Producing Fruit & Finding Joy

Living a fruitful life is not an easy task. Especially when we live by the standards that the world sets and expects of us (i.e. money, fame, prestige, power, etc.). Yet, when we adopt this mindset, it is certainly not a long-lasting fulfillment, as evidenced by the words of NFL star Tom Brady in my previous post.

However, in light of this notion, Jesus promises us a very fruitful life if we just choose to follow Him and allow Him to lead us, even if it appears to not make sense by the world’s standards of living. It is something that I also need to be reminded of when I become discouraged by those around me that give in to the allure of the world on a frequent basis. Myself included.

One Sunday, I was grateful to hear pastor John Stange preach on this very topic at my home church of Core Creek. He focused on Jesus’ counsel to His disciples, shortly before He was arrested and taken away from them—also known in theology as “the farewell discourse.” Here is part of that message…

God’s Long-Term Goal for Your Life

John 15:1-4
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

Okay, so God’s long-term goal for our lives is to be fruitful. Got it. But what exactly does that mean exactly?

So if we are so deeply invested in Jesus, we will soon find ourselves becoming the bearers of “good fruit” to others, through not only through our words, but also our actions. Followers of Christ by name alone are not part of Him, but true followers live their lives reflective of Christ for all to see and take note of. In other words—live by example.

Of course, that concept it certainly easier said than done.

But we don’t have to rely on our own strength to achieve it. We can expect to be cared for by God as a result of striving for this, which will keep us on a path that is not only rewarding, but one that is truly full of joy and delight in serving Him. A lot of times when I feel frustrated and think how much easier it would be just to give in to this world, I pray to Him this very simple prayer—“Remind me of the joy in serving You.”

Becoming so focused on acquiring “earthly things” to bring us lasting happiness quickly develop into idols that we soon worship and strive for. Gaining resources from the world only brings short-term happiness, but it is fleeting. King Solomon spoke of this very thing in the book of Ecclesiastes. And that was a guy who had everything—wealth, power and wisdom. Yet all of it was “meaningless” as he put it, and pales in comparison to what God offers to us on a daily basis—for free!

5 Things to Look for in a Fruitful Life

So how do followers of Christ recognize when their lives are producing this “good fruit” that Jesus talks about? Stange outlines five common ways that the New Testament tells us how we can observe this…

  1. Christ-like character.
    (Mimicking the qualities of Christ that He showed to others.)
  2. A life characterized by good works reflective of God.
    (Serving others in God’s name.)
  3. A faithful witness.
    (Testifying to the power of Christ in our daily lives.)
  4. Lips that are eager to praise God.
    (Regularly giving thanks to His goodness.)
  5. Generous giving of one’s resources.
    (Sharing with others that which He has given us.)
The Pain of Pruning

Now here is the rather troubling part of the passage. The notion that every branch that does not bear fruit, God cuts away, or prunes. And if we live in Jesus, and Jesus lives in us, then we can surely expect to have parts of our own lives trimmed, cut away, or broken off. Yes, some of those things He takes away, that we have become so attached to over time, can be quite painful when removed. Or worse, leave us with a deep scar of what once was so deeply rooted in our lives.

John 15:1-4
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

This part of the passage always hits me so hard because I can speak from personal experience in this.

Over time, I’ve become quite afraid of when things actually go well in my life. Why? Well, to be honest, it’s because I wonder if it’s something God has truly given me or if it’s something He’s going to take away. So I’ve started to change my way of thinking and look at it like this—“Okay, something cool just entered into my life. Great! Now how can I use it to further His Kingdom and be fruitful in what God has given me here?” After all, God can give, but He can also take away just as quickly (Job 1:18-22).

None of it is ever truly ours. Everything is just on loan from Him. Including our very lives. Think about it. Who are we to decide when we enter and exit this world? A friend of mine once told me this—“You want proof that God exists? Take note of that air you’re breathing. It’s a miracle to even be alive each day, bro.”

So why wouldn’t we want God to help us live life to the fullest, in the ways that only He created it to be?

Abiding in Christ and You Will Be Fruitful

Abide means to “remain.” So we see Jesus continue below—conveying that He isn’t just focused on a good relationship later in eternity (Heaven), but rather He wants a strong relationship with us right now…

John 15:4-8
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

So here, we learn that abiding in Jesus (or remaining) is a continued daily relationship. And abiding in Him is generally characterized by obedience, trust and prayer. It’s why Christians always end their prayers with “…in Jesus’ name.” It comes from this passage—ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. But if we go through life calling the shots and ignoring His desire to guide us, then we’ll be very disappointed in how things turn out. We soon come to realize that the things identified by the world as “good things” are merely fleeting moments and not long-lasting.

Have you ever wondered why so many people are only happy when things are going well in their life, yet troubled when they are not? This is a great example of what Jesus is referring to here. When we live in Him, our joy is not determined by circumstances or situations or people. Every day can be a good day, because we know that all things work together for our own good (Romans 8:28).

The Secret to True Joy

The key here is in verse 11, when Jesus reveals the secret to a joyous life…

John 15:9-11
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

Abiding in Him will bring us the maximum joy. The instructions God puts forth on how we are to live our lives are not to bring us misery and pain. No! It’s actually quite the opposite. He wants us to live and experience all that He has blessed us with here on this Earth. Yet when we keep our own commandments instead of His, we will never, ever reach the maximum state of happiness that He intended for us to experience.

For example, I’ll borrow from what another friend refers to as the day’s common “hookup culture.” Sure, a guy or girl can sleep with all the people they want, yet after the moment the one night stand has passed, what’s left? Sentiments of brokenness? Regret? Anger? Disappointment? All of the above? What was once something intended by God to be deep and meaningful among two people committed to each other for life, has now become downplayed in its importance by the society that stresses that the more you have, the more joy it creates. And anyone who has ever been in that situation reading this blog today can certainly tell you that couldn’t be further from the truth. Same goes for money. Prestige. Power. Anything that pulls you away from abiding in Jesus. He is the only source of true, long-lasting contentment in our lives.

So next time you feel the pressures of the world pushing you in the opposite direction, reconsider Jesus’ words on how to achieve true joy. God is providing the answer right here, through His Son’s powerful concept—abide in Me, and I in you, and through it, you will experience true joy and set an example for others to be inspired by.

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