“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine keeper”, I am the vine and you are the branches. The one who remains in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing” (From John 15).
As believers, we like to know that we are growing or improving in character over time. We want to see “fruits” like kindness, patience, love, self-control and many others manifest in our lives. We want to be better people reflecting Christ more and more. However, too often we place the burden of change on ourselves and seldom see any. We can learn a lot from the grapevine; Jesus chose it as an example for a reason. Let us see what it can teach us.
Characteristics of the Grapevine
Needs a vine keeper
The grapevine requires much attention and care. This care will come from the person or people who work in the vineyard. Without these vine keepers, the plants would grow wildly, get pests and diseases and ultimately be destroyed or produce a poor harvest. We are attached to a “vine” called Christ and the keeper is our heavenly father. As much as we would like to believe we can live with little care and guidance, it is just not possible. When we are in the good seasons of life with few or no challenges, we tend to slowly but surely drift away from God and his ways. So we need him to keep putting us back on track and removing the ‘pests’ that we allow into our lives.
It doesn’t bear fruit soon after planting
Like most plants or trees, the fruit of the grapevine does not come quickly. From the time it is planted to the time the vine bears fruit, one could wait two to three years. In this time there are only growing shoots (branches) and leaves. Likewise our spiritual fruit takes time. Most of us have had the experience of wanting to change in certain areas of our behavior but it seems that nothing is happening. We then get frustrated and think we will never change. Let us say you have a habit of gossiping or any other you don’t like. Perhaps on many occasions you try to resist the urge not to speak badly about others but somehow you fail. And fail many times over. God is working within you but you want to see the fruit immediately. It is important to know that real change cannot come instantaneously. Which takes me to the other important point: we cannot change ourselves.
Jesus says abide in me. Since we are the branches attached to the vine, all we have to do is remain in Christ. The process of growing and being transformed comes naturally as we listen to God and live in obedience. You may remember a time before you became a believer when you were probably unkind and self-centered (that comes naturally as well). Now you are more considerate and willing to help others when you can. And tell me one thing, how did that happen? It’s hard to explain but it just did—because you were abiding in Christ. That is how the branches of the vine grow; they simply remain attached to the main part of the plant.
The fruits only come from matured branches
Only the woody and matured canes of the vine can produce fruit. It takes time to bear fruit as believers and once we’ve borne the fruit of the Spirit, we will then be able to be a light to others. God will usually wait until we’ve matured to a certain point in order to entrust us with any kind of meaningful ministry. He will give us little by little until he is sure we are ready for bigger things. Giving anyone a big ministry while they themselves have a lot to learn can be dangerous for both the one ministering and those ministered to. Before one can bear the fruit of reaching others, they will first have to bear fruit within themselves that is, fruit of character.
It has to be pruned during the dormant seasons
As mentioned above the canes have to be controlled, so the quality of fruit is good. The “branches” need to focus nutrients for the fruit. Every year one must prune. The pruning is done mainly with hand shears but sometimes a saw is needed. If you imagine that we are the branches and parts of them must be cut off, then you would say “ouch!” indeed ouch because spiritual pruning always hurts. God tends to use mostly painful circumstances to cut the unwanted and dangerous aspects of our lifestyle away from us. So there’s the good news, he will only remove what is bad for you, even if it has the appearance of something pleasant.
Gives a harvest in due season
Finally the really good part! After the grapevine has been sprayed, watered, pruned, and the right season comes, then the fruit appears! Good juice-filled grapes show up on the vine at harvest time. It is time to remove and enjoy the fruit. In Jesus’ days the fruit was both eaten and used to make wine which was reserved mainly for feasts or weddings. It therefore was a symbol of joy and celebration. Likewise our spiritual fruit always brings a “harvest”. Better character, peace, joy and positive change to the people we’ve ministered to. The rewards for abiding in Christ are always worth the sacrifices made.