I must confess, I am a plant killer. Over the years I have owned and attempted to nurture many plants. But they are all dead now. I think if given the chance I could even kill kudzu.
Despite my lack of agricultural giftings I am able to understand an important metaphor Jesus uses in John 15. In this chapter Jesus notes that He is the true vine and we are the branches. He highlights how the survival of a branch is directly connected to its ability to stay connected to the vine. In the same way, our spiritual life is directly tied to our connectedness to Jesus. As we abide in Jesus we are able to grow spiritually and bear fruit. Jesus is giving us an overview of the Christian life. If we are truly a Christian, if we are really following Jesus, then we will be connected to Him and bearing fruit.
So, what does it mean to abide in Jesus? It is all about a relationship with Him. We begin this relationship by professing Jesus as our Lord and Savior and following Him as His disciple. We grow in our connectedness to Jesus by a constant exposure to Him through His Word. This involves consistently reading, studying, and memorizing Scripture. Furthermore, Jesus reminds us of the importance of prayer as it relates to abiding. We are called to seek God in prayer asking Him to work in and through us to bear fruit for His glory. We realize we can do nothing apart from God’s grace and so we ask Him to do it through us.
The fruit that Jesus speaks of is designed to be an all – inclusive statement. We bear fruit when we love and forgive as we are called to do. We bear fruit when we use the gifts God has given us to serve others. We bear fruit when we display the fruits of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5. We bear fruit when we share the gospel with others and make disciples.
Jesus notes that God does not want us to live a life of mediocrity. A life that bears little fruit. He calls us to abide deeply in Him and rely on Him to bear much fruit in and through us. Our fruitfulness is based upon our ability to abide, not by doing these good things in our own power and strength.
But there is another way in which God makes us more fruitful. This way is not easy, in fact it is often painful. The process Jesus mentions is pruning. Although somewhat counterintuitive, pruning actually helps plants to grow. Gardeners will trim plants to help direct growth, encourage new growth, or eliminate unhealthy portions of a plant. In the same way God uses trials, hardships, and difficulties to remove unhealthy areas of our lives, make us rely on Him more, and bear a deeper and richer fruit in our lives. Paul, Peter, and James all echo this concept in their letters as well (Romans 5 and 8, 1 Peter 1, James 1).
They key to pruning is often perseverance. The process does not occur overnight. And so, as James and Paul both remind us we must be patient (James 1; Galatians 6). We must not grow weary of doing good and trust that God will reward our faithfulness if we do not give up.
So, how fruitful are you? We all have areas in which we can be more fruitful. Let me encourage you to take time today to open up God’s Word and connect to the life – giving promises of Scripture. Seek God in prayer and ask Him to help you to grow in your fruitfulness. And, if you find yourself in the midst of a pruning trust that God is intending this experience for your good. He promises to always do what is best for you. Continue to trust and allow the pruning to have its effect.