Last week, I was reminded of a metaphor. It’s a metaphor most of us are probably familiar with, and yet, it is good for all of us to think about it from time to time.
I’m talking about Jesus’ analogy of the vine and the branches in John 15. Jesus describes Himself as the True Vine that we, the branches, are connected to. His Father is the Gardener, who inspects, prunes, and shapes us.
Anyone who has ever seen a well-pruned fruit tree or grape vine knows that it is a beauty to behold. The tree is well-shaped, healthy, and full of big, beautiful fruit.
In contrast, a neglected tree is just the opposite. There are sucker branches everywhere, the shape of the tree is undistinguishable, and the fruit, if any, is small, diseased, and shriveled.
If we have put our faith in Christ and have been made new, our lives – the branches – have been grafted into the tree, which is Christ Himself. We do not live in our own strength but rather draw sap from the tree, which gives us everything we need to live. We do not decide which of our little side branches we get to keep, and which ones will be cut off. We cannot keep ourselves healthy, nor can we produce fruit by ourselves. As a matter of fact, we don’t even decide what type of fruit we will grow, or who will eat it. All of this is decided and taken care of by the gardener. All we have to do is allow the sap from the tree to flow into us!
Sounds easy enough, right? Why is it then that at times it seems so hard? Why do we resist the pruning and cutting off? Why are we content with growing lush foliage, putting on a beautiful show, but lacking what we were created to be – a fruit-bearing branch?
I believe we sometimes forget that it’s all about “remaining in Jesus”, about staying connected to the tree. We forget that in order to draw sap from Him, we must spend time with Him. Much time. The more we focus on our relationship with Jesus, the more He will be able to transform and change us through the power of His Spirit, and the more good fruit we will produce. A branch on a fruit tree doesn’t “decide” to grow fruit, it just naturally grows it – because it is connected to the tree. In the same way, fruit-bearing will be a natural result of our deepening relationship with Christ.
When is the last time you were hungry for meaningful time with God? How long has it been since you spent an hour or two in heart-felt prayer, Bible study, or quiet time away from the distractions of life? I fear that we have become such fast-paced, busy, distracted people, that our time with God gets pushed aside for the sake of “the urgent”. We rush through our day, an ever-growing to-do list on our fridge, our minds in a frenzy, and relationships with our loved ones suffering – all because we have bought into the notion that “this is life”.
Jesus gave us the perfect example of how to balance our lives. He spent hours, days, weeks away from the crowds, spending time with His heavenly Father. When he returned, He had the strength He needed to serve, heal, and save. He knew He couldn’t get through life on His own – He needed the Father. If Jesus needed Him that much, then what does that say about us? Do we not need Him even more?
Research has proven that we perform much better if we give ourselves regular “time-outs”. So let’s put ourselves in time-outs and spend regular time with Jesus. We will feel refreshed, recharged, renewed, and ready to go and serve, bearing much fruit to the glory of God.