Portrait Of A Fruitful Believer
Text: Colossians 1:9-12
Imagine if you will, two paintings. Both are of apple trees, but they are drastically different. One is scraggly, spindly apple tree with only a few small apples clinging to its drooping branches. Its leaves are tinged with a sickly yellow hue, and its bark is chipped and missing in some places to show the grayed and weathered wood underneath.
The other tree bears a rich green canopy of dark earthy green leaves. Bright red plump apples are scattered across the branches in abundance. The tree looks vitally alive with the promise of a rich harvest.
Get both trees fixed in your mind. Now answer these questions. Which tree would you rather be? Which tree do you think is fulfilling the purpose that it was created for?
God has a purpose in mind for every Christian. Each Christian is called to be fruitful for the kingdom of God. We can bring joy to both God and ourselves if we become fruitful believers.
Just as we imagined the fruitful apple tree, Paul speaks to us in this passage to paint a portrait of a fruitful believe. First, he paints a picture of:
I. A Fruitful Believers Filling. (v. 9)
A. Real Knowledge
- The more I know, the more I know I don’t know.
*Two men were in a hot-air balloon and were lost. They spotted a man on the ground so they descended within shouting distance hoping he could give them some direction. One man leaned over the edge of the basket and shouted: "Could you please tell us where we are?" The man said "Yes, you are in a balloon about fifty feet in the air." The man in the balloon said to his partner, "Let's ask someone who isn't a CPA." His friend said, "How do you know he's a CPA?" He said, "Because he gave us completely accurate information which was of absolutely no value to us!"
--James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 106.
* Rossini was once presented with a watch by the King of France -- of which he was justly proud. Several years after, showing it to a friend, he was told that though he had possessed it so long, he did not know its real value.
"Impossible," said Rossini, whereupon the friend, taking the watch, touched a secret spring, at which an inner case flew open, disclosing a beautiful miniature painting of Rossini himself.
This is characteristic of a certain type of modern Christianity. It values its ethics and is acquainted with and appreciates much of its teaching, but it has not discovered the inner secret which gives it its supreme value. The portrait of Christ is still hidden. When the secret spring is touched and the Face of Christ is recognized, the whole attitude of mind and theory of values is changed.
It is characteristic also of much avowed discipleship. "Have I been so long a time with you, and hast thou not known Me, Philip?" said Christ to one who called himself a disciple and an intimate.
See: John 14:9; Phil 3:10
B. Spiritual Wisdom
*A missionary who was upset by a quarrel between two believers got down on his knees before God in prayer. He pleaded with the Lord to intervene or to give him special wisdom to handle the situation. As he interceded, he became aware of wrong feelings within his own heart and sensed that he was becoming bitter, almost hateful, toward the troublemakers. Therefore he began confessing his sins and asked the Lord to change his own attitude. The problem was still there when he rose from his knees, but he was a different man. His anger and hostility were gone, and he felt a new love for his fellow believers.
See: Gal 6:1; Eph 4:31; Phil 4:2-3; James 1:5
*it has been suggested that the inadequacy of much of our spiritual experience be traced back to our habit of skipping through the corridors of the Kingdom like children through the market place, chattering about everything, but pausing to learn the true value of nothing?
-- The Divine Conquest
See: 1 Kings 3:11-12; Prov 1:7; Rom 11:33
D. A reference to vv.3-8 (increase of the gospel)
II. A Fruitful Believers Walk. (V. 10)
A. A worthy walk
- We must live a life that is worthy of the one who purchased our life for us.
*A missionary in India was once teaching the Bible to a group of Hindu ladies. Halfway through the lesson, one of the women got up and walked out. A short time later, she came back and listened more intently than ever. At the close of the hour the leader inquired, "Why did you leave the meeting? Weren't you interested?" "O yes," the Hindu lady replied. "I was so impressed with what you had to say about Christ that I went out to ask your driver whether you really lived the way you talked. When he said you did, I hurried back so I wouldn't miss out on anything."
See: Rom 2:21-23; Jam 3:1
B. A pleasing walk
- Paul’s picture of a fruitful believer’s walk is one that pleases God. What a peace and assurance we have when we know our lives are lived in such a way as to please God.
- Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you may excel still more. (1 Th 4:1 NASB)
- By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. (Heb 11:5 NASB)
C. A productive walk
*There are a lot of Christians who are doing nothing. But there are no Christians who have nothing to do. We will all be responsible for what we have and haven’t done for the kingdom.
- Parable of the talents
D. A growing walk
- Unfortunately some believers try to get by with the status quo, or some keep going over the same ground again and again.
*In his book Folk Psalms of Faith, Ray Stedman tells a story of a woman who had been a school teacher for 25 years. When she heard about a job that would mean a promotion, she applied for the position. However, someone who had been teaching for only one year was hired instead. She went to the principal and asked why. The principal responded, "I'm sorry, but you haven't had 25 years of experience as you claim; you've had only one year's experience 25 times." During that whole time the teacher had not improved.
See: 2 Pet 1:5-8
- If we are to be counted among the productive in God’s kingdom, we have to keep growing, to keep climbing in our faith.
* High in the Alps is a monument raised in honor of a faithful guide who perished while ascending a peak to rescue a stranded tourist. Inscribed on that memorial stone are these words: HE DIED CLIMBING. A maturing, growing Christian should have the same kind of attitude, right up to the end of life.
See: Eph 4:15; Phil 3:12-14; 2 Tim 4:6-7
III. A Fruitful Believers Strength. (V. 11)
A. Glorious power
Paul paints his picture of the belivers strength as being glorious! This is the same power that called the worlds into existence and brought forth life. This is the same power that raised from the dead, a saviour, validating his power over death and his right to be called saviour. This is a power unrivaled and uncontainable, and there can be no other word more fitting than glorious. It is exactly this power that is available to the believer as he draws it from God.
B. God’s power
- It has to be God’s power. In God’s power there is strength, but when we try to do things in our own power, we draw from the meager reserves we have, and using these, we grow weak.
*For skiers it's not the downhill action with all its thrill of movement and speed that is a problem. It's going back uphill. But now a new ski craze has been introduced to North America. Known as skisailing, it enables a skier with the aid of a sail, or parachute-type device, to ski uphill.
Does your path seem uphill all the way? Then, are you learning to use the winds of God to turn what must remain always a drudgery apart from God into a delight? After all, God's promise is: "They shall mount up with wings...." Stop laboring in your own strength, and start resting in His.
See: Isa 40:31; Zech 4:6
C. Persevering power
The strength a fruitful believer gets from his relationship with God enables him to keep on going when the going gets rough. With Jesus as our constant companion and guide, and with him as our example, we are motivated beyond the capacity to quit.
*In Remember All the Way, William C. Townsend related the story of an evangelist who was facing discouragement and criticism. One day he said to a colleague, "'Don Guillermo, I'm going to quit.' Guillermo replied, 'Why do you give your resignation to me? When you began your service, you said the Lord Jesus Christ was calling you to tell others about Him. I think you'd better present your resignation to the One who called you. Let's get down on our knees here, and you tell Him that you are going to quit. Let Him hear what you've just told me -- that it's too hard, that too many people criticize you. Tell the Lord -- He's the One who sent you.' 'Well, I hesitate to do that,' he replied. 'I'm afraid He'll tell me to stay with the job.' 'If that's what He wants, don't you think you'd better stay?' 'Yes, I think I should!'" Taking new courage and refusing to look back, the evangelist went on to 'plow a straight furrow for God.'
See: Josh 1:9; 1 Chr 28:20; Job 4:3-5
D. Mighty Power
- The strength we draw on is no small strength. It is mighty in the time of temptation. It is mighty that we not get weary of well doing. It is mighty to deliver, to cleanse, and to uplift, to give courage.
- (A Psalm of David.) The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? (Psa 27:1 NASB)
- 'Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.' (Isa 41:10 NASB)
III. A Fruitful Believers Joy. (v. 12)
The Lord desired that His people take Him seriously but that they not take themselves too seriously. He wants them to wipe off their grim looks, put smiles on their faces, and let laughter flow from their lips. In light of this counsel, many of us would do well to ponder these comments from the pen of Helmut Thielicke:
Should we not see that lines of laughter about the eyes are just as much marks of faith as are the line of care and seriousness? Is it only earnestness that is baptized? Is laughter pagan? We have already allowed too much that is good to be lost to the church and cast many pearls before swine. A church is in a bad way when it banishes laughter from the sanctuary and leaves it to the cabaret, the nightclub and the toastmasters.
See: Neh 8:10; Psa 16:11; Psa 30:11; Gal 5:22; Phil 3:1
A. God directed joy
- The believers ultimate joy should find its highest expression in praise to God. Too often our joy is found in the material things God has provided, instead of the God that provided.
*Title: Hebrew Joy
Kaufmann Kohler states in the Jewish Encyclopedia that no language has as many words for joy and rejoicing as does Hebrew. In the Old Testament thirteen Hebrew roots, found in twenty-seven different words, are used primarily for some aspect of joy or joyful participation in religious worship. Hebrew religious ritual demonstrates God as the source of joy. In contrast to the rituals of other faiths of the East, Israelite worship was essentially a joyous proclamation and celebration. The good Israelite regarded the act of thanking God as the supreme joy of his life. Pure joy is joy in God as both its source and object. The psalmist says, "Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fullness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures forevermore". (Psalm 16:11)
See: Deut 16:15; Acts 14:17
B. Grateful joy
Out of God’s infinite mercy we have received an inheritance in His kingdom. For that undeserved gift, our hearts should explode with thanksgiving for not only what we recieve at His hand, but for what we have not received.
*Henry Ward Beecher said “If one should give me a dish of sand, and tell me there were particles of iron in it, I might look for them with my clumsy fingers, and be unable to detect them; but let me take a magnet, and sweep through it, and it would draw to itself the most invisible particles. The unthankful heart, like my finger in the sand, discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day, and as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find some heavenly blessings.”
See: James 1:17
C. Reasonable joy
- it is not a giddiness from unwarranted, worked up emotion, but it is a steady, deep seated joy that arises out of reason. We have reason to rejoice. We’ve been given something precious. Priceless, beyond what we can imagine or hope for. We should shout, not just to make a noise, but because we have something to shout about.
D. Shared joy
- It is good for us to remember that our joy is not singular. The gift we have been given in Christ Jesus is not something one person possesses, but it is a corporate affair. Even so, our joy should be expressed as a body.
*It has been said that “Friendship doubles our joy and divides our grief,” and I believe it is true. When we rejoice together over the good we share, it tends to double as we see the same joy we feel in our hearts also reflected on the faces of those around us. Our souls rise up to thrill with another as we share in our glorious hope.
- Have you ever seen a happy dance. A happy dance is when two people share their joy as they hold hands and hop up and down about something that gives them joy. It is my opinion that we see too little of the happy dance in church.
Paul has shown us what it takes to make up a fruitful believer. He has painted a beautiful portrait of the filling, strength, joy, and walk of a fruitful believer.
Now I would ask you to put yourself on the canvas. Just as we did the two apple trees, compare your portrait with the one Paul has painted. Does your spiritual portrait look as vibrant and fruitful as the one that Paul painted for us? If not, maybe we need to rinse the paint we’ve been using out of our brush, and borrow some of Paul’s paints.
I see many people painted with the washed out colors of failure and compromise. Lets pick up the brush and dip it into God’s Strength, fullness, and joy so that our walk may be pleasing to both God and ourselves.