Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Take Up Thy Cross"1 (Lyrics)
In our recreational vehicle (RV) park, the sites are small, just big enough for an 11-foot-wide park model (an RV that is set into place) and a driveway, leaving a couple of feet on each side between each unit. So, the avid gardeners have to learn how to use their space creatively. One man created a vegetable garden in his 11-foot by 4-foot front yard, complete with a wire fence to attempt to keep out our resident rabbits. Another has a porch with railings wide enough and long enough to support at least a dozen flower pots. I wonder how many get knocked off throughout the winter season. There is one site with several lines of potted plants along the driveway, leaving barely enough room for the car to squeeze in. Another person even put small flower pots on the cut-off branches of a dead orange tree. They're all trimmed at different levels and create an interesting display.
I definitely do not have a green thumb, so as I was walking one morning, I wondered why these people spend all that time and effort to keep those plants healthy and growing, especially since some of them are here for only four or five months of the year. I guess they're trying to compensate for leaving their big yards or gardens at home to spend the winter in our sunnier climate.
This brought to mind the time when Jesus said, "I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener." (John 15:1 NLT) God loves us enough to spend infinite time making sure that we are healthy and growing in Him. He provides His Word, the Holy Spirit, and our fellow Christians to nourish our growth and to produce beautiful new branches, hopefully with blossoms and fruit full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
I'm sure that the gardeners in my RV park carefully watch their plants to see what needs to be trimmed and fertilized. But, unlike those plants that passively accept help, we have an active role in our growth. Jesus said, "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5 NLT) We need to keep our focus on Jesus, letting Him fill our minds and guide our actions.
However, Jesus also said, "[My Father] cuts off every branch of mine that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more." (John 15:2 NLT) That can be painful, but it's necessary in order for us to become more like Him. Sin, left unchecked, can spread like cancer, affecting every area of our lives.
Are we ready to grow in Him and bear fruit that blesses others? Jesus concluded this lesson by saying, "When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father." (John 15:8 NLT)
Prayer: Father, we don't want to wither on the vine nor find ourselves in need of too much pruning. Help us to produce fruit that will glorify You and show others the way to salvation. Amen.