Enemies of Impact
Jesus said in Matthew 9:37 that “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Looking around it’s obvious that these words are as relevant now as when Jesus first spoke them. As followers of Jesus we are called to make a difference, and yet there have never been enough workers for all the work there is to be done.
While this verse is certainly tragic, it’s also motivating because the word “harvest” suggests all the work is done, we just have to go out and collect the fruit. I have never farmed a day in my life, but I have to imagine this was an exciting time. You’ve spent months preparing the ground, sowing seeds, fighting off predators and obstacles, and praying for good weather - this was your reward.
And yet, the workers are few. Why?
Looking at Mark 4:19 in the parable of the sower, Jesus gives three enemies of impact, three major obstacles to fruitfulness.
He says: “but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”
Three major reasons why Christian artists do not produce the kind of fruit God intended for them to produce are:
1) Cares of the World
2) Deceitfulness of Riches
3) Desire for other things
1) Cares of the world
Adult life isn’t easy. Relationships take work, bills need to be paid, health isn’t a guarantee, and those are just some of the greatest challenges. Like weeds choking the life out of a plant, cares of the world can consume us and are major enemies of impact in the Christian life. As Christian artists, anxiety can rob us of our God-given call to use the gifts we have to transform a broken world. I have met so many Christian artists with obvious missional callings on their lives who have allowed the cares of the world to stunt their fruitfulness. They are worried that if they surrender their art to God that maybe he won’t let them do it any longer. They worry about their reputations and what people will think if they are clear about God in their art. They worry about how they will provide for their families. God calls us to reject worry in our lives and trust in Him, and yet I have seen these cares of the world rob artists of the incredible impact that God intended for them to have.
2) Deceitfulness of Riches
This one is obvious, isn’t it? Too many Christian artists are called to be bold for Jesus and instead have been seduced by money. Sadly, much of the Christian music industry has sold out. Many Christian artists started out wanting to change the world but slowly became enticed by an industry that has made making money a far greater priority than speaking the truth. Jesus speaks of riches like a weed that along with anxiety chokes out a believer’s fruitfulness. One reason the harvest is plentiful and the workers of few is that you cannot serve the two masters of God and money, and too many artists have chosen the latter.
3) Desires for other things
Sometimes we aren’t fruitful for less dramatic reasons. It’s not big worries that pull us out of the game. It’s not even the allure of fame and money. We simply trade great for good. God does not love us for what we do; He loves us because we are his children. Still, every believer is faced with a choice. Do I live a life of faith, take God at His word, and live out the narrow road calling He has for me? Or do I simply settle for other things? Often good things rob us of the greatest things. There is nothing wrong with the “normal life,” but I believe that God would have us all live in radical obedience and service to Him. It’s not the safest path, and it’s certainly not the easiest way, but it’s the best. Many Christians artists are unchallenged, uninspired, and produce little fruit. I believe that is because they traded a radical call for a conventional one. They are distracted by desires for other things, and this limits their effectiveness for God.
So what’s the solution?
Jesus gives it to us using yet another farming illustration in John 15:5. He says, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing.”
That’s the answer. Abide in Christ. It’s simple in concept, and challenging in execution. My tendency is to be overrun by worries, seduced by the lies of the world, and distracted by all of the easier options. My response is usually to work harder and feel guilty, and yet God doesn’t demand either from us. He says just be with me, and we will do this together.
We need more artists who would not just produce a little fruit for God’s kingdom, but much fruit! But this will not happen until we understand that only by abiding in Him will we have the ability to resist the weeds that choke out our effectiveness. Only when we allow God to work through us from the inside out will we defeat these enemies of impact.