Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Can you quantify success?  How about Kingdom-heartedness?  Is there a measurement for that?

I want to be increasingly Kingdom-hearted, and I want my life to bear more fruit.  I can see by casual measurement that my fruitfulness is neither as weak as it might be nor as strong as it could be.

Should?  Let's not talk here about "should," though if the Holy Spirit wants to engage you on that topic, don't resist him--it could be a conversation well worth having.  I'm talking about "could" and "might." I see there is a spectrum of zeal, obedience, piety, and trust, and on that those spectrums I move both up and down over time.  And on those spectrums I desire to move up from where I am, not down--I want to bear more fruit, not less.

How do I measure the fruit that I bear?  It's possible, but not wise, to measure it in units or hours:  "This week I visited the sick and helped the poor 3x, which is an uptick from the week before when I was holding at 2x.  I also spent 2.5 hours hosting a game-night to build community within my home church, and . . ."  While you can see that it's possible, you probably have a gut reaction that tells you it's not wise to measure like that.  Believe your gut: that kind of measurement isn't for you.  The very action of measuring steals the life that you were trying to measure; Religiousness is born--the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge consumed.

And yet, the fact is that I don't always bear the fruit I want to bear.  And this concerns me.  I know I'm not saved by the things I do, nor damned by the things I don't do, but I still want to know if I'm really living the life that I have committed to live--a life devoted not to myself but to One who is bigger than I.

Let me make it personal.  I didn't get up early Sunday morning to go serve breakfast in the local food-pantry.  I wanted to.  I told myself I would.  But in the dim light of 7:00am it didn't seem as important as getting a little more sleep (it was, after all, a late New Years Eve).  I have been meaning to get to the Community Kitchen many times in the past months, in fact, but my good intentions HAVE NOT resulted in me actually getting out of bed to go volunteer.  Remember the Keith Green song: "Jesus rose from the dead, and you can't get out of bed!" No fruit has been born of my good intentions. 

Let's make it Biblical.  A tree that looks like it should be producing fruit but in fact has no fruit has . . . wait for it . . . no fruit.  Right?  It might be pruned way back.  It might be cursed to wither and die.  I don't find a Bible example of the fruitless tree (or servant) being congratulated for its fruitlessness or comforted and told "there, there, fruit or no fruit, you're still a fine fellow."   Fruit is vitally important from a Biblical perspective.

I also see in the Bible that the wood, hay, and stubble in our lives will be consumed in fire and only the valuable pieces will remain.  And while I don't think I can compile a list of all that will or won't count as gold, silver, and costly stones, I have experienced moments when the Spirit is pleased by the things I do and I have felt his pleasure.  Sometimes when I tell a story to my kids, sometimes when I hug a friend or council a hurting marriage or delight my wife . . . sometimes when I've put myself in a place where my very soul is stirred to worship, I do feel that I've contributed something that will last.  I want more of those gold, silver, and precious-stones moments.

I do want to measure, as long as I can do so without negatively affecting the very fruitfulness that I'm measuring.  I want to know where I am fruitful and not deceive myself into believing that all is well if I appear leafy-green in one area of my life . . . but with nary a fruit on the branch.

Four quadrants for measuring my own fruitfulness:  Upward-Downward-Inward-Outward

Upward: worship, Bible-reading, reading other books that turn my focus upward, prayer, hearing sermon-podcasts

Downward: helping the poor, caring for elderly, parenting orphans, volunteering in the community

Inward: praying together, developing church-family community, pastoring children, church retreats, SGF Saturdays

Outward: triangular relationships, marriage/parenting courses, joining a Karate class or kids' soccer league, Sunday brunch