Do you bear fruit? When God looks at you, does He see the results He wants to see in you, or do you consistently disappoint Him?
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away;and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1-2)
If you are honest, you have to admit that God blesses us tremendously. In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught us to ask, “Give us this day our daily bread,” (Matthew 6:11) and 1 Timothy 6:8 says, “ If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content,” yet the truth is that God gives us so much more than just the basics. Day after day and year after year He showers us with so much, whether materially or spiritually, that you would think we would bear the results He desires is us profusely. Yet this is frequently not the case.
About fifteen years ago, we planted a flowering dogwood in front of our house. We watered it faithfully and eagerly awaited the next spring, but it never bloomed. It went directly to its green leaves the next spring, and the next, and every spring after that. Yet we watered and fertilized it, always hoping it would give us the beautiful pink flowers we had planted it for. Eventually I gave up and decided we should try a magnolia tree instead, yet I held off, perhaps because it was too much work or simply because of my inertia. Then last year I noticed several little flowers; this year almost half of the tree has blossoms. Perhaps—just perhaps—next year it will really be a true flowering dogwood! Strangely enough, we must seem like this un-flowering dogwood to God.
Jesus told a parable about a vineyard owner and a particular fig tree growing in it:
“…A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9)
God is the Master Gardener who tends to us. He digs around us and fertilizes us, and expect us to bear fruit. When we, like our un-flowering dogwood, consistently fail to produce what He planted us for, do we want Him to begin to question why He bothers with us?
Today’s verses tell a similar story, yet Jesus is even more explicit. He specifically identifies the Father as the vinedresser and Himself as the vine, the actual plant. We, he says, are His branches, with which the Father does one of two things:
1) If we bear fruit He prunes us—cuts us back a bit—so that we will bear even more fruit.
2) If we do not bear fruit, He removes or takes us away. In verse six, He is even more specific, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”
Scripture records a real occurrence in the life of Jesus here on earth:
“Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He [Jesus] was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, ‘Let no one eat fruit from you ever again’…Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, remembering, said to Him, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.'” (Mark 11:12-14, 20-21)
Jesus went on to explain the necessity of faith in prayer, yet this occurrence also gives us a tangible object lesson of the valuelessness of an unproductive existence. Just as a fruit tree exists to produce fruit and a flowering tree to exhibit beauty, we exist to increasingly reflect the character of God in our lives as we consistently walk with Him. Galatians 5:22 tells us, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” As the people of God, we are to actually produce the things God is cultivating in us!
So, are you beginning to give God a return, so to speak, on His incredible investment in you? When faced with choices, are you starting to choose the right ones—the ones you know bring Him glory and reveal the work of the Holy Spirit at work in your life? Or are you rejecting His gracious overtures in your life—the good soil, sunlight, and gentle rain He consistently showers on us—and producing nothing worthwhile in His eyes? May we always be fruitful in Christ!
Help us not be like the un-flowering dogwood tree or the fruitless fig; help us to respond to the consistent cultivation of Your Holy Spirit and produce what You desire in us! Amen.