What is our world in desperate need of? Fruit! Yes, spiritual fruit that flows from the heart of a follower of Christ. We had a chance to spend several days with a high school team from the US talking about John 15, Jesus’ illustration of the Vine and the Branches.
You can imagine Jesus and his motley crew of disciples passing by a local vineyard and Jesus taking them on a detour in order to emphasize the patterns in creation and present a tangible visualization of the essence of true discipleship.
So towards the end of Oceans’ Kingdom Encounter a drive to the oldest vineyard in South Africa dating back to 1685 called Groot Constantia was a must. We challenged the students to spend time walking through this beautiful historic place meditating on John 15 and listening to what the Spirit may be saying to each one of them.
It was a profound time for the students and we pray the visual of the vineyard and the text will forever be etched in their mind. For us leaders it had an incredible in pact as well and we hope to share some of what we encountered in the next few blogs.
As I was walking through the rows of the vines one of the thoughts which grabbed me was how dead the vine and branches looked. Here in the Southern Hemisphere it’s winter and and the vines have gone dormant. I have to be honest I enjoyed strolling through the vineyard during the summer season when the branches were bending under the weight of clusters of ripe red grapes.
But winter is a vital season for the vine as it is nourished by the winter rains and rests from a season of heavy production. It is also a busy season for the Gardner as Jesus points out in John 15:1,2, “He 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 fruit.” In many ways the winter season is just a busy for the Gardner as the harvest time.
As I slowly strolled along I thought about how important spiritual winters are for followers of Christ. Yes, it seems dead and dormant and doesn’t look pleasing to the eye, but it is vital for our spiritual growth. The Bible and history gives us plenty of examples of Christ followers who experienced spiritual winters. It can be painful, dark and extremely lonely as the spiritual winter blows in and overtakes the soul.
Yet, these times are when our faith can be strengthened as we are called to trust the loving hand of the Gardner to faithfully care for our fragile branches. As I looked over the expansive vineyard that has been around for over 300 years it testifies to the faithful change of seasons where spring breaks forth and leads to budding new branches which will in time bring forth an abundant harvest.
Maybe you are in the midst of a winter season, it can be tough and unpleasant, but as you wait keep your focus on your Father, the Gardner. Trust that He knows what He is doing and is preparing you for an abundant harvest that will bless many and bring the Father Glory.
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines…yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength…” Habakkuk 3:17-19