A few summers ago, my best friend and I were taking a road trip while I visited her in Boise. On our way, we drove by a small farmer’s market on the side of the road that we decided to stop at to buy some fresh fruit to eat while we were hammocking by the lake. Best. Decision. EVER. These blackberries were hands down some of the sweetest & juiciest I had ever had.
If you’ve ever eaten fresh fruit before, you know what I’m talking about. If not.. You’re missing out!
Anyway, the reason I bring up these killer blackberries is because fruit is something Jesus calls us to produce (not eat, bummer) in the Bible. Bearing fruit, in fact, is a process that brings great glory to God… definitely something we should interest ourselves in.
Jesus tells us in the book of John that there are three steps to the process of producing great fruit: abiding, pruning, and finally, bearing fruit.
Read John 15:1-11 to follow along!
STEP 1: ABIDING
How many times do you wake up, look at your insanely hectic schedule for the day , and think: “I’ve got this!”
I’ve been there. It’s easy to get caught up in checking off a to-do list.
But then, as you lay in bed to drift off to sleep, you realize that not once today did you rely on Christ as you navigated your day full of work, school, friends, family, meetings, interactions, and choices. And then you realize why you feel empty.
Jesus calls us to a different posture of productivity. In John 15:4, Jesus says: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.”
Being productive is great! We have the wonderful ability to glorify God with our time, resources, and involvement in various relationships and responsibilities. Here’s where problems arise:
If we are not abiding in Christ, and are instead abiding in ourselves, we are not growing, because we are disconnected from the vine. And when we are disconnected from the vine, we are not bearing fruit.
So what does abiding in Christ look like?
Slow down for two minutes, and ask Jesus to work in and through you during the day. Cultivate the characteristics of love, joy, and kindness in the tasks you complete, instead up just checking them off a list. Make the tasks you complete less about what you do, and more about how you do them.
John 15:7 says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
Let the truth and love of Christ overflow into everything you do, and when you feel overwhelmed and empty, simply ask to be filled, and He will fill your soul.
STEP 2- PRUNING
So now that we are abiding in Christ, we are ready to grow and bear fruit. So what happens when we are living for Jesus and something happens that throws our hearts off track… perhaps a death, a break-up, a divorce, or a lost job… and everything in us wants to ask God this question:
“God, if I am being obedient and following you, why would you allow ______ to happen to me??”
I think the answer to that question lies in the idea of pruning.
John 15:2 says that “Every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”
After a little research (since my knowledge of pruning is limited to none.. I’m guessing yours might be too), I’ve discovered how interesting this reference is in understanding of the process of bearing fruit.
Pruning, by definition, is “to cut off undesired twigs or branches” or “to rid or clear of anything superfluous or undesirable.”
So, what is pruning in the context our lives?
Pruning is getting rid of the undesirable things in our lives that prevent us from growth. Relationships that hinder us from seeking Christ, job opportunities that will eat away at the time we can devote to our ministry opportunities, or anything that can be removed from our life that will snap us into the perspective of our deep need for God and our inability to bear fruit on our own.
When does pruning happen?
In the context of real life fruit, pruning is done in the winter, which is the season that grapes do not grow. In the context of our lives, wouldn’t it make sense that we would see pruning happen in the seasons of our lives with little to no growth? The times where we are simply following Christ, but not being fruitful in Him, are the seasons during which we have the most potential to grow.
Lastly, one of the most fascinating things I read about pruning is this:
The mistake people make with pruning is not pruning hard enough. In fact, light pruning does not create an environment for adequate fruit growth, whereas heavy pruning creates the greatest quality of grapes.
So, why is ____ happening to you if you are bring obedient and following Christ?
The pruning experiences you go through are the moments you grow through. In other words, we grow through what we go through. And that’s how we bear the BEST fruit.
STEP 3- BEARING FRUIT
So, you’re abiding in Christ, and you’ve been pruned to experience growth… now what?
You are now prepared to bear fruit.
John 15: 8 says that “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”
One of the ways we can glorify God is to bear spiritual fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You know, the fruits of the spirit? In this context, those aren’t just some intangible characteristics, but rather, the direct result of abiding in Christ and experiencing pruning in our lives.
These qualities are what make our lives plentiful. They are what makes Christianity attractive those who don’t know Christ.
But ultimately, the evidence of these characteristics in our lives are what glorifies God.
So today, maybe you need to be reminded to let go of your control over your own life.
Abide in Christ, not yourself.
Maybe you need encouragement that this hard season will not last forever, and good will come from your pursuit of Christ.
You will see growth after you are pruned through the hard times.
But ultimately, remember that Christ is glorified by the fruit produced in our lives.
Serve lovingly. Live joyfully. Speak kindly. And never lose faith.