Peach trees in an orchard. From the FSA-OWI collection.
Lee, Russell, photographer.
"I am the Vine, ye are the branches:
. Kingdom Fruitfulness
Scripture metaphorically refers to believers as a garden kept by the Lord. (Song of Songs 4:16; 6:2; etc.) "Ye are God's husbandry--field, or garden" (1 Corin 3:9, "the planting of the Lord." (Isa 61:3; cp. 60:21) However, a garden in itself is not of much use unless it bears fruit. The Lord desires fruit. Paul says it is the will of God that we be "fruitful in every good work." (Col 1:10)
"I come seeking fruit." (Luke 13:6, 7) There is a sense of expectation within the heart of the husbandman, "as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up ..." (Mk 4:26, 27) Jesus cited the example of the tiny mustard seed. Though in outward appearance it may seem to be very small and insignificant, yet it carries within it the potential of becoming a large and productive tree. (Mat 13:31, 32 "... but when it is grown ...") Though the potential is there within the seed, it must be allowed to develop and grow if it is to become fruitful and useful. This takes time and patience. (Gal 6:9)
"For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh ..." "... her leaf shall be green; and shall not cease from yielding fruit." (Jer 17:8; cp. Psa 1:3)
"Some (seed) fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and ... because they had no root, they withered away ... But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit ...' (Matthew 13:5-8)
All plants and trees require a certain amount of water and minerals from the soil. Without roots the necessary nutrients cannot be absorbed into a plant's system. This is true of spiritual matters also, as can be seen by the above two scriptures. We must send our roots deep to reach that River and Source of life; our spiritual survival depends on it. Then, even in the heat of the day and in "the year of drought," times of testing, our "leaf shall be green." In time, fruit will come; for when we have partaken of living waters ourselves, it will cause the necessary growth and fruitfulness to spring forth from within us and we in turn will be able to provide nourishment for others by the fruit that we have borne.
We need the rain of His Spirit, the water of God's Word. But without the warmth and sunshine of His Presence we would die. In the natural process of photosynthesis, light is an absolute necessity for the continuation of life and growth. Even with all the other elements present, if a plant lacks sufficient light the proper growth and development cannot take place. "Our God is a Sun ..." (Psa 84:11; Isa 60:19, 20)
Our first responsibility is always to the Lord; we must spend time with Him. "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in Me." (Jn 15:4) Ministry and fruit-bearing occur not as the product of self-effort but naturally, out of the life within us. Growth comes from God. (1 Corin 3:6, 7) Scripture refers to the "fruit of the Spirit"--but "works of the flesh." Fruit does not try to grow. It just "happens" as a natural consequence of the branches' relationship to the tree. Unless we have an abiding, personal relationship with the Lord, we will never bear fruit. (Jn 15:6) "Without Me," Jesus said, "ye can do nothing." (Jn 15:5
"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 that beareth fruit
He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit ... I am the Vine, ye are
the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, that same bringeth forth
much fruit ..."
Here we see that a believer can bear no fruit, some fruit, and more (or much) fruit. Jesus said that some seed yielded 30, some 60, and some 100-fold. (Mat 13:8) What determines the amount of fruit we bear? The extent of our fruitfulness is directly related to the measure of our faithfulness. (Mat 21:33-41; 25:14-30) "For he that hath, to him shall be given." (Mk 4:25)
The purpose of fruit is to glorify the Father. (Psa 92:14, 15; Isa 60:21; 61:3; Jn 15:8) But what is the cause of unfruitfulness in God's kingdom? Luke 8:14 says that those who allow themselves to be "choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life ... bring no fruit to perfection (maturity)." Worldly cares (1 Jn 2:15-18a) and the "deceitfulness of riches," like thorns and weeds, choke the vitality and life out of one's experience in God. (Mat 13:22; Mk 4:7, 8) Mark 4:19 describes "the lusts of other things "entering in as the cause of unfruitfulness.
Yielding to the pruning work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Jn 15:2, 4, 6) will purge us of the things that hinder our walk with the Lord. In order for our hearts to remain "soft" before Him, the soil must be thoroughly worked over. Only then can seed take root. Jesus prayed not just that we should go and bring forth fruit, but "that your fruit should remain." (Jn 15:16)
Sometimes God purposely allows unpleasant circumstances to occur in our lives that they might provoke a reaction within us. (Purposely--that, not without reason, but for a higher and more eternal purpose than we can see.) No allowance is given in God's kingdom for an attitude of complacency. The Lord "creates" trouble (Isa 45:7) that we might cry out to Him in the midst of every situation. (Psa 107:12, 13, 19, 26-28) Then He responds to our call with His lovingkindness and grace, satisfying us with Himself. (Psa 107:5, 6, 9)
Now, it is true that when a tree has just been pruned it looks scrawny and bare. However, because there are fewer branches on which the tree must concentrate for growth, those that remain will soon be bearing much fruit. God will remove from our lives things not necessarily "bad" in themselves--but detrimental because they take up our time or unnecessary concern in our hearts. He wants to enable us to concentrate more fully on Him and the eternal things of His kingdom. It is not the appearance of the tree that is important, but whether it serves to be useful by bearing fruit. Jesus said that those who do not bear good fruit must be cut down. (Mat 3:10; Lk 3:9; 13:7)
Natural law demands that we cannot reap what we have not sown. (Gal 6:8) A farmer cannot plant lettuce and expect cabbage to come up in its place. In the same way, if we do not abide by the laws of God's kingdom, we cannot expect to reap life everlasting. (Gal 6:8) We must walk in the Spirit and not give in to the lusts of the flesh, if we want to live a victorious, spiritual life in God. (Gal 5:25)
It is not mere theory, but a principle and law of God, that life springs forth from death. "Unless a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone." (Jn 12:24) As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual. (1 Corin 15:46) "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it." (Lk 9:24)
Georgia farm with newly harvested field of oats.
From the FSA-OWI collection.
Wolcott, Marion Post, photographer.
"So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground and ... the seed should grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that (maturity) the full corn (fruit) in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come."
Spiritual growth is a gradual process, and it takes time. There can be no fruit until adequate growth has taken place within the plant itself. A long time passes from the time that seed was first sown into the ground to when the fruit appears. Seeds themselves do not bear fruit but they can become fruit-bearing trees if received into the right environment and given time to grow.
A small plant is not expected nor is it able to bear fruit. It cannot bear the weight but would fall over and die. There is a specific time in nature when fruit is ready. (Mat 21:34) If received prematurely, it would destroy what has not weathered the test of time and been strengthened by the growth process. (1 Tim 3:6) There are no shortcuts in God. Maturity comes with growth and growth takes time.
"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." (Jas 5:7-8)
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