[Calvary Chapel] 1999-02-18 - Pruned Vines

John 15:2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. (NAS)

I am not an expert on grapes, or vines, or plants for that matter. But from what I've been told about growing grapes, there are some things that work that might surprise you. The grape vines have to be pruned every year. I would have thought that leaving a healthy vine alone would have been fine. If a vine is left alone to grow, it becomes wild. Soon the grapes become smaller and smaller each year, until there is no fruit produced at all. And the pruning by the vinedresser is severe. To the uneducated eye, once a vine is properly pruned, you and I might think the poor thing had been killed. But this forces the plant to grow and recover. The end result is a harvest of large, juicy grapes that make my mouth water.

For a little while now, the topic of sin and trials has been the Thursday focus. We all have trials. We all stumble and fall. Some trials are brought on as a result of our sin, though it is not always the case. The process of removing things from our lives that have held us back is not unlike pruning. God will allow us to impose our will if we wish. Sin is you or me insisting on our will instead of God's will. Jesus will be there to pick up the pieces afterward too. The Lord will use trials and our failings to point out or simply remove things from our lives that He does not want there.

We can chafe against a trial, or struggle to keep things status quo. But, if we are wise, we can submit ourselves to the Lord Jesus, our vinedresser. Our trials and struggles are often painful, sometimes hurtful. But not unlike the grape vine, the pruning produces great fruit from out of the trouble. We learn things about ourselves and our limitations. We find out that we must depend of Jesus for more of our daily walk than we could have believed. And when we see a friend go through that same or similar trial, we can be there to encourage them. We can let them know that they are not alone. We can walk with them and let them know that Jesus walks beside them too.

Prov 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (NAS)

Ministering to a struggling person walking a difficult path that we have already walked has it's own rewards. More strong friendships come from the valleys than they do from the mountain tops. And even those who reach the mountain tops will have to descend into the valley again to reach the next peak.

Lord Jesus - You walked in our very steps and were nailed to our cross. You have suffered our temptations and pains - both physical and emotional. No one can say that You have no idea what they are going through. It is Your ability to identify with the pain of another that should be our model for reaching out to others who struggle and suffer trials. Give us the courage to open up to others about our own struggles and failures as a source of encouragement and strength. Amen.