A Plan, A Purpose, A Calling
A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.
Matthew 7:18 (NLT)
“I just got out of solitary confinement two days ago,” John said. “It was my anger again. I let it get the best of me. As I was cooling off in that cell, it occurred to me that if I wanted to help people with their problems, I first needed to get past my own. You see, I believe God has called me to go back to the streets and try to reach those young kids who are ruining their lives in gangs. When I come across that scripture about not getting good fruit out of a bad tree and not getting bad fruit out of a good tree, it hits me pretty hard. All I am producing with this anger is bad fruit, and I don’t want to be that guy. I want to be the guy that produces good fruit.”
When I heard John tell me this story, something resonated within me as well. John saw that God has a plan and a purpose for him, and these were powerful motivators for him to get his life on track. God’s purpose can get us to do what is right in ways we’ve never before experienced. Without it, we can easily fall back into our old failed ways of living.
Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained...
Proverbs 29:18 (NASB)
I hear a lot of guys and gals in the prisons tell me they want to change, they want to stop their old ways, they want transformation. Some make strong verbal commitments that they are going to make it this time. Unfortunately, few see it through.
Every time I see these people struggle, it reminds me of myself. Prior to my incarceration in 1991, I had promised God that I would follow Him no matter what. Numerous times I had told the Lord that I would go where He wanted me to go, do what He wanted me to do, and say what He wanted me to say. At the moment I made those promises, I was 100% sincere, yet nothing really changed in my behavior. In retrospect, I see that something was missing. I lacked a purpose bigger than my own selfish desires.
Before people change, they have to want to change. Before people begin doing the right thing, they have to have a reason to do the right thing. If they have no vision, no purpose, and they see their life as lacking eternal value, why should they change? Why not stay angry or mean or drunk? Why not do whatever feels good in the moment? What difference does it make?
We have all seen situations where people change if they have enough motivation. When a guy or gal falls in love, they make all kinds of adjustments to accommodate or impress the one they are in love with. If someone wants to become a doctor, or a professional athlete, or a Navy Seal, it is amazing what can be accomplished through diligent study and physical discipline. When the going gets tough, there has to be something deep within motivating a person to press through, to finish the task, to reach the goal.
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)
I contend that the greatest motivator is to know God and His plan and purpose. When we know He has called us to do something, there are two key things going on. First, we are inspired to step out into that calling because down deep we know it is meaningful. Second, we remain drawn to that calling, despite any detours thrown at us by the enemy or detours we take on our own, because God won’t let it go.
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
Philippians 2:13 (NLT)
...I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Philippians 1:6 (NLT)
Once we tap into this concept and embrace it as reality, we will see God move mightily in our lives. He will make His purposes clear. He will empower us to fulfill them. He will open the doors necessary to bring them to pass.