“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch in me that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” (John 15:1-2)
Lowering the boom
I find that there are two ways—when once you’ve known the Lord for a bit—that He deals with us with reference to fruit. And we should always be bearing fruit for the Lord. Take the top passage for instance. Jesus speaks of His followers as branches off the Vine. What’s comforting to know is that even in spite of our lack of yield, we as “branches” are still “in Him”. Now, don’t let that further lull you into complacency. We are “in Him” purely by virtue of our having believed on Him for salvation. He upholds His end of the bargain by recreating our spirit and also reserving our place in Heaven. The idea of a Christian that is dry and unfruitful is not what the Father was aiming at when He sent His Son to redeem humanity. And so Jesus continues: “…that beareth not fruit He (His Father, the “husbandman” of the parable) taketh away.” Jesus promises those believers with fallow hearts a little extra special attention, to put it politely. I find that with all that’s available to us, by-and-large (I’m talking air, food and water, shelter), we have no reason at all to remain unfruitful. I referenced between those parentheses up there, four merely physical things. How many intangibles, though, could we list and then direct to God in thanksgiving if we really put our mind to it? And then put pen to paper. Food for thought. A state of barrenness in the believer warrants the Father’s attention in a different way than you might expect. Even though the person you observe (or you, if you find yourself without fruit during your season) might look to be out of God’s purview, nothing could be further from the truth. He is actively turning up circumstances to bring that person to repentance. This is what the “taketh away” refers to in Jesus’s parable. God is going to deal with you personally. You (they) may not like it when it does show but when all the wind and the fire and the earthquake subside, you will hear His “still small voice.” (see 1 Kings 19:12)
Raising the bar
“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)
But then again, say you’re feeling chastened by your Heavenly Father but you can’t really place the source nor the reason. This is a new one. You’ve been walking (you’re pretty sure) with your hand in His and yet something came along and not blindsided, but rather “gave you pause”. You know your Father well enough (you think) to see His hand in things and you’ve got a bead on your sin and maybe you’re not doing anything outwardly that looks to be worthy of censure. God knows. And while I’m not one to think up a story or narrative to every miserable thing that comes at me, I do know that He allows certain things in order that I would cozy up more to Him and wait. Be quiet. There’s something deeper He’s getting at that to which we heretofore did not have access. Look at Joshua “the high priest” (see Zechariah 3), you would have thought he had it together. But when we stand before the Lord, we realize just how sinful we are without Him. Even in places of beauty and blessing, the Father still aims to bring you closer. And the only way to bear it—and indeed, the only way to bear more fruit—is to wait on Him. If something happened in your life that feels like the chastening of the Lord, ask Him to show you what He’s getting at.
“For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; in returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength…” (Isaiah 30:15; the last line says “but ye would not.” Don’t be like that.)
God doesn’t have to shout. His still, small voice is meant just for you (the literal translation of sotto voce, by the way—something spoken in a low tone for one else to hear but the one spoken to). But if we don’t hear it because we’re too distracted or unwilling, He may well kick up the aforementioned frightening things (wind, fire, earthquake—figuratively) to bring you (or me) to your knees. And also to cause us to either begin to bear fruit or else prune us down in order that we might bear more fruit.
“And [you] shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth [your] fruit in [your] season; [your] leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever [you] doeth shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:3)