I’m someone who loves observing nature and connecting principles from the Bible to what I notice in the world around me. So I’ve been contemplating the words of Jesus from John 15:5 for awhile: “I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
While I don't have a grapevine at our place for me to see that particular illustration of John 15:5 in action, we do have an oak tree in our front yard. We estimate that it was planted by the previous owners of the house between 28-30 years ago. What is the intended purpose of the oak tree? It has housed squirrel nests and bird nests over the years. Its leaves have offered a visual barrier, thankfully blocking the harsh morning sunlight from blinding us in our eastern-facing windows. It has provided shade for our home, cooling us in the blazing summer months in southeast Georgia. It has provided food for yellow-bellied sapsuckers who have expertly drilled holes around the circumference of the outer bark, looking for insects. It has provided a jungle gym for the squirrels to frolic and chase each other. Its branches have served as platforms and nooks for nests to be safely held. All of those are helpful, noble outcomes of the oak tree’s existence, but none of those things are the purpose of the oak tree. In fact, it wasn’t until 2020 that the oak tree was mature enough to even begin to carry out its purpose.
The oak sapling had to be rooted deeply in the soil, taking in nutrients and water for years. In fact, it was completely dependent on staying rooted to grow at all, let alone branch out and continue in its life cycle for years until it reached maturity. The branches, if cut off and separated from the tree, cannot live on their own, much less produce anything. They just turn brown, die, and end up in the burn pile. The tree cannot fulfill its purpose, which is to produce fruit (in this case acorns) to spread and grow other oak trees. It’s sole job ultimately is to produce more trees like itself. It produces no fruit, or acorns, however, unless the branches abide, remain, or stay attached to the tree.
We are the same way. We are the branches. Unless we stay connected to Vine, we produce no fruit. We may do many noble, praiseworthy things, but ultimately we don’t live out our purpose, which is to bear fruit. When we ARE connected to the Vine, Jesus promises that we will bear much fruit. Infused with His love, we can express that love in tangible ways to others. Our lives will be living testimonies of God’s grace, joy, peace, generosity, hope, and fullness, resulting in drawing others to Him. When we are part of the Vine, we are empowered to fulfill the Great Commission assigned to us by Jesus: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”There is no greater purpose for followers of Jesus than to produce more followers, or disciples, of Jesus.
So back to our oak tree example. Remember I said it took nearly three decades for us to see acorns on this tree? For the longest time, my husband and I thought that maybe this wasn’t the kind of oak tree that produces acorns (is that even a thing??), because we didn’t see acorns when we first bought our home 22 years ago. We reasoned that if it was an oak tree, and oak trees have acorns on them, then all oak trees should always have acorns. You can see the logic in that assumption, right? The fact of the matter is, however, that the tree had to mature, stay rooted and continue to grow before it had an outward manifestation of its purpose. A newly- planted oak tree sapling doesn’t produce acorns right away. It takes time.
Let that be an encouragement to you: if you are following Christ but don’t seem to be changing in your habits, or you’re finding it hard to react better to stressful situations, or you aren’t quite as nice and gentle as you really, really want to be, if you still lose your temper, or you still find it hard to forgive when others offend you, or you return to that destructive or unholy habit, or you love Jesus but still cuss a little, don’t be discouraged! Much like our oak tree, it may take some time. You may think now that you see no change, no sanctification, no turn towards holiness, but it IS happening. Little by little, bit by bit. When you stay connected to the Vine through reading scripture, prayer, listening, praising and worshiping, and spending time with godly friends who encourage you to goodness, it can’t help but happen. The Bible promises it to be so: “And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18).
This week, I’m introducing my first GIVEAWAY!
I have followed ODG Apparel on Instagram for awhile now, and before Christmas I saw this sticker on their website, www.odgapparel.com , and knew I had to have it because it reminded me of John 15:5.
I asked them if I could mention them in my blog and do a giveaway, and they graciously agreed. So here’s how you can be entered to win:
You MUST complete all three tasks to be eligible!
Like the Front Porch Encouragement page on FaceBook.
Share this post on FaceBook, and tag two friends.
Tag me, @frontporchencouragement so I know you’re entered.
I’ll draw from eligible entrants and post the winner here next week! Good luck!!