“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” John 15:1-2 NLT
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He taught the people using parables and analogies that made the message relatable. This particular passage of Scripture about pruning in the vineyard is packed full of truths that can be applied to our lives. When we consider the practice of pruning, especially at this time of year before growing season, it is relatively easy to consider the importance of pruning away dead or diseased branches. However, the interesting thought found here is the fact that he also prunes the good branches to make them better.
Sometimes the most powerful enemy of “great” is settling for good. These words that Jesus spoke challenge me to be open to the reality that sometimes our Heavenly Father will prune good things out of our lives to create great things.
Letting go of the good can be unsettling and very difficult at times. We like the comfort of the known and the security of the familiar. Truthfully, we are often attached to the “good” in our lives, and it is difficult to release that without knowing what “great” looks like or when it will arrive! This is the point where our level of trust in the gardener will be critical. We have to believe that He knows best even while we wait to see the results that come from the pruning process.
Like many spiritual concepts, this is easier said, than done, so let me try to encourage you further. There are many factors that can affect the overall quality of a grapevine, but the three most important are climate, slope, and soil.1
For the best fruitfulness, vineyards need to be in a climate where there is a lot of sun. When they are positioned on a slope, they get full advantage of the sun, are more protected from the frost, and benefit from the best drainage. Drainage is the most important factor for healthy soil, which is critical for strong root systems. Healthy roots determine level of growth or fruitfulness.
How can we apply this to our own spiritual lives? Keep reading below from the passage we read at the beginning:
4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. 5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. John 15:4-5; 8 NLT
Just as a climate with much sun is important for a fruitful vineyard, our connection to the “Son” is equally significant. We must remain in Him; spend time in His presence and in His Word if we want to be fruitful.
Our slope is crucial for two key reasons. First, in the context of position to best absorb the sun and avoid the frost. From a spiritual standpoint, we must position ourselves as victors and not victims. We cannot be fruitful with a victim mentality. Secondly, proper slope determines drainage. We have to position ourselves where the pain, stress, hurt, and all other negative influences can drain away. If we allow those things to remain, the soil and ultimately our root system will be diseased and damaged, preventing growth.
If you find yourself in a pruning season, it can be very painful because you often do not understand what is happening. Try to remember that if He is pruning you above the ground, your root system is multiplying below the ground. Even when the process is painful, try to focus on the fact that He wants to take you from good to great!
1. Web. 10 Mar. 2017. http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viticulture