I hope you never tire of my little people stories. Being a grandma is one of my favorite things. The things I’m sure I experienced with my own children, I get to experience anew with these sweet grandlittles.
Lilly girl, two-and-a-half, is learning an amazing amount of new skills. When she was at my house the other day I pulled out a candy bracelet/necklace kit I bought on clearance after Easter. She tried and succeeded about half of the time to get the plastic string through those little holes. The fun part was watching the little tongue she had to stick out while she concentrated! When she’s not tired, she tries and tries and says out loud “try again.” I love it when she watches me fail at something and reminds me to do the same – “Try again, mamaw.”
I can’t even describe to you how much fun it is help two to four year-olds learn how to use scissors in Sunday School. Believe me, there is no such thing as completely safe, safety scissors. When a pre-schooler gets started and they see that they are actually cutting their paper, watch out. No finger is safe. Sorry, that was what my Pastor calls a “rabbit trail.” Or maybe “squirrel,” if you’ve ever watched “UP.”
Now it can be hard to know whether or not you’re just beating a dead issue that you really should just leave alone, or just keep on trying, isn’t it? Maybe the next time it will work and you’d be stopping right before victory. When I’m in the heat of the moment, the hard, sweaty work of something I love and my mind starts thinking, “this is it, the last time I try this.” But then I rest and see the fruit of the effort and think “well maybe one more time.”
There has to be a cut-off point, or a try-again place, where you’re sure which action to take. I think I found it in this scripture, Luke 5:1-11. There’s a beyond-amazing exchange where Jesus tells his disciple, Peter, to try again to catch some fish. Peter and his fishing business partners had been out all night. With no success. Jesus asked Peter to try again. “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Peter responds, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” The reward for obeying Jesus and trying again comes: “And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.” The result, “So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.”
Meditating a little on this scripture gave me an answer to my question. If the Lord has asked you to do something, if His Word talks to your heart and tells you this thing you struggle with is your assignment, He will make sure you have the “net.” He will provide the “deep” and the “catch.” If I think I have said yes to God, if I have tried and tried and experienced failure after failure I have to ask myself, “Am I doing this on my own, or is this even a place where God has put me?”
There has to be a cut-off point, or a try-again place, where you’re sure which action to take.
To answer that last question, I go to another place in scripture where Jesus teaches about fruit. Matthew 7:15-20, teaches the importance of looking at the fruit of the work. “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit…therefore by their fruits you will know them.” Do I see good things for God come as a result of where I’m at or what I’m doing? Am I toiling and toiling with nothing to show for it but disappointment? There has to be good fruit; you need the fruit of peace in your heart, when you are not seeing the results of your efforts. You also need to have the fruit of patience as you gently serve between the now and the not yet.
I know this passage in Matthew is primarily focusing on the tree, or the person that is bearing the fruit. Could it be that judging our own efforts by the fruit that they cause us to bear in our lives, can give us an answer of whether or not we should keep trying? But before you get concerned that I am taking things out of context, let’s consider another scripture that teaches about fruit.
Do I see good things for God come as a result of where I’m at or what I’m doing?
Galatians 5:22-23 describe the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All of them, together, are the fruit. If you do not experience these in the effort, of that thing you are trying over and over again, it could be that you need to do some self-examination: consider the motives of your efforts, or maybe God is asking someone else to fill that place you are striving for in your own strength.
Timothy Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, in his sermon series on Fruit of the Spirit, (February 18, 1990), speaks of the Fruit of the Spirit as one, as being singular. “All these things, love, joy, peace… are aspects of the whole” teaches Keller. You can’t leave one or the other of them out and experience the fruit. To have love without peace is no good. To have joy without kindness also disqualifies the believer from possessing the fruit of the spirit. Keller also mentions that in Jonathan Edwards’ book “Religious Affection,” he wrote, “the only way you can really be sure that a person’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness… is not counterfeit, is that they happen altogether.” They are all to grow together.
How the effort affects me is crucial to understanding if I am to keep trying this “thing” over and over. Is it beneficial to my character? Does it cause the fruit of the Spirit to grow together in my life?
“the only way you can really be sure that a person’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness… is not counterfeit, is that they happen altogether.” Jonathan Edwards
Believe me, I am preaching to myself. Just some thoughts I have been struggling with lately, and I pray if you, my dear reader, have them as well, that perhaps it might help you seek Jesus more so that your “catch” will break your “net” as you try again.