Spiritual Rumination by Julia Phillips

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

John 15:4

 

“Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through various sufferings.”

1 Peter 1:5-6

 

“But the God of all comfort and grace, who has called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered for a season, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”

1 Peter 5:10

 

If ever there were a time we needed to “abide in Christ” it is now.

The hardships folks are experiencing are as broad and painful as any time in the history of our nation. Even during the depression people were allowed to move around as they pleased, leaning upon each other both literally and figuratively. I have spent a lot of time ruminating upon what this article should be about. I kept hearing the words “abide” and “suffering,” so that is where we will ruminate this week.

The Lord’s teachings on abiding are everywhere in the Bible.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5.

Jesus’s allegory is simple. God the Father is the vine keeper. Jesus is the Vine.

He is teaching us with a powerful metaphor. But He is also leading and comforting us through it, wanting us to understand our absolute total, complete dependence and reliance for life that comes only through abiding in Christ. Three things are implied: connection, dependence, and continuance. These are not successive steps, but rather interwoven aspects of abiding.

Abiding in Christ means having a life-giving connection to Him.

It is mind-boggling how people can read the Bible for decades, love Jesus, and somehow miss the fact that we are truthfully, literally, one body in Christ. And what do abiding and suffering have in common? When Jesus says we will be partakers in His sufferings, that is precisely what He means. When the Word teaches us, “when one suffers, we all suffer,” it is a fact, acknowledged or not.

God is the vinedresser. A vine-keeper is committed to and loves his vines. He pampers them, prunes them, blesses them, and causes much fruit to grow through them. God supervises His vineyard constantly. Jesus is the vine. In order to see the vine, you must lower your gaze down under all the spindly, winding branches to the thick base below. As I read and studied this today, once again I remembered my youth.

As I wrote last week, I come from a multi-generational greenhouse family. Generations before me built greenhouses that opened directly into their homes. We were able to sit in the sun and grow beautiful plants year around – It was in Iowa where we had sunlight during the winter. I would do schoolwork in ours. I would watch as my grandfather and my father pruned their plants. Until I understood the process, I thought it was a terrible mistake. The beautiful plants went from very large and full to small, uneven — even appearing like they were dying.

It reminded me of a hairdresser who insisted on cutting two inches off my hair in order to grow more hair. “I’ve been trying to grow it out for so long.”

It seemed silly to me, like a waste. However, after ruminating on it a while, I understood the principle.

The ends would die and begin to strip and split from the bottom up each individual hair shaft.

Just as I would watch my father prune those big, beautiful plants down to a nub, down to what I am calling the very base of the vine, I saw it. All that was left were those uncomely branch nubs, the base, and the root.

For the first time I realized the act of God pruning in my life was not merely to assist my growth, but it was to cut out everything until it was just the Vine in me.

That is true for every branch. The Body of Christ. The branches were still there, they just weren’t visible yet. “I Am the Vine; you are the branches.”

The base, the Vine, is the conduit that provides all the nutrients and moisture for the branches to grow strong and eventually bear “much fruit.” It is the perfect analogy. If we are not receiving all we need in and through Jesus our Vine, we are not “in Christ.”

We bear fruit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, meekness, temperance, and faith.” Galatians 5:22.

And as we abide in Christ, God the Father is honored.

“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove you are My disciples.” John 15:8.

 The Father tends, Jesus nourishes, we receive, and the fruit appears.

As God’s children, the branches, we long to be anxious for nothing. We are tired of the stress, the sleepless nights.

Doubts, fears, and frustrations are like noxious weeds in our lives, weeds that appear to grow much faster than everything else. Like my stack of bills.

Are any of you seeing the same thing?

All of us are longing to get through this unsettling time, this global tsunami.

It was just a few years ago when life seemed to be moving ahead. Long, long branches. And what happened?

What happened is our Eternal God, our vine-keeper, saw fit to do some pruning. We are being pruned individually and corporately. Every part of our lives has been affected. The loss from it all appears staggering. Almost like my father’s plants.

Why cut off all those branches daddy?

I ask my heavenly Father the same questions.

Why Abba? Why do I feel rugs I being pulled out from under my feet? Is this really necessary?”

Don’t believe the lie that God missed the memo, is on vacation, or is no longer on the throne. 

Remember, no weapon formed against you will prosper. He instructs us to give thanks through all things each day, for it is the will of God for our life for that day. He is still King, and He is preparing His Bride, His Church. And in order to be prepared and to bear much fruit, we needed a real pruning.

Remember the words of Jesus. When He returns will He find faith on earth?

I am stating the Word, “All things work together for good to the called, according to His purpose.”

So how do we now bear fruit now that we feel small and have been snipped?

The answer is not fruitlessness but faithfulness. A person cannot just “will” themselves to bear fruit. It does not work that way. The secret to bearing fruit and being anxious for nothing is less about doing and more about abiding.

It is vital to remember this: God prunes us because He loves us, not because He is angry with us. Lest we are dull of hearing and risk missing the point, Jesus used the word “abide” ten times in seven verses in John Chapter 15. As we abide in Him and He in us, He is our home, and we are His.

The Webster’s dictionary defines “abide” as following: “to remain; to reside home; to live in or up to a promise; to submit to and carry out; alongside; in the keeping of or caring of another; to join as with the other.”

To reside home is to dwell peacefully and enter rest. Enemies can’t break in if we abide and do not wander off.

There is security in home. To be home is to be comfortable. Jesus Christ, our Savior, is not a park or a hotel room we visit each week or even each day. He is our permanent dwelling. He chose us to be His tabernacle, His Spirit lives within us. He is our place of refuge, and we are safe to be our authentic selves in Him in the seasons of transformation. Especially the pruning seasons. We rest in Him, find our nourishment in Him, and He protects and covers us. When we abide in Christ we are truly sheltering in place.

Jesus, the Vine, knows about everything you are suffering this very moment. He’s aware of every conflict and every joy.

If we are truly leaning upon, relying on, and trusting the Lord to sustain us we will lie down and enjoy sweet sleep, not afraid of tomorrow. It is when we get busy trying to solve situations that only the Vine can solve that we lose sleep, or we sleep-walk.

I can now see how the Lord prepared us for what we are now experiencing. When we grasp who we are, who He is, and His plan, it becomes natural to just abide — trusting and unafraid.

We, as branches, cling to the vine.

As the Word says, we are vessels, living tabernacles for the Lord.

Why should we fear? Who or what should we be afraid of?

It is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives within us. Our goal should not be to merely bear fruit, but rather to remain attached to the Vine.

Are we safe and secure from all alarm, as the hymn says? What can separate us from Him or His love?

Nothing, no one. Not past, present, or to come.

It is not our responsibility to know the future.

When the Lord commanded us to rejoice in the Lord always, it was a call, not to a feeling, but to a decision and a deeply rooted confidence that God is in control, and that He is good. His love never fails. It cannot fail.

“Therefore, I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried about your life), what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on: look at the birds of the air; they aren’t grumpy or frowning; they don’t appear to be sleep deprived or lonely. They sing, whistle, and soar. Yet neither do they sow nor reap nor gather into barns. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by worrying or being anxious can add one cubit to his stature or to the span of his life? Consider the lilies of the field and learn how they grow. They don’t do anything but exude beauty and fragrance. They neither toil nor spin, yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these. Even though their lifespan is short, God clothes them in dignity, grace, and splendor.” Matthew 6:25-29.

I believe these truths have never been so vital to grasp, apprehend, and lean on as in this present day. 

Do not fret my friend. Your Heavenly Father is the expert vinedresser. It is normal to feel loss after a season of pruning. Possibly even pain when suffering during this process in addition to the extremes of this past year and the challenges surrounding us today. But have faith. Encourage on another.

Remember there are more for us than against us.

The God of heaven, earth, and all that dwells in between hears every cry and catches every tear. Doubt not in your heart. You will be stronger, healthier, and able to bear up under whatever He allows you to face in the days to come.

You are not alone. You are rooted in the Vine. Pruning must come, and it is not pretty. And in His time, you and all the branches will bear much fruit — and God alone will receive all the glory and praise.

Lord, we thank You. Thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven. Let it be so Lord.

Ruminate on that.