Master Sermon List
The Secret Of Fruitfulness
by F. B. Meyer
"I will make thee exceeding fruitful." Genesis 17:6
When God says to a soul, "I will make thee exceeding fruitful," it becomes all others carefully to notice the circumstances and conditions under which that promise is made.
There has been a great amount of heart searching throughout the Church in recent months because of the failure of conversions. Great communities of Christians, after toiling for a whole twelve month, have been compelled to confess that their ranks are not increased by a single unit. Ministers, well furnished for their work, have had no sheaves to bring from the whitened fields, and the total aggregate of conversions from the world hardly avails to meet the drain caused by an inevitable leakage. Oh! If God should say of some hundreds of us, "I will make you exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of you," with what new hope we should anticipate our work! Would it not be a day for which all other days were made and waiting, if the Eternal God were to speak to some child of His by these lines, and say, "Thy name shall no more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham, the father of a great multitude"?
I. The Time
"When Abram was ninety years old and nine." He was an old man and well stricken in age. According to the laws of human life it was not likely that he should have a child. Ask any men belonging to the neighboring clans, who would be Abram's heir; they would have answered:
"The son of a slave woman, Ishmael by name. There is no child by Sarah, his wedded wife, and no likelihood of there being one. Poor man, it seems strange that all his vast possessions should go to such an heir!"
So men talked! And it was at such a time that God stepped in and said:
"I will make thee exceeding fruitful."
Years ago you thought you could effect something in your life. You had energy, genius, the grace of oratory, the power of personal attraction and fascination. You could sway men - men gathered around you and recognized their born leader. Perhaps you could organize efficiently; beneath your word and deft hand all rabble would fall into rank and become an army. The faculty of selection was yours - intrepid courage, wise counsel, quick sympathy. Possibly you had money; you thought it was simply a question of employing the best talent and equipping your workers in the best style. But all this is over now, and you are compelled reluctantly to confess that the total residuum is disappointing. At the best, our Ishmaels are like wild asses' colts. And you are coming to think that the remainder of your life will never rise above the dead levels of the past, will never achieve any large success for God, will never be fruitful in the conversion of men.
"I will do my best," you say, "building up believers, if I may not win the ungodly. I can train children, but never bear them. Mine the fashioning of the stones, but not the quarrying."
To such God comes with His assurance, "I am able to make thee exceeding fruitful." Fulfill the Divine conditions, and there is no reason why the great multitude should not hail you, Parent!
"It cannot be! Nature forbids. The experience of the past forbids. Declining brilliancy of gift and energy of power forbid. Other branches recently grafted into the vine may stoop to the ground with their heavy fruitage, but I shall always be as a dry tree."
Wait! Ponder these words again. Write them upon the tablets of thine heart. "When Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared unto him, and said, I am the Almighty God." "What nature cannot do, Almightiness can. What human energy cannot effect, the Divine Spirit will. Till now thy night has hindered Me, has forced Me to wait. In these many decades My night has been thwarted, frustrated, neutralized by thy trust in thyself. But now that this has passed, there is room for My Omnipotence to work, and I, the Almighty God, swear by Myself, since I can swear by no greater, that if thou wilt fulfill the conditions of My covenant, I will make thee abundantly fruitful, and thou shalt be father to a great multitude."
II. The Condition
"Walk before Me, and be thou perfect."
This is the one prime and irreversible condition for the life which shall become fruitful. We have walked before our friends, our neighbors, our Church and the world, very eager to win their regard and approval. Each step we have taken with the consciousness that we were being watched, and with the secret desire that it should be approved. All that must be changed. "Walk before Me," He says, whose eyes are as a flame of fire. "Let your eye be single. Let your intention be Godward. Let it be your one aim to please Me. The eyes of the Lord run to and fro in all the earth..." "My eyes are ever toward the Lord."
The word rendered "perfect" does not mean that moral blamelessness with which we are accustomed to associate it. It connotes whole heartedness, entire surrender, absolute consecration, up to the measure of light. Be perfect, there must be no reserve. Be perfect: there must be no Babylonish garment withheld from the fire. Be perfect: there must be no gold, silver or precious stones which are not freely exposed to the searching tongue of flame. Be perfect: there must be no lowing of the herds or bleating of the flocks which have been unsurrendered to God.
It is the prime condition of fruitfulness. Have we conformed to it? Is there a glad acquiescence to God's every command? Have we presented ourselves as a living sacrifice? Are we willing that God should have all? Do we recognize His will as one blessed code of life? And are we prepared to walk like this, step by step, though the feet bleed as we plod through the tangled brake or pass over the jagged rock? Then take heart, for it is to such that God says:
"I will make thee exceeding fruitful."
III. The Certainty
"I will make My covenant between Me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly."
There will be no doubt about the matter. Where God binds Himself by a covenant He does not draw back. When He passes His word it binds Him. Have the waters of the Deluge ever returned to drown the world? Has He lost one soul included in the everlasting agreement ratified by the Blood of the Cross? Has He broken the covenants of day or night, of the return of the seasons, of His care for man?
God's covenants originate with Himself: "between Me and thee." All the promises emanate from God's heart. It is of Grace that He says, "I will make thee exceeding fruitful." We cannot earn, or deserve, or win; we just fall on our face and let God talk right on.
God's covenant is individual and personal: "between Me and thee." Every believer is included in the covenant entered into with his head, but there are great moments in the history of the soul when God accosts it - in a moment of reverie or solitude - and says, "From today, behold I will make My covenant with thee. I am for thee, be thou for Me. I am all for thee, be thou all for Me. I will give Myself to thee in ever deepening manifestation, if thou wilt give thyself to Me in ever deepening consecration."
Has God ever said this to you? Get alone and give Him the opportunity. Recite the provisions of the new covenant, till one of them sparkles out as if struck by a ray direct from the Throne. And let this be your attitude specially when you partake of the Lord's Supper, the emblem of the Blood by which the covenant was ratified. To your wistful soul God will draw nigh, and whilst you are fallen to your face in humility and wonder, He will talk to you and say: "Behold, I make My covenant with thee."
IV. The Sign
"This is My covenant: ye shall be circumcised."
Can we ever in this connection forget the, words of the Apostle: "In Christ also ye are circumcised with a circumcision made without hands in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ"?
This, too, is inevitable. There can be no spiritual fruitfulness which has not been preceded by the use of the sharp knife. Here is one of the symbolism of those profound revelations of the purpose of God in the Old Testament which establishes its Divine origin. How wonderful that before Abraham could be the father of a great multitude, he had to submit to suffering! But how precisely the figure fits the spiritual analogy which we are considering. In those who are to be spiritually fruitful, there must be the putting off of the old habits, the affections and evil desires of the old nature, the desire of vainglory and admiration and praise; there must be the environment of the Cross.
An eminent servant of God once said that he hedged himself around with the Cross of Christ, so that whatever advances were made to him or words said to him, all might come to him through that hedge of fire. Nothing less will avail.
Do you shrink from this sharp cutting off? Remember, it is made without hands, but it is the circumcision of Christ - that is, it is effected by hands which were nailed to the Cross for very love, and whose gentle touch often brought healing and comfort to the sore suffering ones. Into Thy hands, O Son of God, we commit our spirits, that Thou shouldest free us of everything which hinders our fruitfulness.
Take these assurances. God quickeneth the dead, and calleth the things that are not as if they were. In hope, believe in hope. Without being weakened in faith dare to consider yourself now as good as dead. Dare to look at the deadness of the Church and neighborhood with which you are associated. Then look unto the promise of God. Dwell on it. So only will you not waver through unbelief, so only will you wax strong through faith. Give Him glory, count on the faithfulness of Him that promised, and the titter of incredulity shall be turned into the Isaac - laughter, as you welcome a spiritual seed which shall multiply, as the years pass, like the grains of the shore and the stars of the Milky Way.