LETTING THE VINEDRESSER HAVE HIS WAY
I meet with some great guys for breakfast on many Friday mornings, and have for over 12 years. We used to attend the same church. For several years running we had an annual weekend summer retreat in the cool mountains of Northern Arizona. These retreats gave us an opportunity to get out of the office (and the heat) and fellowship with each other for three days, laughing, praying and singing together. Typically each person would deliver, at some time during the retreat, a short devotional or topical study of something G_d laid on their heart. The real value of the retreat for me was that it provided an opportunity for my brothers to challenge and hold me accountable for areas of growth I committed to work on during the previous retreat, as well as throughout the year.
On one afternoon we had a discussion on prayer and specifically what the most difficult, challenging or scariest prayer would be. Not surprisingly, some quickly landed on “praying for patience.” I disagreed. Granted, praying for patience is a guarantee G_d will allow challenging situations and circumstances to present themselves, thereby providing opportunities to develop and exercise that character trait. However, that prayer addresses but one of many character traits G_d wants us to develop.
When I declared, “That’s not it,” one of my brothers in Christ challenged me as to what I thought the scariest or toughest prayer is. My answer, “Lord, do whatever you need to do to me to bring me into the center of your will.”
The immediate response from Rick was, “Have you prayed that prayer?” I responded, “Heck no. I’m a good person. I have a good job, good pay, a nice house and I am comfortable with things the way they are. The decisions I made put me where I am and I am comfortable in that place. I like my life the way it is, at least for the most part.” I considered myself quite self-sufficient.
A couple years later, and not surprisingly, I became dissatisfied with my stagnate relationship with Christ. I walked in directions of my choosing and served as I saw fit, when I saw fit, expecting G_d to be pleased with my token donations of minimal time and effort. This selfish approach to my faith prevented me from having the rich, close and intimate relationship with my Heavenly Father, but He pursued me. My fruitless life became a frustrating life. Something had to change. One evening I opened my bible and read John 15:1-8. For the next several days this passage hung tenaciously in my thoughts.
1 “ I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples (John 15:1-8 NASB).
This passage makes at lease six important assertions.
- We are commanded to “abide” in Him and His word. Even though I was and am a believer I still chose to live life on my terms not His.
- Apart from Christ we can do nothing. Yet, I felt I was so-call “successful” by some
- The Vinedresser prunes worthless and fruitless aspects from His childrens’ lives, but only if we allow Him to. I didn’t allow.
- Our answered prayer is a direct result of our obedience to Christ and “abiding” in Him and His word. My playing the part was not living the part.
- Whatever we ask for, it shall be done. I asked for things I wanted rather than asking His will be done.
- G_d is glorified when we bear fruit. I yielded very little.
This pruning process Jesus describes means areas of my life having no eternal value must be cut out by sharp pruning shears in G_d’s hand. There’s no way around it. Period. Habits, attitudes, behaviors and thought patterns familiar to me needed to be disrupted, dismantled, disassociated and disconnected from my heart and mind. This was not going to be a quick peeling of a stubborn band-aid, but would instead take time and be an unpleasant healing and growth process (and still is).
Finally, one evening in desperation I mustered the courage to pray the toughest prayer a self-sufficient person can pray. I knelt and prayed, “Lord, do what you need to do to my to bring me into the center of your will.”
Shortly thereafter all hell broke loose.
Come back next week for Part 2 of this series.
Until then, well and be blessed,