Abide to Thrive | June 24th, 2022
It was the weekend for bulk trash pick up. The signs were out reminding everyone that time was almost up to finish any left-to-the-last-minute yard work for dead limbs, wilting plants, and grass clippings to be hauled away.
I noticed a neighbor had been busy trimming his trees. A pile of branches filled up the sidewalk in front of his house. But these were not just any branches – they had beautiful, ripe apples attached to them! I knew those apples would soon rot without their branches connected to the tree which provided the proper nutrients for them to thrive.
Abide to Bear Fruit
In the Gospel of John, Jesus used a similar analogy with His disciples describing their relationship with Him as followers of Christ:
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. John 15:4
What does it mean to “abide” in Him? The Hebrew word used in the Old Testament is yashab meaning “to sit, remain, stay, dwell, inhabit.” In the New Testament, the Greek word is menō which means “not to depart; to remain as one.”
A branch does not have to struggle on its own to produce fruit. It only needs to stay attached to the tree for its nourishment and fruit is brought about naturally. The same is true for us. If we stay close to Jesus by abiding in Him, His life will flow through us and we will bear fruit, guaranteed. Without Him, we can do nothing!
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
Abiding requires obedience as we are prone to wander off if we do not remain in close fellowship with the Lord. We can easily let our pride take over, thinking we could do a better job of bearing bigger, juicier fruit more quickly if we were the vine itself and not the branches. That’s why Jesus gave us the reminder that apart from Him we can do NOTHING. We must have absolute dependence on Him.
When we let pride or other sin hinder us from bearing fruit, we may be pruned through God’s love for us. Although it is sometimes painful to go through, He must cut off the branches in us that are not bearing fruit so we will bear even more. It’s His deepest desire that we are fruitful as a reflection of Him so we can draw others toward Christ and bring Him glory!
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:8
Pruning, Nourishment, and Pest Control
Just like with a fruit tree, in order to produce large, healthy fruit it must be pruned from time to time. Pruning does not detract but rather, enhances a tree’s beauty. The best time to prune fruit trees is when they are not actively growing. If we are not actively growing in our faith and relationship with God, it may be that He will need to prune us at that time, cutting off whatever is inhibiting our growth so we can start flourishing once again as He shapes our character and conduct to be more like Jesus.
How do we make sure we are actively growing? A fruit tree needs fertilizer to supply necessary nutrients along with a good pest control as nasty pests may attack the fruit directly or try to weaken or even kill the tree. God gave us His Word, the Bible, so we can get the nourishment we need for our soul. The more time we spend reading and meditating on it, the more we develop a love and craving for it as we begin to thrive!
It is also our weapon to use against the pesty enemy that would love to see us weakened by sin so we are not able to produce any fruit. When we memorize Scripture, it is permanently hidden in our heart to use against the lies Satan tells us to try to bring us down.
Our prayer life is also vital to active growth. Prayer forces us to trust God as it requires humility and faith. Although it may seem like a waste of time and make us appear weak to those who are wise in the world’s eyes, it is so important for cultivating a close connection with Jesus. The deeper our relationship, the more our desires become transformed to be like His. Our prayers are not for the purpose of gratifying our passions to get what we want. When our prayers come from a heart that’s aligned with His as we are abiding in Him, we can ask boldly and be assured they will be answered perfectly according to His will.
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. John 15:7
Love Beyond Comprehension
I’ve noticed something quite fascinating in my own life recently. The closer I get to Jesus by spending time in His Word and sharing my deepest feelings, hurts, joys, and desires with Him, I have been amazed at some of the ways He’s answered the prayers of my heart, even without me asking! A deep need that only He would know about is often met in the most unique way. It’s usually something that brings me the exact kind of encouragement I need but I honestly wouldn’t even begin to know how to ask for it in the way He provides it. It flows effortlessly from Him as the Vine to me as the branch, helping me flourish and produce fruit. His provision is so empowering and almost overwhelming if I stop and think about it for very long!
Why does the Lord make the effort to connect with us in this way? It’s because He loves us so much and desires for us to experience abundant life, producing the healthiest, juiciest fruit! When we abide in Him, enjoying a close, intimate relationship as we live in obedience to His Word, Jesus tells us we will experience His love and joy to the fullest:
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:9-11
At times, we may feel completely unlovable. It might even be difficult for us to love ourselves. But the love Jesus has for us is unconditional and never changes. He loves us so much He died on the cross and rose again, shedding His blood in our place so we could be fully forgiven of our sin that can keep us separated from Him. We can come to Him feeling discouraged, defeated, and maybe even destroyed, yet He is able to fully restore us when we abide in Him. He gives us all we need to glorify our Savior and bear a bountiful harvest of fruit.
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