Yesterday, we began a theme on cultivating oil and wine based on Psalm 128:3.
I shared with all of you some lessons learned from the Olive Tree.
Today, we continue our gardening schooling as we look into lessons from The Vine.
John 15:1-2 says God is the vinedresser or the gardener. The term “takes away” is the Greek word “airo” literally meaning “to lift up,” which is used to describe pruning). It really means “takes up”. In a vineyard, when a branch is not bearing fruit the gardener picks it up, props it up, supports it. He cleans it, waters it and positions it so that it can get the full sunlight and become able to bear fruit again. God as our gardnerer does this in our lives when we as Christians have reached a place of barrenness. When you are not in the place you should be in, It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance and positions us back in place to receive full sunlight and life from the Vine.
He also prunes us, to bear more fruit. If a grape vine is leafing out too much it won’t bloom and develop grapes. The same with us. We bear more fruit if the unnecessary fluff and foliage and dead wood is cut away from our lives. The interesting thing about this verse, is that Jesus is talking to His disciples. He is telling them that they are already pruned or cleaned by what He has already taught them by His Words. This teaches us that even as Christians, we don’t just automatically ‘arrive’. Our pruning and fruitfulness is an ongoing growth process.
What do you do, as a follower of Christ, when hardship hits your life?
What do you and I do when it feels like God is allowing, maybe even causing, pain to come into your life? In John chapter 15, Jesus is comparing Himself to the vine of a grape plant that connects the branches to their source of strength and nutrients: the roots. Let’s look at the two groups of people that Jesus is talking about here:
- One group is “in Him” but not bearing fruit – i.e., spiritual fruit. This describes a branch that has grown longer than it’s strength could hold up, and thus was being weighed down by the leaves of the branch. Its got a lot of foliage and big ‘leaves’ but is distinctly absent of fruit.
A “vinedresser” also known as a “vintner”, prunes the branches that have grown away from the vine. These branches may grow long and leafy but because they are growing in a direction away from the root vine (it’s source), they lack the stability and strong connection to the vine to support it’s own weight. A branch that is severed from the vine withers and dies. It may be lying right next to the vine, but it is not obtaining vital life from the vine, because it is not attached.
Its not enough to merely do ‘church things’, we’ve got to be in communion with God for ourselves. If you are not attached to the vine of Christ and you will wither and die. It is a spiritual fact. The vintner must then “take away” or prune the branch back – cutting off length and leaves so that the branch can grow close to the root and its resources are now concentrated into producing fruit rather than exerting energy into strengthening the wayward and fruitless branch.
I love how God so often uses nature to demonstrate what He is doing in our lives. My husband and I are amateur gardeners. We have a small landscaped garden in front of our home with delicate willows, pom poms and spiral evergreens. We always feel bad about cutting off growth and trimming the branches. But the new growth was growing out of control and we saw far too many dead and browning spots in the foliage. We could see that the blooming was poor because of “wild branches and unruly growth. So, we began pruning back the trees. Removing some branches completely and others just taking a good bit off of them. At first the trees seemed a bit bare and small and sparse, but soon, the new growth was visible and greener and flowery and much more abundant. In addition, the branches were stronger and sturdier. New Life. New Growth, New Fruit.
Pruning is a painful thing. No one likes the pruning. But God’s desire in pruning is not to punish us, but to “lift” us up out of the dirt and barrenness and bring us into fruitfulness. You see, grapes cannot grow where the branches touch the ground. And just like those unruly grape branches, we have to be lifted up, pruned back and reset into our proper position.
- The other group of people are the ones “doing all the right things.” They’re faithful. They’re fruitful. They’re doing exactly what they were grown to do.
The branches that bear fruit. Well…God prunes those branches too.
The same Greek word (“airo“) is used to describe the vintner’s treatment of the fruitful branch. And the reason? …“That it may bear more fruit.”
“Why would God prune the people who are doing the right things? It doesn’t seem fair does it? But it’s not a question of fair. It’s a question of fruit.
God’s desire for us is that we bear fruit, and then that we bear more fruit. His intentions for us are good! And sometimes God has to take good from us in order to give us best.
Maybe you’re not being pruned because you’re doing something wrong, but because you’re doing something right. Maybe you’re suppose to go through this pruning for your continued growth, and not because you’re being corrected. Many times, God prunes us when He is about to take us into a new season of growth and expansion. We’ve got to pull in closer and go down deeper before we can come up higher.
The pruning in my life has proven to be painful. There were many tears…a roller coaster of emotions as I’ve had to say goodbye to certain branches that had been in my life for years. Painful areas where brothers and sisters in Christ slandered our names…not even knowing the whole truth. Painful moments of loss.
But we have also experienced the beauty of seeing the pruned branches begin to grow. New life shooting forth. Plans unfolding that God has for us that are bigger and better in the eyes of our Maker. New roads and new ministry opportunities that I am seeing God open up. Really, it’s not two separate entities, but two opportunities that are connected and help support each other. I have seen love and kindness from new brothers and sisters in Christ who have reached out to walk with me on this journey. Some whom I have never met face to face. Some through prayer and words of encouragement. Some through hugs. Some who have remained steadfast through it all.
Our family, too, has drawn closer than ever before. Our children have seen my husband and I lose so much and yet draw nearer to God and nearer to each other more than any other time in our lives. And it has spoken volumes to them. They have grown their own faith through this process. Seeing us weather the storms this way has done more for their own personal faith than anything that had been preached (but never practiced) by those in the pulpit. They have learned to weed out certain things (and people) in their own lives. Questioning the things they are involved in and whether or not it pulls them away from God or towards God. Learning to seek God in all areas of their lives.
It has definitely been a season of heavy pruning. But I truly believe that this new season coming in, we will see the bigger picture of all that God has before us! I trust my Lord and Savior. And I know that all that He does, He does with an intent and purpose to draw us closer to Him. My faith has grown in leaps and bounds. GOD IS GOOD!
When difficulty hits, when hard times come, when you feel the pruning – regardless of the source or reason – abide in Him. Remain in Christ. Maintain your faith. Draw near to the “Root” where the strength and nutrients are. Don’t leave God and don’t abandon your faith – “For apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
Stay strong. Endure the pruning. Allow God’s strength to be made perfect in your weakness. Abide in Him.
The following is a actual list of instructions for growing grapes and tending a grapevine. I believe you’ll see the spiritual parallels as you read them through.
• Do prune your grape vines. As you train your vine to grow, cut shoots that will grow perpendicular to the stem of the vine. The more little branches and buds, the more the vine will be able to sustain the nutrients needed.
• Do provide a support system. Vines by nature are not capable of supporting its own body mass. Having a good support structure and a reliable system for it will help in training the grape vine at the same time protecting them from animals and other weeds that grows.
• Do make good measures in preventing pest in infesting your grapes and grape vines. it is important to have pest-control spray in your vines that will drive away bacteria and fungus. Also during late summer grape buds starts to swell and ripen and birds and insects dwells. Have your vine covered with net to prevent this from happening.
• Do study more about your soil when you are growing grapes, the attributes and the kind of grape vine that will best benefit them.
Abide with your Lord. Learn to follow him & obey him. Fall in love with Him. You will never be disappointed.