“What in the world am I doing here?” If you’re like me, you’ve probably asked that question more times than you’d like to admit. Life is full of trial and error, adventure and discovery. From Baylor, to Mongolia, to America, to Japan, my journey has been unique, but I feel there are some keys things God has been teaching me that may resonate with any follower of Jesus regardless of season of life.
John 15:1-17 lines out three keys that are essential to embracing in order to grow: Pruning, friendship with Jesus and obedience. If we really embrace these three keys, we will experience God’s great grace to grow into mature disciples of Jesus who bear fruit that will last.
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. – John 15:2
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this word “pruning.” And every time, I sarcastically think, “Oh fun…”
If you’re like me, pruning can seem like this dreadful, daunting process. Although it can be painful, I’ve learned it’s actually one of God’s greatest tools to make us who we are called to be, so we can do what we are called to do.
After all, God’s pruning is all about making us more fruitful, right?
In order to achieve optimum fruitfulness, God’s pruning does two main things: it cuts, and it directs.
In the pruning process, God cuts away parts of our lives that are unfruitful: distractions, lies we believe, bad attitudes, bad habits and even good things that we depend on more than God. God also prunes us by directing and encouraging us. God’s pruning actually brings out the best in us. While He is cutting away the bad He is also focusing, honing and enhancing our gifts, our character, our authority, our vision and so much more. Now that’s something I want!
While studying the process of pruning a plant, I read something interesting. It says, “Reasons to prune plants include deadwood removal, shaping (by controlling or directing growth), improving or maintaining health, reducing risk from falling branches […] and increasing the yield or quality of flowers and fruits.” Isn’t that a wonderful illustration? God is directing our growth; putting us in the right places, at the right times for our growth and protection. Wow! What a loving Father.
2. Friendship with Jesus
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain (abide) in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing… I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” – John 15:5,15
Man, if there’s one phrase I will base my entire life and death on, it’s this: Life is all about knowing Jesus.
We were created for relationship with God!
When seasons change, friends move, etc., it’s easy to feel lonely, isolated, misunderstood and just plain lost. And that is why it is of utmost importance that while the pruning is happening, we run headlong into the depths of friendship with God. Falling in love with Jesus is the end goal. When I have felt confused, purposeless and visionless, I have been reminded over and over again that my main goal in life is not a specific place, time or breakthrough, but it is a Person. Jesus is my goal. He is my Dream. He is my Vision. And nothing, NOTHING, will fully satisfy us except Him.
I encourage you to carve out extra times to spend with God, include and invite Him into your daily activities, converse with Him throughout the day. Learn what it means to remain near to Him and abide in Him. Let’s become actual best friends with Jesus. It is crucial to learn what our relationship with God looks like without the other crutches that have held up our relationship with Him in the past. SO RUN TO JESUS!
If you want some great resources, check out my good friend Dan Baumann’s sermon, or read Frank C. Laubach’s Game with Minutes.
If you keep My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love… You are My friends if you do what I command. – John 15:10,14
Now here’s the big whammy that ties everything together: All kinds of pruning can happen to us, and we can have a really nice, safe relationship with Jesus, but if we do not ultimately obey what He asks of us, then we are fooling ourselves and we will not see the fruit we were made to see. The third and final piece of being a mature, fruitful disciple of Jesus is obedience.
In fact, without obedience, the pruning and the friendship cannot last.
If we truly love Jesus as our closest companion, and desire to walk through the pruning process well, we MUST obey Him.
We must learn the importance of obedience to Jesus. Jesus is our King, and He has given us the scriptures and His Holy Spirit to follow Him.
Loving God, loving people, making disciples, living righteously; these are commands, not suggestions.
Of course, I’m not trying to condemn anyone. There’s so much grace in the process. We’re always growing in these. I’m still growing, too! But if we call ourselves disciples of Jesus, will we not also trust and obey Him?
In this day and age, we talk a lot about having a vision, living out our dreams, and fulfilling our potential.
But God knows the best route for all that to happen.
And His way is always the best, most fulfilling and joy-filled way! Whether it’s moving to Mongolia, or simply forgiving a friend, let’s obey our most-loving Shepherd. It is simple obedience that will change the world.
You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in My name the Father will give you. – John 15:16
Isn’t that an encouraging verse? Becoming an outstanding, fruitful disciple is not a selective process you must qualify for. He has already chosen you by His grace and will help you through it. We have a Helper and Advocate who has called us great warriors, who has gone before us in battle, and who is with us the whole way through. WOW! Thank you, Jesus.
So let’s dream big and ask big as we see the world changed with our Friend and Father, our King and Savior: 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 (John 15:7-8). Let’s do this friends!
Lord, I have chosen You alone as my inheritance. You are my prize, my pleasure and my portion. I leave my destiny and its timing in Your hands. – Psalm 16:5 (TPT)
By Brandon Seibert