I chose the word “fruitful” inspired by John 15:1-8 as my one word for the next twelve months. Being “fruitful” sounds good to me. I associate this term with abundance, productivity and gain. So, I determined to get rid of the excess things in my life and create margin to get more important things accomplished.
How many of us wouldn’t like to have a better, more productive year?
When I carefully studied the passage I chose, I found a surprise. When Jesus talks about his followers being “fruitful,” he was not talking about getting more done.
“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, as I also 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 you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are 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 done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:1-8 NIV
Jesus uses a metaphor to show us something specific about himself, the “true vine,” about the Father, the gardener or vinedresser who does the pruning, and about us, the branches. Just one quick read of this passage and we can deduct God desires us to remain in him and grow. But before the fruit comes there is pruning; and to produce much fruit, sometimes painful pruning.
Wait, I don’t want painful pruning this year; but this passage says for Christ-followers, pruning is good, very good.
Pruning, while often overlooked, is considered one of the most important aspects of viticulture. The quality of the pruning determines the quality and quantity of the grapes in the next season.
Every year, the expert vinedresser prunes his vines. He carefully works at removing the majority of the wood (up to about 90% of the vine is pruned off). The plant looks almost dead, but it is not. When pruning is done well, the vineyard produces an abundance of premium grapes.
In viticulture, the process of pruning brings out the good, juicy and plentiful fruit that is already within the plant. In Scripture, the Greek word for prune is kathairei and it also means to cleanse, or clear. When this passage is taken in context with John 14 and 16 where Jesus promises the Holy Spirit, it is saying that through the power of the Holy Spirit, God works in Christ-followers to remove the ugly, useless and problematic areas in our life and hearts. He removes anything that brings death: impurity, idolatry, sexual immorality, hatred, jealousy, selfish ambition and the like. He gently cuts away our pride, lust, anger, greed and so on. His loving goal is to make us more and more like Jesus.
Therefore, pruning is positive and purposeful. Pruning is not punishment. It is powerful and graceful. It is productive. God’s loving pruning is necessary to produce in us the fruits of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Most importantly, pruning is passive. God does the work. It requires that we do the hardest thing: be still. Our task is to “remain” in him, to cooperate in the process by remaining submissive and surrendered.
I get it now. God wants me to be more like Jesus this year – that is my “fruit”.
Because he loves me so, he must prune my heart so that from it will flow the fruits of the Holy Spirit. He is always at work in my life, and what is God’s pruning knife? The Word of God, the Bible, through which the Holy Spirit lovingly cuts in my heart to eliminate anything that is bringing death and decay.
When we strengthen our connection with Jesus by regularly spending time reading, studying and meditating on God’s Word and in prayer, he is faithful to prune what does not belong in our lives and increase our fruitfulness.
After studying this passage, I sense Jesus lovingly speaking to me, “Do you really want a fruitful year? Are you willing to submit to the Father’s loving hand? Be in my Word regularly and faithfully. Pray. Meditate. Be still and know that I am God.”
It is a good idea to get rid of a few things and create margin in my life this year. But since my desire is to be “fruitful” as I now understand the biblical term, my focus this year will be to stay ever closer to Jesus.
Being fruitful is not about doing more, but about being His.
Share with us in the comments:
If you ever selected one biblical word to inspire you during the year, what word did you choose and what have you learned?
How has Jesus’ metaphor of a vine and its pruning help you understand God’s love and desires for you?