Read: John 15:1-17
We’ve all heard the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It’s not an easy question to answer, and the answers we usually get are not very satisfactory. But ask yourself, does growth ever happen without pain? Remember being fourteen? As we grow up and our bodies mature, we have growing pains as the muscles and bones are stretching out. Obviously, that’s not exactly a pleasant feeling! When you are taking care of a rose bush, you prune it to make it more lush. This sometimes means cutting off new buds. The point is, if growth is to happen at all, we have to expect change, and change can hurt.
John 15 says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. . . Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (vv. 1, 4).
Immediately the thought that springs to my mind is, ‘what does it look like to be pruned’? Pruning can happen in situations where you least expect. Facing illness, unemployment, having our hopes in something shattered. Our natural reaction is to ask ‘why?’, but that shouldn’t be our whole question. Jesus calls us to see the hand of the vinedresser in our suffering, and instead to ask, “What are you teaching me through this?” and “How can I produce more fruit through these circumstances?”
The key to fruitfulness is being connected to the Vine, who is Jesus. A branch lying by itself will dry-up and die, let alone have a chance at yielding fruit! Jesus says that apart from Him we can do nothing “If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away like a branch and withers; . . . If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (vv. 6–8).
When we abide in Jesus we can pray with confidence, not just because we have favor with Him, but we actually share His life! When we abide we have heaven’s power filling us. This doesn’t mean we should only expect good things to happen to us, but we should expect fruit. We are able to love Him and others, and we can follow his commands when we abide in Him and His words abide in us. In the last section of this passage, verses 9-17, Jesus encourages us with His unending love and reminds us that He has chosen us. He has appointed us to “bear much fruit.” The fruit of the Spirit lasts for eternity, and eternity begins right where you are. As Christians, we need to remember that Christ is the vine and we are the branches. He is the life-giving power that we need to be connected to in order to have life.
Are you going through a time of pruning? Are you connected to Jesus? Remember that God is in control, and He has provided for you to have everything you need in Jesus Christ. His purposes are for good and for His glory. I encourage you to take a bold step and pray that God will prune you so that you might produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is our greatest good and gives glory to our Father in heaven.