Bountiful Fruit - My Father's Pride and Joy
"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." John 15:5 (NIV)
My dad has the most beautifully manicured vineyard of anyone I have ever known. Each August, his grapes are a display of his hard work and meticulate care throughout the year. It is truly a beautiful sight to take in as you drive down the slower paced, rural road and even his neighbors are impressed with the astonishing view resulting from his labor.
Of course, if you live near my dad, you also know that it can be a bit noisy this time of year as well! You see, to protect all of that hard work my dad makes his rounds wearing a wide brimmed hat, and firing his shotgun in order to protect his delicious grapes from birds, squirrels, groundhogs, raccoons...anything that enjoys devouring his mouthwatering crop. It is quite a sight! "Everybody likes a grape!," he exclaims jokingly.
After taking a few pictures of some of the breathtaking clusters from this year's harvest, I was reminded of John 15 - Jesus: The true vine. The whole passage is so applicable and if you have time, please read the entire thing. But there are a couple of points that strike me after reading AND seeing.
In verses 4 anad 5, Jesus says, "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."
How many times have I felt spiritually dry...prayerless...powerless? More times that I would care to admit. But there is one common denominator that has occurred during those times - a lack of connection in my relationship with Jesus. Periods with less or no time spent reading His Word, no time sitting in quiet fellowship with Him, or simply not taking the time to talk with Him or saving room in my schedule for listening to His voice through Scripture or gentle nudging.
Communication is a two-way street. Sometimes I am guilty of simply reading the Bible and then rushing off to wake up the kids, make breakfast, or answer the phone and then never make it back to that quiet place I started from.
I have come to realize that I NEED Jesus every day. Most of us can attest to feeling too busy to spend time with Him and then later noticing a distance in our relationship. Honestly, I know there will be times that I'm taken off guard and I will not be able to meet with Him first thing - a sick child, an alarm clock didn't go off...things will come up.
There will always be distractions. My goal is to make sure I get right back on the wagon and make my time with Him a priority! After all, I don't think I ever forget to eat! Abiding with Him needs to be just as important to me as physically eating. His Word is clear. Apart from Him I can do NOTHING. (vs. 5) What a feeling of hopelessness!
Also, you may not have noticed in the picture, but my dad protects his grapes, the fruit of his labor, with a special netting. This is to make it harder for small animals to help themselves to the crop until it is time to pick the grapes. This reminds me that we have an enemy who desires to pick away at our hearts, our minds, and our souls. Anything he can use - doubt, fear, worry, busyness, all of life's little distractions that keep us from simply abiding in the True Vine.
We should always be on alert, just as my dad patrols his vineyard. Ephesians 6 is a well-known passage that describes the "Armor of God." Instead of a shotgun, our weapon is the Sword of the Spirit, or the Word of God. And in verse 18 we are told to, "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, 'be alert' and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Emphasis mine)
In other words, keep talking to Jesus all the time, about everything, and be alert!
Another reason it is important to remain in Him is found in verse 7. "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." This certainly does not imply a "genie in the bottle" idea of Jesus, giving us whatever we want. Rather, I believe it supports a verse found in James 5:16, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." An effective prayer life comes from staying connected to Jesus, remaining in Him.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, we should remain in Him and bear fruit to be a display of God's glory! "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." John 15:8 Oh, to be the grape cluster of His eye!
Father, your Word tells me that you love me and that I am to remain in you and obey your commands. This is so that Your joy may be in me and that my joy may be complete. (See John 15:9-11) Lord, it is my desire to be Your pride and joy, bearing much fruit, just as an exquisite cluster of grapes. Forgive me, Father when I have become distracted and neglected to abide in You. Help me to remain alert to the enemy's crafty tools he uses to take me away from time spent with You and Your Word, and help me simply to remain in You.