Usually when we think about what the Bible talks about as “fruit” we think of good works or good deeds…an act of kindness performed, a financial contribution to a worthy cause, a heartfelt prayer on someone’s behalf, etc. These good deeds are indeed “fruit” that is pleasing to God. Often though, the fruit Jesus talks about refers not so much to DEEDS as to PEOPLE (check out John 4:36…or 12:24 in the context of 12:32). No matter where you look in the Scriptures, “bearing fruit” has nothing to say about doing stuff that gets us brownie points with God. It almost always has something to say about being used by God to make a difference in the lives of living, breathing, flesh-and-blood people. But it’s easy to get discouraged. Sometimes we are privileged to see the fruit God bears through us. Most often, we probably never do.
The story in Luke’s Gospel about the Roman centurion of great faith is a reminder that God appointed someone—whom, we are not told—to go and bear fruit in this man’s life. At first glance, the story seems to be only about Jesus’ healing the centurion’s slave—not in person, but somewhere on the way to the centurion’s home (7:6). Upon closer inspection, the story is really about what God had already done in the heart of the centurion while Jesus was at an even greater distance. Never having benefited from a direct encounter with Jesus, the centurion somehow recognized the authority of Jesus’ word…a measure of faith that surprised even the Lord Himself (7:9). Someone had to have told the centurion about Jesus. Someone had already been used by God to bear fruit in the life of this man. We never see who that is, but he or she is an integral part of the story, all the same. Is there any miracle greater than the miracle of faith? Is there any fruit in the life of another person that is so seldom witnessed firsthand by those God uses to bear it? It is easy to lose heart that God is using us to make a difference. But then, when we least expect it, God gives us a centurion!
God gives us many opportunities to bear fruit in the lives of others, many through Trinity’s various forms of outreach. In addition to our support of local community needs, we are also now supporting LCMS Missionary John Wolf and his family. The Wolfs are currently preparing to go to Nairobi, Kenya where John will serve as Project Manager of the Africa region. Please keep the Wolfs in your prayers as they continue to raise the funds they need to go to Kenya. And never forget that we, like they, are people who may not immediately see the fruit God bears through us…but people whom God uses, all the same.