Fruits over needs

Written by Charles Ekong

06/05/2024

I’ve read John 15 several times. It’s a familiar passage, but I’m not sure my mind is ready to accept that heaven intentionally orchestrated the journey which resulted in this week’s blog. Yet, I recognise that God doesn’t do coincidences; He orders the steps of the righteous [Psalm 37:23]. Nevertheless, if God went through that much effort to help me catch a revelation, then what He revealed must become a fundamental lens through which I view my life and circumstances. I pray this revelation becomes my governing paradigm and that I’ll communicate it well in word and deed. 

I recently had the privilege of speaking to experts in viticulture about establishing vineyards and producing wine. Unsurprisingly, vineyards don’t thrive everywhere; the soil and surrounding climate are crucial. So, before a farmer plants a commercial vineyard, a soil scientist examines the suitability of the soil and which vine species will thrive best in that environment. I could’ve guessed that part of the process, but I didn’t know they didn’t just plant grape seeds once they were happy with the soil because the soil and the climate will produce a new variety of grape even if the seeds are from a known grape species. To mitigate the risk of harvesting undesirable grapes, they plant a suitable vine and then engraft the desired grape stalks to the vine once it’s ready. Consequently, the farmer knows exactly what species of grapes his farm will yield. If the soil is good, the climate conditions are favourable and the vines are healthy – providing the desirable nutrients to the branches, the farmer can also expect a bountiful harvest.

It was a fascinating glimpse into a world I knew little about. But as the experts discussed vines and grafting, I couldn’t help but recall John 15. Jesus tells us that His Father is the Farmer [John 15:1]. So, God the Father chooses the ideal soil for His vineyard. We know from the Parable of the Sower that the soil is fundamental to the harvest [Matthew 13:1-9]. A believer thrives where God plants him, not wherever he chooses. We must be led by the Holy Spirit – especially when making life-defining choices [Romans 8:14]. As one sage puts it: “Believers should only move for assignment, not bread” because where you live, work, fellowship and so on directly impacts your fruitfulness. Jesus also tells us He is the true Vine, so counterfeit vines – other sources purporting to have what we need, exist [Proverbs 14:12]. Mammon is one of such counterfeits [Matthew 6:24]. Counterfeit vines will look appealing, so we must stay vigilant to avoid perdition [Matthew 7:15-20, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15].

I’d never noticed that branches in John 15 choose where they’re grafted, not the Farmer [James 1:21]. However, if they decide to be grafted onto the true Vine, they must bear fruit [John 15:2]. Owning a vineyard, though rewarding, is expensive and time-consuming. Vines typically take three to four years to fruit. In that time, the farmer must irrigate and fertilise the soil, keep out weeds and possibly install trellises. Imagine expending that much effort for four years and the branches don’t produce fruit [Mark 11:12-14]. Understandably, a good farmer must cut away unproductive branches. Jesus warns that His Father will do the same to us if we don’t bear fruit [John 15:2, Romans 11:22]. What’s more, a farmer isn’t content with a vine that only fruits once. He wants to see more fruit. So, he meticulously trims the branches to improve the plant’s health and productivity. The experts said vines typically fruit perennially, but pruning can lead to biannual harvest. Jesus tells us that His Father will do the same to His fruitful branches. 

The Greek word for pruning in John 15:2 means to cleanse or purge. This surgery happens in a believer’s life when God’s word is preeminent [John 15:3, Hebrews 4:12]. Pruning isn’t a one-off exercise; without pruning, a vine becomes unhealthy, susceptible to disease, unfruitful and eventually dies. So, we must have an ongoing relationship with God’s word to stay clean and fruitful [Ephesians 5:26]. Our spirits welcome pruning because it’s God’s will for us [Hebrews 12:5-11], but the carnal mind and the body don’t. So, we must renew our minds to be fruitful [Romans 12:2]. It’s noteworthy that though the branch and vine are separate, you cannot tell where the branch ends and the vine begins if all is well. If you can, the branch isn’t properly connected andwill eventually become useless [John 15:4]. Such is the condition of a lukewarm Christian who isn’t all in. He cannot bear lasting fruit because that possibility doesn’t exist outside an intimate union with the Vine.

As I mentioned, an insight into viticulture provided a perspective on John 15 I’d never seen. There’s much more than the four verses I’ve covered here, but Jesus’s emphasis on fruit in a believer’s life is unmissable. Then again, fruitfulness was God’s first command to humankind, so it makes sense [Genesis 1:28]. Sadly, many of us are deceptively driven by needs, often to the detriment of our fruitfulness. Yet, God designed our needs to be met through our union with the Vine [Matthew 6:33]. You never see a branch strive to produce fruit if the vine, soil and external factors are conducive. We shouldn’t strive either – God has already provided everything we need to be fruitful [2 Peter 1:3-4]. So, focus on fruit, not needs. Then, as needs arise, draw on the Vine for supply through His word just like a branch draws on the vine for its supply [Colossians 3:16, 2 Corinthians 9:8].

Three things happen when we truly abide in the Vine: First, He supplies all our needs [Philippians 4:19]. Second, our ensuing fruitfulness glorifies our Heavenly Father. Third, our lives undeniably prove we’re Jesus’s disciples [John 15:7-8].

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