The theme of fruitfulness is a common one in the Bible. It begins in Genesis when the Lord God instructs the first couple to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). Here God means physical increase of progeny, but the idea of increase is everywhere in the Bible. God is a God of fruitfulness Himself and He looks for it in His people.
We see the theme of fruitfulness in today’s readings about Joseph in prison, Jesus telling the parable of the sower and the seed, and in the Psalms and Proverbs passages.
Let’s begin with Jesus. In Matthew 13, He tells a parable to instruct those who are truly listening—parables are not for the casual hearer. Parables are designed to cause thoughtful consideration so that whoever hears them will ponder and understand even more.
The sower throws the seed on good soil and it brings a huge harvest. Some seeds yielded 100 percent, meaning every single seed sprouted and produced a plant. And other seed produced a sixty or thirty times harvest (Mt. 13:8). That is an enormous increase. As Jesus explained the parable, He said that “he who hears the Word of God and understands it...produces a crop yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (13:23).
What about Joseph, in prison for something he did not do? Does he experience fruitfulness? Not at first glance! After all, he is in prison. And there he does a good deed of interpreting two dreams, and then asking to be remembered when the cupbearer to the king is released as Joseph has predicted. Yet he is forgotten by the cupbearer and Joseph languishes in the prison for two full years. The Bible is clear on the time line. But God is a God of increase; Joseph will not be in prison much longer. The king of Egypt has had a puzzling dream about plenty and want, and Joseph is being sent by God to reveal the meaning to him.
Fruitfulness is coming.
Even when we don’t see fruitfulness in our lives -- when the job seems mundane, the children seem to play in the mud and then track it in the house, school seems tedious, and will there ever be enough money? -- even in those times, when we are ‘in prison,’ we can be sure that God plans for eventual fruitfulness in our lives. We may stay in the dry season for “two full years” or more, but God will bring us through and there will be fruit.
King David agrees in Psalm 17:14, “You [Lord God] still the hunger of those you cherish; their sons have plenty, and they store up wealth for their children.” Money was sometimes tight as we raised five children and sent them to college. But, by God’s grace, we saw all of them graduate from college without debt. They were able to enter adulthood unencumbered by student loans. This fruitfulness involved money as our sons and daughters had “plenty.”
God has brought fruitfulness in ministry to my husband and to me. We’ve been able to see people come to faith in Jesus, to encourage and prepare young men and women in ministry, and to see them flourish as pastors, missionaries, parents and leaders.
How fully I agree with Proverbs 3:33: “The Lord… blesses the home of the righteous.”
Fruitfulness—the legacy of every believer in Jesus.
- Nell Sunukjian
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