“…and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit…Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit…By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples…These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
There is much to be said about a tree that produces a lot of really good fruit on a regular basis. There can be a lot of attachment to a tree that produces a lot of excellent fruit. There is something incredible to me personally about a tree of grove of trees that are laden with ripe, sweet fruit. My parents use to have these 8 or 9 Tangelo trees that produced the sweetest and juiciest Tangelos I have ever eaten in my entire life. Plums straight off of the tree are something to be experienced. I have a white nectarine tree that has some of the sweetest fruit I’ve had in years. A Mexican-Lime tree, a lemon, 4 avacado trees, navel orange, a neighbors plum, the other neighbors 3 Loquat trees, a dwarf Fuji and dwarf Ein-shemer apple, and two grapevines I planted 3-4 years ago. I LOVE fruit off the tree. I love produce straight from the ground. When I bite into a fresh picked piece of fruit from the tree, glancing the blue sky dotted with a cloud or two, feel the breeze of my face, hear my kids laughing, and plop down on the green grass to enjoy what I hold in my hand…I cannot help thinking about the goodness of God and how His care and desire in displaying Himself to me is so far beyond what I could ever even begin to deserve. Many times tears will fill my eyes because of God’s overpowering display of affection overwhelms me. And there are so many that are on the earth today that can’t even begin to imagine having an experience like the one I am describing because they have been born into a life of forced slavery, or prostitution, or are born without a sense of smell, or they must be fed through a feeding tube their entire lives, or they are born into the Dalit caste in India, or they beg their entire lives being rejected by the family around them. Squalor and filth is their green grass. Coal streaked stonework is their blue sky spotted with clouds. The blast of a furnace is their breeze on the cheek. The harsh and crude voice of their boss is the only laughter of children they will ever hear…
And sometimes I do ask the “why” question.
Why was I born here now? Why am I where I am in life today? How am I supposed to live in such a way in this place in this time with what God has given me?
The only satisfactory answer I have ever come up with is this…Stewardship.
I have prayed in the past that God would bless me with the best that I might bless others with the best. I want to be like my heavenly Father. He has gone above and beyond with what He is allowing me to steward. He has blessed me in this day with the wife I have, the children I have, the church I am a part of, my finances, my home, my health…and He wants me to steward them.
God has placed many of us in leadership positions of fellowships of men and women, boys and girls, seniors and babies, missionaries and ushers, equipping and pruning. And we will all stand before the Lord Jesus Christ one day soon (sooner than we think) and give an account of our stewardship, every aspect of it. And there can be a real fear or hesitancy in exercising stewardship in some areas for a whole host of reasons.
Jesus tells the parables of the good and faithful stewards who started off with some money and gained more as they put it to use…and they were blessed by the Lord. One kept what was given to him in a “safe place” and gave it back when he was called to give account. Now, I will say this to his credit, he didn’t lose any of what was given to him. He kept it safe and sound, probably checked in on it regularly to make sure it was still there. The picture pops into my head of a lot of evangelical Christianity today. Men are holding on to what has been given to them, they are diligent to check in on a regular basis to see that none of what has been handed to them is lost, keeping everything safe and sound set against the Day when must give account. But Jesus called this servant, this steward wicked, lazy. Why? Because he did not put to use what was given to him.
Let me focus in on one aspect I have previously mentioned. To gain more, to bear more, especially as it pertains to fruit trees, there must be regular pruning at the appropriate times and seasons. For if you do, you will, no doubt, reap a Harvest of produce at the appropriate season. Things will not look the same for awhile. Things will take a new direction in certain areas of ministry and relationships. But to get to that place of growth and bearing more fruit, what must be done? I must be willing to prune the already fruit bearing branches that have been there for so long. And to us and our impatient nature, we are overwrought at the mere mention of ‘pruning’ something that has been the awhile. “People are used to it being that way”, “we’ve always done it like that”, “what would dear old _______ do if we changed that?” what if the people leave, what if others think I’m just trying to be hip with the latest trends and statistics? What will the guys at the conference say? What will the board say? What if someone flips out on me again because of another change? What if, what if, what if?
Yes, Jesus says that the Father is the vine dresser and He prunes…but the steward in the parable is the one who goes and and in wisdom puts to use what was given to him and his “crop”, if you will, increased double. There was some pruning going on in there somewhere during the interim.
Don’t let the fear of the unknown, your budget (or lack of one), keep you from producing the kind of fruit that brings tears to your eyes it’s so good…and causes people that taste and see that God is too good to them, too. What kind of a price tag can you put on that kind of “fruit”. This kind of fruit will fill your heart and mind and you will spill over with a joy that is impossible to contain at the goodness, the sweetness, the provision of God Almighty…all I order that you might share this with others that the Lord brings you, that they might go out and tell others and share with others their lives and what God has given them, and that this process would continue until we see Jesus face to face.