While we recognize that fruitfulness is the work of God, we must understand that diligence is an essential component of our faithful lives and labors. A subtle form of hyper-Calvinism can creep into our thinking once we acknowledge that fruitfulness is the work of God. We can start to think to ourselves, or catch ourselves saying to others, such things as, “It really doesn’t matter what we do because, at the end of the day, it’s all God’s work.” Interestingly, in the same letter in which he admitted that it is “God who gives the increase,” Paul declared, “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). In Proverbs, Solomon wisely observed, “The hand of the diligent will rule” (Prov. 12:24). One writer helpfully sums up our responsibility to be diligent in our spiritual labors when he says, “You can do ministry with God’s help, so give it all you’ve got. You can’t do ministry without God’s help, so be at peace.” This is true in every sphere in which the believer is seeking to be faithful to God. Diligence in faithfully carrying out those things to which God has called us will ultimately lead to fruitfulness.
Skillfulness is another vital aspect of faithfulness that leads to fruitfulness. There are many things that I will never do because God has not given me the gifts and calling to do them. I’ll never play a professional sport or be a concert pianist. I’ll never be a nuclear physicist or a cardiologist. I am thoroughly content with the fact that I have not been gifted to do so. In the same way, God does not call every believer into full-time gospel ministry. Consider the Apostle’s charge to the believers in Rome:
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Rom. 12:6–8)
We must also come to realize that fruitfulness is not dependent on circumstances or status. We can mistakenly convince ourselves that the larger the platform, the more fruit will be gained. We can fall into the snare of thinking of spiritual fruit in worldly terms—acting as if individuals who are naturally gifted, wealthy, or influential are those who are most likely to be fruitful. The Apostle Paul, however, gave this much-needed reminder to the church in Corinth:
Not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. (1 Cor. 1:26–29)
Consider the fruit that the Apostle saw in his own ministry while imprisoned. The Lord used Paul not for the conversion of Caesar but for the conversion of some of Caesar’s prison guards. Additionally, Paul told Philemon that it was the runaway indentured servant Onesimus who “once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me” (Philem. 1:11; Col. 4:9). This is a prime example of the sort of unlikely and unexpected individuals to whom God gives great fruitfulness.