winding path

No Such Thing as Instant Fruit: Faithfulness in Business

Should I shut my business down if I’m not seeing spiritual fruit?

Instant milk. That’s how a Brazilian friend recently portrayed the challenge of how our contemporary church culture often trains, and equips us to think about, and plan for results. We mix the powder with the water and voila – we have instant, pat-yourself-on-the-back results. In our instant-everything society, this is how we approach our lives, including ministry and discipleship. The ‘we need numbers for our next board meeting’ mentality, and our leaders ask the questions which help us formulate our approach: How many prayed the prayer, how many attend your fellowship, how many did you baptize? We’ve taken it so far as to expect it is the responsibility of the institutional Church to go make disciples, rather than the mandate given to each of us. We speak in terms of how wide rather than how deep. If we can’t quickly quantify our efforts, then we cannot justify our budgets, or in certain cases even our cross-cultural existence. The danger is that we focus on a formula to acquire souls and are driven by the fear of not reaching our goal, rather than the Spirit of the living God.

Those listed in the ‘hall of fame’ in Hebrews 11 were remembered as having walked in faith – even though they all had failures on their journeys, they were counted as faithful. Yet, they walked, never being assured of what they would see, they only had certainty of their call. They couldn’t focus on the daily bumps in the road and twists and turns in their path, which many times led them astray. They had to keep their eyes on the ultimate prize. Jim Elliot and his companions never lived to see the amazing movement in the lives of the Huaorani people, that was in the timing of God’s plan, not man’s. After tireless work, and despite failing health, William Wilberforce only learned three days before his death of the abolition of slavery in England. The Moravian Church, the oldest Protestant denomination, started a continuous 100-year prayer movement that resulted in the first significant wave of Protestant missionaries being sent to the world. The originators of that movement never experienced the incredible fruit that resulted.

We tend to think with our limited understanding, we may be wasting valuable time, but God never looks at it that way. We aren’t given the timetable of His Spirit. Of course, He knows the heart of man and He knows our natural tendency to desire instant results through our own efforts. Yet, if we knew the results ahead of time, we wouldn’t have to rely on His Spirit.

Many times it is the journey we are on that enables us to let go of ourselves, and to become more like Him. We are able to let go of our expectations, and learn that it is not about what we are doing, it is about who we are becoming, closer to the image of Christ. When someone made the comment to Bishop Desmond Tutu that what a tragic waste it was for Nelson Mandela to spend 27 years in prison, Bishop Tutu was quick to disagree. He said it was not a waste at all. He described how Mandela had entered prison as an angry young man who saw violence as justified for overthrowing an unjust situation. When Mandela emerged 27 years later, Tutu said he was a forgiving, patient man who was ready to lead. Bishop Tutu saw that time in prison as crucial to the man Mandela became. God was in control.

Trusting God in the Marketplace

1 Timothy 4 verses 4 and 5 tell us that everything created by God is good. Business is good – very, very good. The marketplace was created by God to provide work – a God-given mandate. The marketplace provides jobs, it allows people to discover and develop their unique God-given skills (Ex.35:31-35, Ex.28:3, Ex.31:3-6, Deut.8:18.). The marketplace gives us the opportunity and permission to connect with people in a unique manner, developing deeper relationship, that often other kinds of ministry approaches do not allow. We use business to help people care for their families, develop and improve their skills, and increase their standard of living. We have the opportunity to use biblical values within our workplace to manage and run our business and thus show our employees that there is nothing we do that separates our faith from our work, but rather, the principles for how we run our business are defined by our faith.

Often the good cause we are pursuing becomes that which we fix our eyes on. The danger is that we idolize our cause (making believers) over the cross. Do you trust this is where He has called you? Has He gifted you for business such that the business is thriving and doing all a good business is designed to accomplish? Are you constantly teaching principles that align with biblical worldview – integrity, honesty, love, gentleness, grace, accountability, hard work… [insert Sermon on the Mount here!] Do you live it yourself both in and outside your business? Christ didn’t lead with the gospel, He led with relationship, and love, always speaking the truth. Are you prepared in season and out of season to give a reason for the hope within you?

Do you provide the space and open dialogue for your employees to safely ask questions, and do you use His wisdom and understanding to help them navigate the challenges of life? Do you provide opportunity for deeper discussion? Do you share meals and time outside work with your employees? Are you building intentional relationship with your employees, and showing sincere interest about their lives and families? Are you offering to pray for them when they have troubles, showing them how our God answers prayers? Are you there to guide them through difficult life choices by helping them consider the right choices through the lens of a biblical worldview? Every good thing points to God. In Him all things hold together. Is your business producing good products or services? The good things of the world, like our business and our lives, can point our employees to Christ.

“Spiritual fruit” by definition is not our responsibility, it is that of His Spirit. God tasks us with the light loads; planting, watering, cultivating, doing it as we go and wherever we go in life. The harvest is His. In our culturally-bound quest for instant results, if we don’t see them, we are trained to think we should close down and go home – or change fields. But we report to a gracious Creator who is sovereign and fully in control – to Him a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day. He only requires our obedience and our willingness to be made more like Jesus in whatever journey He has called us to.

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Colleene Isaacs is part of the ‘Ask a BAM Mentor‘ panel of mentors. Colleene serves as an advisor to early stage kingdom-focused startups and assists non-profit organizations in under-developed economies to develop sustainable models for income generation. Colleene has over 27 years of business experience and has been the founder of her own restaurant business, as well as a co-founder of a technology-based company. She has served in various management roles for technology companies, including training and development, customer service, business and channel development, and marketing. Colleene has been married to Robert, her high school sweetheart, for 40 years and they have 2 children and 3 grandchildren. Colleene is passionate about using her gifts to help others discover and live out their unique God-imprinted design for His kingdom purpose.

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