Fruit that Lasts
(NOTE: This is a special feature provided by Francis Chan for the new book, Old Paths, New Power. We are grateful for Francis’ contribution and believe you will be inspired by his words.)
Periodically I am asked if in my travels I see a difference in the way we pray in America compared to places like Asia and Latin America. My answer is always the same, “Yes, a big difference.” The reasons for this contrast may seem subtle, but they are important.
In America, we have other options. There are other ways to fill a room other than through prayer. There are other ways to get people to raise their hand or come forward or cry, other than prayer. There’s a way to create the semblance of a movement of God outside of prayer.
Of course, it’s not a real movement of God. It is often a manufactured thing. We know how to create excitement. I guarantee you that with the right band or right song selection, we can generate something really “cool” whether it was good in God’s eyes or not. So we have multiple options. In many other places of the world it’s “all or nothing.”
And so this is very, very important because it’s ultimately about the true fruit that results when we’re abiding. That’s the fruit that’s going to last. Sadly, some of us are content with the fake stuff.
When we look at Jesus and his ministry, he speaks with Peter, “Satan has asked for you that he might sift you like wheat.” Then Jesus says, “but I prayed for you.” Jesus prayed. He demonstrates his dependence. Essentially he says, “Peter, do not worry, because I prayed.” That’s huge. That’s a massive inspiration for us.
We look at Paul. He resolved to know nothing except Christ and him crucified. He didn’t come with this wise and persuasive speech, which he could have, but he chose not to. He said that there was something about that self-reliance and self-exaltation that emptied the cross of its power. Paul didn’t want to do that. So it seems all the enhancements that we add to sound intelligent or to make the service work are actually hurting the real cause.
But most of us as preachers don’t want to sound dumb. Rather than doing what Paul did, which was to make himself sound less than what he is, I’m always trying to sound more intelligent than I am, or more godly. Paul reminds us that all that stuff diminishes the power. Paul had determined to come to the people in weakness, trembling and in fear. Simple gospel. In essence he says, “I’m going to depend on my prayer life – and the prayers of others.” Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for him so he could preach boldly as he desired. He had determined to ground himself in reliance on God – and then preach a simple, foolish message. Then he trusted God for whatever came of it. That’s a risk for us because either the Spirit comes through or not.
What I often tend to do, and I am guessing others do the same, is set things up so that even if the Spirit doesn’t do anything, I still don’t look like a failure – and I can still feel pretty good. So then if the Spirit does move, I go from a kind of mid-point of impact to a higher point. But I’m never down here where nothing happens. Why? Because I’ve got my program set up nice and safely. I’ve created this cone of protection so that Francis Chan does not look stupid, and this event does not look like a failure. Of course, we try to justify this because it would “discourage the people” if it turned out badly.
But it’s not like this in Scripture. The leaders in the Bible always seemed to take the risk. I think of Elijah, who said, “Okay, I’m going to call down the fire from heaven or my head gets chopped off. I don’t have a trick ready or some guy with matches over on the side. I‘m depending on God showing up. It’s going to happen.”
It’s what we see with Joshua. His determination was, “We’re going to march around the city and blow the trumpet so this better work.” It was the same with Paul. He determined, “I’m going to tell you that Christ was crucified. That’s going to be enough.”
I am learning that the more we trust, and take those steps of faith, the more we really honor the Lord. We have to determine that the Spirit is sufficient and prayer is going to do it. This is all it’s ever taken. That is when the real thing happens. That’s when we really see God move. That’s when we see the true, genuine fruit – the fruit that’s going to last.
This devotion is adapted from the new book, Old Paths, New Power – Awakening Your Church through Prayer and the Ministry of the Word, set for release by Moody Publishers on June 7, 2016. DOWNLOAD A FREE EXCERPT here: http://www.strategicrenewal.com/old-paths-new-power/
Copyright © 2016 Francis Chan. All rights reserved.