I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away,
My maternal grandmother who lived in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, lovingly tended her garden which included a patch of very fruitful raspberry bushes. I recall some spindly-looking sticks being carefully placed in our trunk as we prepared for the trip back to Northern Virginia. They were wrapped in wet cloths.
When we got home, these were planted in our garden. Year one, not too impressive. But by the second year, they had sprouted and brought forth delicious fruit. In the third year, they were at the point of taking over the entire garden. My mom spoke of cutting them back.
I took matters in hand and the next time I was cutting the grass, I ran through the raspberry patch with the power mower. It was not a pretty sight–but those raspberry bushes came back stronger than ever the next year, and the fruit was even more succulent.
I would not recommend this way of pruning, but wise gardeners know that judicious pruning is vital to sustained growth and fruitfulness.
Two types of branches are mentioned in the verses above–those taken away by the Father and those pruned by the Father. Note please:
- That all the branches get the attention of the Father
- That his criteria is our fruitfulness
If you are a fruit-bearing servant of the Lord, expect to be pruned–which feels a lot like cutting. The image here is not being cut off from the vine–Jesus says in this very passage that we are fruitful when we abide in the vine. The image here is being cut back. Cutting back the woody part of the vine so that the fruit-bearing branches are nourished more fully.
We are at the very beginning of a new year. Since the Father’s great passion is fruitfulness, it is a time for evaluation.
What does my lack of fruitfulness say about me?
A fruitful life cannot be produced unless we are vitally connected to the Father.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:4-6)
What is being pruned out of my life by the Father?
If we see that our abiding with the Father has produced fruit in our lives–expect to be pruned. What will that look like? Most often, being cut back. Where is God looking? Mostly at things that may be OK–not sinful–but not the best. They have no eternal benefit. They are the kind of works the Apostle Paul speaks of as being burned up when they are evaluated.
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1Corinthians 3:11-15)
Would you be willing to sit before the Lord and ask yourself the questions above? This could be a massive step forward toward a fruitful life in 2021.
Fruitful New Year to you!
I am indebted, for some of these thoughts, to Kris Stout of Word of Life who spoke on this topic last fall at a video Leadership Conference that Pastor Seth attended and recommended.