Why are some people seemingly more fruitful in their service for the Lord than others? (And as I use the term fruitful, I am speaking of quality not quantity.) Is fruitfulness something wholly out of their hands? Is it a matter of gift—that one receives a more powerful gift from God than another? Is it a matter of situation or circumstance—one is born into a successful family in a large city in the United States, another is born into poverty in a rain forest in Argentina? One verse in the Book of Ezra gives clear insights on this question. “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel” (7:10).
The Imperative. God is not in the accident business. No believer finds himself cruising down the highway one day suddenly to be zapped by God and transformed from a casual or careless believer into a dynamic, effective servant of the Lord. Certainly, God can and does use circumstances to awaken or move sluggardly hearts and minds. But it is not as though He suddenly sweeps a genuine believer off one path onto another irrespective of his will and without any conscious, deliberate choice on the part of the believer. Those who enjoy a fruitful life have exercised their will in that direction; they have chosen to serve the Lord. Ezra shows the way: he “had set his heart.” The verb tense indicates an action that occurred in the past, one that is complete, fixed, and unaltered. Ezra was not an on-again, off-again saint, a dilettante, a dabbler. If God’s will maintained his interest, he might go on, or if things didn’t become too difficult, he might proceed. No. He did not dip his toe into the water to decide whether it would be comfortable to jump in and take a swim. He plunged in. His will was fixed; at the core of his being, he determined to follow God and God’s purposes for him. If we will serve the Lord, it is imperative that we set our hearts on God’s will. No one else can or will do that for us—including God.
The Process. We know that we have truly set our hearts on serving the Lord when the object is both clear and concrete in our minds. In that regard, Ezra provides us with a useful pattern. First, he “had set his heart to study the law of the Lord.” God never rewards willing ignorance. There will always be things that we do not know or understand about God’s Word, but that is no excuse to shrug our shoulders and ignore the Book. God “is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). Fruitfulness lies with those who are in the Word of God, not in some ritualistic or formulaic way, not mechanically, but with a desire understand the doctrines of God and to come to know and love its Author more and more. We must determine to study God’s Word. Second, Ezra set his heart “to practice it,” that is, the “law of the Lord.” Study is essential in order to obtain a knowledge and understanding of God’s Word. But the purpose of study is not merely to swell our pool of information, nor to increase our knowledge of doctrine, nor even to recognize that in God’s Word we have been given “everything pertaining to life and godliness” (II Pet. 1:3). Paul explains that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (II Tim. 3:16, 17). In other words, study and knowledge are not an end in themselves. We must will to “practice” what the Word teaches. We must will that the broad pattern of our lives will be in accord, not with some legal code but with the revealed will of God, which is the expression of His character in us. Our reading and study of His Word is valuable only when bathed in prayer and the determination to heed what we read. Third, Ezra set his heart “to teach His statutes and ordinances.” Ezra was called of God to teach in a formal way, as are pastors and teachers today. However, fruitfulness for any and every believer results from the same determination. Every aspect of all our lives as believers should mirror the truth of God’s Word. The words of our mouths, the meditations of our hearts, the actions we take, and the actions we refuse to take all instruct those around us, including our spouses, our children, brethren, coworkers, and acquaintances. We instruct others with every part of our lives. But only when we set our hearts to teach God’s Word do we instruct in a way that produces eternal fruit. Every heart is set on something; in its most basic form, either God or self. We arrive in this life preset on self, we must yield to the Lord in order to be reset on God. What is your heart fixed on?
Previous Page | Next Page