Editor's note:

“That’s why I am here.” One of the delightful volunteers in our ministry for disabled adults used that phrase when I commended her for the work she was doing at a weeklong camp. In offering herself to the campers, she had discovered new energy for the demands of each day and renewed purpose for her life. In my terms, she had discovered the creative energy of fruitful work.

Fruitful work can be paid or unpaid but in either case, the qualitative and quantitative experience is one of joy and love. Joy is experienced. Love is expressed. Jesus gives voice to it in his words in John 15. When we live in to his call to fruitful work in the world, the kingdom is advanced and, I can’t help but think, God smiles.

—Kai Nilsen
Writer, Lutheran pastor, and Renovaré Ministry Team member

When Jesus speaks about bearing fruit, he connects it with both the outward manifestation of love and the inner experience of joy: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” ( Jn 15:11-12). Fruitful work in the workplace, neighborhood, community, and at home always leans outward in love. In this case, love is not just sentiment or good feelings; love manifests itself in very concrete ways. Society needs honest people of good integrity in politics leading nations, in homes nurturing children, in communities organizing acts of justice, in schools inspiring students.

Fruitful work manifests itself in specific acts of love wherever we find ourselves. The energy of fruitful work also gives us an inner motivation that spurs us on, even in challenging times. Over the years, I have been struck by the number of thought leaders, across many disciplines, who have variously described this inward drive. One of my favorite thinkers, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, writes about the concept of flow. He describes flow as “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

Even without using the language of faith, Csikszentmihalyi taps into the deep wisdom of God embedded in the story of creation. When we engage in fruitful work, we discover the wellspring of God’s energy flowing through us, increasing both our capacity for the task at hand and our resilience in the face of obstacles. That is why we are here.

Jesus speaks about this inner experience, this inner motivation, as joy: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” ( Jn 15:11). For Jesus, joy is not the superficial happiness that so many in our culture seek, a happiness almost completely dependent on external circumstances. It is the abiding satisfaction of knowing that we are God’s people no matter what, created to extend the fruits of God’s love in the world.

Now Underway: The 2018-19 Renovaré Book Club

How do we read for transformation, not just information? First, choose books that stir the soul and have an enduring quality. Then read with God and others at an unhurried pace, attentive to what the Holy Spirit wants to teach. The Renovaré Book Club is designed for transformative reading. It runs October 2018—May 2019.

Learn more >

Excerpt taken from Renew Your Life: Discovering the Wellspring of God’s Energy (Formatio, 2015); used with the author’s permission.