Growing a reproducing, fruit-bearing tree is a process. It takes the right soil, sunshine and rain, fertilizer, a nurturing hand, some pruning, and time. When these elements are added together, a tree grows deep roots, sprouts shoots, and produces healthy fruit.
In God’s creation, healthy things reproduce, so a healthy expression of being a disciple is reproducing more of them! We are to reproduce much fruit so that God is glorified (John 15:8).
A game-changing moment in my life occurred when I learned how Jesus develops us over an entire lifetime. This moment took place when I had the opportunity to learn from Dr. Bobby Clinton and his research; “In my research of the 1200+ leaders from Scripture and church history, I’ve found that only one in three finishes well.” He then began to outline for us, through a generalized timeline, how one goes about cooperating with God within their “seasons of life” for the purpose of leading a life that finishes well.
Sovereign Foundations Phase: birth to early twenties
Much of what comes your way has been decided for you: your eye color, first and last name, where you live, where you go to school, etc. For some, these years end up being a solid jumping off place, while for others they are laden with hurt that Jesus wants to heal. The older you get the more clearly you see the hand of the Lord in this phase of your life as unique preparation and/or incredible redemption that serves to bless the lives of others. This particular phase is where your roots are to grow deep, basic character and personality are developed, and where underlying godly values are shaped.
Early Development Phase: twenties to mid-thirties
Character continues to be formed, lots of learning through doing is experienced, and some leadership is exercised. Indications of giftedness and life purpose begin to emerge.
In Dr. Clinton’s research, he found this phase is all about Jesus transforming us on the inside, receiving tools and unique methodologies, and discovering His real life purpose for us. The key is not chasing after positions by “climbing the ladder” or by pushing for opportunities, but rather cooperating with what God desires to build in you.
Pay attention to the seasoned leaders, teachers, and disciple-makers that God brings into your life. Set your heart to learn the ways of God from them, about loving Jesus more, about commitment, sacrifice, and obedience—in short, about being fruitful disciple-makers!