This morning I was reading from the gospel of John, chapter 15, in which Jesus teaches His disciples about their foundational purpose in life: to bear spiritual fruit. I was struck by the fact that, as a branch, there is no easy path available to me that avoids hardship:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” — John 15:1-8
Notice that the branch that bears no fruit is cut off and thrown away, and even the branch that does grow fruit is pruned. From a branch’s perspective, it might be preferable to grow lots of leaves and shoots, but from the vineyard owner’s perspective, high-quality fruit is desired. As I continue to live my life for God, I am becoming more open to the idea that God may prune me to make me more fruitful for him.
One classic example of pruning in my life was when I squandered my ROTC scholarship, and served three years as an enlisted soldier to earn money to go back to school. The Lord pruned away some of my irresponsibility and wimpy selfishness, and built in me a sense of honor and faithfulness that He knew I would need to glorify Him.
Pruning can take different forms, I think, but I suspect a lot of pruning has to do with subordinating our desires and plans, and instead serving God’s purposes. As we’ve walked (quite literally, today) down memory lane, we’ve had many opportunities to think about the actions and reactions that we (and our classmates) have made over the last 15 years, that brought us to the place we are today. It has been fun to laugh and remember and catch-up with some old friends, and to see what God has done in their lives since we were in college together. Some of the pruning has been uncomfortable, but as I look at the fruit in my own life, and in the life of our friends, I begin to understand God’s purpose and plan: to give glory to the Father.
It was truly a delight to visit with Jodi and Alan and to renew our acquaintance with their delightful children. Thanks, beloved friends, for sharing your family with us and for glorifying our Lord by raising your kids so well!
Tim, Project 365