Many of my summer days were spent roaming around the family farm, making an adventure of the many hedges and streams than ran along the edges of the fields. It always amazed me how far you could roam and yet how close you would remain to the house, close enough to hear the call for lunch. One place I loved to pass the time was a slightly overgrown patch of land behind one of the barns. It always felt like a jungle to me, and I used to spend hours playing in that small overgrown “Forrest.” There was such a range of trees and fauna that you could go back to it after a few weeks, and it would feel like a different place.
Being Surprised By Fruitfulness
Amid all the overgrowth, one tree that always caught my attention; was rooted in the middle of this overgrowth and looked like life had long left it. Yet, as spring approached and the days warmed slowly, you would notice specs of life that blossomed into growth, and then soon after, shrivelled apples would grow on its branch. I learned over the years that the patch of Farm that I liked to pass the summer was the remnants of an old Orchard, and there in the middle of that orchard, despite the effects of time, the changing of the ground and the competition for soil this one remaining Apple Tree remained fruitful against the odds. That was not to say that its fruit was pristine or delightfully tasteful – it was not! As the years passed and I grew, even as I drifted away from playing there, I would always notice the blossom and fruit bore on the branches of that tree. It had once enjoyed plenty of fruitfulness when it found itself surrounded by kin in the middle of a tended orchard, yet, even after decades had passed and the season had weathered it, even after it had been long forgotten and left long alone, stood a planted Tree that remained fruitful despite the apparent.
Called to Be Faithfully Fruitful
I had often thought of that Apple Tree and the fruit it bore each year, even when it looked like it had no life left. Even as the years went by and the quality of the fruit was obliviously less, and the yield decreased, that tree still bore fruit. I have often thought about that Apple Tree and how fitting a metaphor it is for the life of discipleship and our fruitfulness from walking with Jesus. That apple tree’s purpose was singular over its entire lifetime – to bear fruit. There were times in its life when it was well-tended and cared for among a bountiful orchard that it would have produced much fruit, good fruit! Then as farming habits changed and the orchard decayed, and even when the other trees withered, it remained, and as it remained, it was fruitful. Was it as fruitful? No, yet with each year and in each season, it produced something regarding its purpose. Is our life in Christ any different? Sometimes we have these romanticised notions about our walk with Jesus and the fruit that we will produce; we almost assume that it will be this upward curve of Gospel/Kingdom fruitfulness.
”If my life is fruitless, it doesn’t matter who praises me, and if my life is fruitful, it doesn’t matter who criticises me.” – John Bunyan
When the Word Shapes our Understanding of Fruitfulness
That every day we walk with Jesus, we will produce substantial fruit and more fruit than the days gone past. Then reality slowly hits, and we realise that as we walk, we stumble in our steps as much as we produce fruit and as much as we did before life in Christ. Yet, we need to think about the wisdom of the Apple Tree, which had different seasons of fruitfulness yet remained fruitful even when the quality was more minor. There amid the Fauna was a lesson in what real Christian Discipleship looked like and how often our fruitfulness in the Kingdom will be. There amid the overgrown, an Apple Tree helped me to Grasp the lessons our passage today teaches us about being fruitful and who is the Master of our fruitfulness.
Gospel Fruit Form by the Grace and Power of God
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:7-8
John 15 reminds us about both the source of our fruitfulness and how we bear fruit, and the beauty is that it is nothing to do with us. We are simply branches feeding on the vine’s life, knowing that so good is the source of life that we are connected to, so eternal in its providence that along as we are rooted there and connection to Him, we will produce fruit. Not only will we bear fruit, but as we are rooted in the vine, the gardener (God the father) will also tend to us to make sure we are efficiently fruitful and able to bear more fruit. Think about it – it is the life of Christ who sustains us in the Kingdom, and his sustenance produces fruit in us and through us, and it is the love of God the father who prunes us as we live in the vine so that as we remain in him, we produce more and more fruit for the Kingdom. How are we pruned? By the very words of Christ! John 15 makes that clear as firstly, Jesus tells the disciples that the words he has spoken to them have already had a cleaning/pruning effect ( 15:3, same Greek word) and then a few verses later, Jesus encourages them to continue with him because as long as they remain in him and his comments in them, then God will remain faithful to them. How do the terms remain in us? We are a people who dwell in the word, the word being Christ. That is the beauty of life with Christ. Through the written word, we know the living word, and it is through the written word that the Living word makes life in us, prunes us, and bears fruit in our lives.
Remaining in the Vine and Remaining Fruitful Where we are.
So today, whatever it is we find ourselves in, let us take comfort from the Image of the Apple tree that remained fruitful despite the effects of time and the reality of living. Yet, more powerfully and beautifully, while there is some comfort in metaphors, there is great comfort in the truth of God’s word. The fact that reminds us today is that our fruitfulness is not by our effort and strength but by God’s life and the hand of God at work in us and through us. Today let us keep walking with Jesus where he has us, knowing that he is walking with us and working through us to produce fruit in keeping with his Kingdom and ethic. Christ called us to remain in him or in the image of the vine to stay rooted in the vine of life because this is the only place to be. While we are in him, there is nothing the world can do to us or take from us to the effect that He GOd has given us through faith and grace. Then beautifully, as we remain in him, and he is us, the Grace of God is effectual in our lives as it changes us into the son’s likeness and bears through us Kingdom fruits that help people see the goodness of God and life with him. Today, let us check where our roots are planted and what fruits our lives are producing, and let us act to make sure that the fruit of our lives displays the source of our living – Jesus. Let us be faithfully fruitful where God has placed us as churches and individuals so that while we live, God might be glorified in us and thorough us, and people will know we are his disciples (John 15:8). Let us abide with him.
” So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” – Colossians 1:10