Have you found that God seems to begin some good work in you only to have it seem to evaporate, to disappear, as if it had never been there at all? He may have begun some emotional healing, restoring some relationship, or bringing some fresh awareness or understanding in your life. Then, some time later you discover that what you thought was being born in you seems to have been illusory. To use the metaphor of grapes growing on a vine, we see the small, round new grapes appear on the vine, but then, as time goes on, instead of maturing to ripeness, the grapes have withered and died.
All of us, at sometime or another, have found ourselves hurting, scared, and not knowing where to turn. Finally, we cry out to God. We find that God is good. We find that things start to change. Or perhaps our understanding and acceptance starts to shift, perhaps God speaks to us in our pain and starts the processes of healing and formation.
As our pain starts to subside, we carry on with our lives and one day we find ourselves in distress again. We turn back to God, looking for that nascent fruit we had seen before, only to find it is nowhere to be seen. It has evaporated like the dew. What has happened?
Jesus gives us an answer in John, chapter 15.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (ESV) John 15:1-6
Too often, when we first see fruit start to appear, the baby grapes on the vine, we declare victory and move on. Without even thinking about it, with our pain assuaged, we take a step back and disconnect from God. Rather than abiding with God, we detach our branch from the vine. Little wonder the fruit withers and fails!
When the fruit fails, rather than wondering what happened to it or if it was ever really there, we should make sure that we haven’t broken ourselves off the vine. God cannot mature the fruit (and us!) if we do not abide in him.