Today’s fortune cookie said, “It doesn’t take much to be a success. It takes everything.” I tell my kids to always give their best effort. Your best effort is everything. Perhaps it won’t earn a 100% or 1st place, but the best effort is all you can give. Today, ask yourself this: Did I give my best?
If you cannot answer yes, then you work that out with God. Remember, life is about growing, changing, becoming who you were meant to be so as to bring honor and glory to God. It’s likely you won’t always give your best—let Him work with you through the reasons. When you do give your best, trust that the fruit will come at the appointed time.
This fortune reminded me of a question I had to ask people while in college. My professor had us ask people their definition of success. Many people had responses pointing to a happy and healthy family, to financial security, to job achievements. Some thought of success a different way – in being obedient to the will of God. Today, ask yourself this: What is my definition of success?
The answer to this question will dictate your path. If you see financial security as success, that’s your end goal, and your choices will be choices to help you get there step-by-step. If success to you is honoring and glorifying God, then your life choices will be acts of love and obedience and praise and service so as to bring God glory. Asking this question will help you to consider your motives and the desires of your heart.
Whenever you are considering your best and considering success, cover it with grace. What does this mean? Your salvation is a free gift from God. It is not earned – it’s GRACE. Do not let yourself get caught up in trying to earn something. Giving your best is not about earning something– it’s all about giving. As well, not meeting the mark, not finding success in an area of your life, can be frustrating and painful – give yourself GRACE. God has an amazing way to fill in our gaps – Amazing Grace! As you ask these questions today, rest in His amazing grace.
“Whether you eat or drink, live your life in a way that glorifies and honors God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31 [TPT]
This morning in my pre-coffee daze, I neglected to grab my dual leash for my dogs. Instead, I grabbed them each their separate personal leashes and got them ready for their morning walk. I always use the dual leash for walks; if you ever tried to walk two dogs without one, you’d easily figure out why it is nice to have a dual leash. No tangles. No tripping. Smooth sailing with the canines and God.
As I walked to the next block, I realized that I had forgotten the dual leash, but I also realized that the dogs were still walking as if they were using the dual leash. In using the dual leash for years, they developed a habit. They were trained. The dogs knew the path to walk. They knew their limitations. They knew the distances they needed to be located. They had it all memorized. It became a way of life.
In this same way, as we continue to drown ourselves in the Word of God and aim to live it out, we find ourselves not having to think so much on some things. It becomes second nature. Spending time daily in the Word helps us navigate our day better understanding true obedience and better discerning the will of God.
Continue to add more time with God and His Word as you go through the week. Start a YouVersion reading plan. Pick up a daily devotion book. Download the Dwell app. Do whatever works for you to hear and read more of God’s Word. Take small bites. Enjoy big feasts. Remember, God’s Word always produces fruit.
“It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” – Isaiah 55:11 [NLT]
[The Unproductive Fig Tree: Luke 13:6-9, Withered Fig Tree: Matthew 21:18-22]
Colossians 1:9-10 – “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” [NIV]
*BEARING FRUIT IN EVERY GOOD WORK*
- Filled with the knowledge of His will
- Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord
- Bearing fruit in every good work
INTERNAL FRUIT + EXTERNAL FRUIT
Internal Fruit – Deeper walk with God which produces: Fruits of the Spirit
External Fruit – Abiding in Christ impacts relationships and increases effectiveness of your ministry
Galatians 5:22-23a – “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” [NLT]
John 15:5 – “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” [NASB]
John 15:8, 11 – “My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples… I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” [HCSB]
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” – Ephesians 3:14-21 [NIV]
Bible Study Questions:
1) Looking at the Parable of the Unproductive Fig Tree, who is:
The Vineyard Owner –
The Vineyard Keeper –
2) The Keeper of the Vineyard pleas with the Owner to give another chance. What does this say to us?
3) In Matthew 21:18-22, we read of the Withered Fig Tree. The fig tree bears a false resemblance of one that would have fruit. How can we appear to be fruitful but not yet not bear any fruit?
4) What does the Withered Fig Tree represent to us? What can we take from this message?
5) Read Colossians 1:9-10. The passages mentions being filled with the knowledge of His will, to walk in the manner worthy of the Lord, and about bearing fruit in every good work. How can we:
Be filled with the knowledge of His will?
Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord?
Bear fruit in every good work?
More Than A Story is a 12-week Sermon Series and Bible Study focused on the parables of Jesus.
Recently my son had a problem with his gaming system. I decided to reveal my tech geek side and began to look deeper into the issue. I realized that the disc drive was malfunctioning and had another drive ordered. When it arrived, the sticker on the box said, “new.” I quickly learned that it was anything but new. It had a padded wrapper over it but inside told another story. I found things broken and a stripped screw.
The people who sold me the disc drive can easily slap a sticker on a box and say the merchandise is new even though it is anything but new. With us, we can pretend to be a particular way; however, if we have the Spirit, if we accepted Jesus into our lives and were baptized, then there should be a sign of fruit—fruit from our lives.
You cannot fake a relationship with Christ. You cannot slap on a label (ex: “Christian”) and think it makes the reality change. There’s a song that says, “You’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Today, are you a box with a deceptive sticker or are you the real deal? If people look around will they see the fruits of your labor or will they get lost and confused from the image you try to uphold?
“You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” – Matthew 7:16-18 [ESV]
When a tree does not have strong roots, deep water roots, it cannot withstand the situations of life. We see less signs of life—the leaves are withered and there is little fruit produced because of periods of great heat and drought. When a tree has great roots that sink into the water they always have what they need in any situation and “their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”
We are a lot like trees; we also do best with deep water roots. Today’s verse says “blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.” That’s how we have deep water roots—when we are deeply rooted in Christ. If we TRUST the Lord, if He is our HOPE and our CONFIDENCE, we will be able to stand firm in life no matter the situation, and we will “stay green” and “never stop producing fruit.”
When you believe, TRULY BELIEVE, in Jesus, living water will flow from your heart (John 7:38). Today we can place our trust in Him for He is our “hope and confidence.” We thrive with deep water roots. We were meant for those deep roots. Do this and the fruit will follow.
“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:7-8 [NLT]
Please feel free to download and/or print the lesson and the accompanying resource(s) and use for ministry purposes. If you have any comments or questions, do not hesitate to contact. Not for resale.
This lesson does not include an activity. We did a red light green light type game using the last part of the lesson. An optional craft could be a sign or door hanger with the Bible verse. Ex: Stop sign with the verse.
For the complete lesson, follow the download links. Please be aware that the items are stored on Drop Box so you will be transferred.
I recently moved and I’ve had to make a lot of phone calls to get some things organized. I noticed that while I was getting everything in order, that I hesitated to make the telephone calls. I looked to see if I could contact people online instead of making the actually physical phone calls. When I had to initiate my internet, I decided to active online. When I had difficulties, I even chatted with a representative because I felt it would be quicker and not eat up my cell phone minutes. At the same time, I really did not want to be on the telephone.
I didn’t find anything to be a problem until I noted that I had some things left to do, and everything on the list was what needed actual telephone calls. I had avoided making the calls. I was disconnected. This was something we spoke about in my media ministry course last semester. Our society has gotten so accustomed to communicating online and with technology that there is this great lack of people being connected with people. We even send a text message or chat on Facebook with people who are in the same room.
I am not against technology. I love technology. However, I think that we need to make sure that we do not spend so much time with technology that we try so hard to not connect with people in person and on the telephone. Sometimes people need to know that a real person cares about them, that another actual human being was thinking about them enough to take the time to call or to stop by for a visit.
I see a lot of images on Facebook depicting a cell phone screen shot showing God calling or sending a text message. The image is accompanied with the question on whether a person would answer and respond or not. I like that image because it makes a statement about society– that we are very much into technology– but that God meets us where we are at in life. At the same time, I believe He also would stop by and visit. He would sit with you and spend the afternoon together. He would call and send a text message. God wants to be connected to you. In John 15, Jesus speaks about the need for the disciples to stay connected to the vine. If the branches are unattached, they will not bear fruit.
Today you might be busy, overwhelmed with a list of things to do that surely will take you most of the day. You may not think you have the time to visit or call anyone. Perhaps you are tired and simply don’t feel like taking the initiative. I challenge you to make some time, visit or call someone you haven’t talked to in awhile, and simply enjoy their company. You may need the call more than they do. Also, spend time with God. Remember the branch cannot do much when unattached to the vine. He’s always available!
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” – Romans 12:9-10 [NLT]
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5 [NASB]
At times we slip up and end up having to face the music. I would say it is usually not fun; however, it is a part of life. When you make a mistake, make the wrong decision, go against the rules, etc., there are consequences. This morning my daughter didn’t want to school, because she knew she would have to face the consequences of forgetting her homework at school. She understood she deserved the punishment for missing her homework, but she didn’t want to face the hardship of the punishment.
I have taken notice to a lot of parents who try to keep their children from punishment and discipline. I use the word “discipline” also because punishment is given to those for justice of wrongdoing, but discipline is training that will help correct and perfect a person. I have heard a parent say, “Well I feel bad for him.” It is okay to empathize about the situation, because we have all had to undergo consequences; however, we cannot try to teach them to avoid the consequences. We cannot tell them ways to get around facing the music.
In the Bible, we have a lot of promises of blessing and of love. We can read some verses standing alone and feel like we are basking in the love of the Father and the world is ours. But if the Bible is read closely, there is another side that people like to leave out of the equation. There is punishment and discipline in life. There are consequences. Our consequence for sin is separation from God. We have redemption through the blood of Christ; however, it doesn’t give us a free pass to go on sinning, nor does it change the fact that there are consequences for our actions. We are not perfect either, and so we need discipline to help make us a better person.
Today, maybe you have some consequences that you need to face for your actions. Perhaps you have been putting off being honest because you do not want to face what comes next. Or maybe you are a parent and you try to shield your child from facing punishment. Please know that if you “protect” your child from punishment, then you are saying that their actions are okay. You are teaching the child that they do not deserve the punishment.
My daughter went to school today without her homework. She will be stuck serving time instead of enjoying recess. It will help her to understand that she needs to remember to do her homework. We all make mistakes and misjudgments; we all face the consequences. Nonetheless, if you are honest about your shortcomings and you face the music, you experience personal growth and you become a better person. You may not see it at first, but understand that God loves you and He wants the very best for you.
“For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
– Hebrews 12:10-11 [NASB]
I like to drink a lot. I need to drink a lot. I am a person who talks a lot so I always need to have a bottle of water with me so that my throat doesn’t get dry. When I went to leave the house this morning, I had to ask myself if I had a bottle of water in the car. I thought I remembered seeing one there, and so I left. When I was mid route, I realized that the bottle was empty. I was thirsty, but the bottle had nothing in it.
The bottle gave me a false impression that it would provide water. It reminds me of Mark 11 and when Jesus cursed the fig tree. The fig tree had leaves and so it gave this false impression that it would provide fruit.
We too need to be careful with false impressions that we see everywhere in our lives. We see people on the Internet and in our daily lives who say that they know Christ and say that they are Christians. Sometimes their game plan is filled with hate, judgment, and cruelty.
Matthew 7:15 says, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” There are going to be a lot of people who approach us with sheep’s clothing, and sadly we are going to believe what they say. This is where it’s important to read God’s Word and to listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
When we hear teachings, and when we hear people talking about certain things, we need to be like the Bereans. They studied everything and looked to see if what the person was saying is what was in God’s Word. Because, if it’s not in God’s Word, it’s not the Truth.