, the layers that protect what he is really after - the treasured core, the heart of us) this pleases God! Let your fruit be useful!  Allow God to prepare it for His service, for His glory!

Lord, help me to develop slowly, and intentionally - the way you created me to be, bearing fruit that you intended for me to bear, and allowing you to develop that fruit to be used for you purpose.  Let my firm foundation be rooted in You, and let your Holy Spirit flow through me so that others may see the security of my branches and the blessings of the fruit you create, and give prasie to the glory of God!  Amen.

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