The Connection God Wants with Us

The recent freezes have left us forlorn. Years of growing and nurturing trees and plants to make our yards beautiful have all been wiped out by the cold days we’ve already experienced this winter. Yards  are brown and barren, and once the dry branches are removed, we are left with empty holes and a very sad garden.

But when we cut back the dead, we’re always careful to leave the core of the plant, knowing (hoping) that green shoots will eventually sprout from trunks, that our fruit trees might actually produce lemons and limes again. We know that without that sturdy, well-rooted trunk, no branches can grow.

The apostles, like many storytellers and memory keepers and like Jesus himself, spoke and wrote in parables in hopes their message would be more clear. They turned abstract ideas into concrete examples so that people from the beginning of time to the end would understand God’s messages.

In John 15: 1-4, Jesus created a visual we could all understand: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

For all of us independent, hardworking, take-charge kind of people, those verses are sometimes hard to process. We can’t be fruitful without God? How can that be when we know plenty of people who are nonbelievers who are also quite fruitful. If, that is, we are interchanging the words “fruitful” with “productive” or “successful.” Because sure, you can be those things without God.

But Jesus was digging deeper than our modern-day vision of success. He wanted us to understand our relationship to Him, that we grow out of His strong foundation, and that if we nurture our relationship with Him, we will bear fruit. And that doesn’t mean we’ll be successful or rich. It means that we will blossom into the people He wants us to be.

If you’re a parent, and I were to ask you what your hopes are for your children, I bet I can guess the answer. You are likely to say that you want to see your kids happy, that you want them to be good people who will choose to do the right thing. In fact, you may use the exact words spoken in Galatians 5:22: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.” That’s what we want for our kids, more than success or money or material wealth.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that God our Father wants the same for us. He essentially wants us to be as close to Him as possible, and this comes with a whole lot of character building. If left to our own devices, we would fail miserably. But Jesus tells us we’re not on our own; we’re a branch growing from his sturdy vine, and he’s got ahold of us.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Our mistake is that we think we’re supposed to produce fruit, and that is wrong. We are supposed to BEAR fruit, and the distinction is important. The best definition I’ve read of this concept is that “Bearing fruit” is a phrase used to describe the outward actions that result from the inward condition of a person’s heart.

That’s why Jesus uses the vine analogy – to demonstrate that any change we undergo to become better people comes directly from the inward connection we have to God. He is the one who is producing, who is building our character – pruning his vine, so to speak – so that our inward strength becomes the impetus to outward actions. That pruning may hurt sometimes, but God is actually freeing us when he does it. He’s cutting away what is holding us back from growing. Losing that dead weight is a blessed relief!

Pruning often presents itself as problems, so remember this the next time you hit an obstacle. Problems provide perspective, humility, and perseverance. Don’t just stand there and wait for them to pass. Use them to learn, to grow, to become something better than you were. That’s how you bear fruit for God.

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Rebecca Becker

Rebecca has been a lifelong writer committed to telling stories that illuminate special people, places, and causes. She writes for local, regional, national, and international publications and is based in Houston. She’s been a lifelong Christian dedicated to bringing that perspective forth and keeping the Christian voice within the larger conversation.