(All scripture references from the NIV)
When someone decides they want to plant a vineyard there are some necessary steps to take. First they need to determine what kind of grapes they want to grow – based on how they want to use the grapes (i.e. raisins, jelly, juice or wine.) Then they decide on the location for the vineyard, this is critical. They must have good soil conditions – this is the foundation for success. There needs to be appropriate drainage and sufficient sunlight so that the grapes will ripen properly. Then of course are the obvious steps to buy the plants, get them in the ground then hope that nature will take its course and the plants will take root and begin to grow. (This of course is a very simplified version.) After the gardener does the initial work he will carefully tend to the vineyard by watering, fertilizing and pruning in order to have the best crop harvest possible.
It can take up to three years for the plants to starting producing usable fruit. This is not unlike us when we first become a Christian. It takes time for us to mature and grow to the point that we can produce good fruit – of course, it is faster for some than others. But the actual time can depend on outside factors as well as how well the vineyard is tended by the gardener.
When I was reading some information about this topic I learned that pruning is critical to keep the plant growth healthy. The first year pruning is done to help develop a strong root system and a straight trunk. In the second year the best shoots are kept and the others are pruned off. This is necessary so that the grapes that are left on the vine get the necessary air circulation and sunlight and will grow as intended. This is a picture of what the Word tells us about this topic – God the Father is the Gardner, Jesus is the Vine and we are the fruit of that Vine.
Jesus speaking in John 15:1-8 says: “’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. 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.’”
A conscientious gardener/vinedresser is going to be very careful with his vineyard and when needed will be very precise about how he does the pruning. As Christians, God is “our personal vinedresser” and therefore will watch carefully for signs that we need pruning in our lives. He knows what He is doing and although the “pruning” can be painful at times we have to trust Him. He wants the best for us and sometimes lessons we need to learn cannot be taught as gently as we would prefer. Some of us can be very difficult and stubborn and do not learn our lessons easily. (I can speak of this from experience!)
I also found out that unlike many other types of fruit, grapes will not continue to ripen and become sweeter after they are picked, they must be left on the vine until they reach the proper level of ripeness. So if for some reason we remove ourselves from our Vine we will not be what we should be – we will be “unripened.” We need to stay where we are planted so that the Gardner can use us as He has planned.
In my walk with the Lord, I not only want to bear much fruit as a result of being grafted into the Vine, I want to be so fruitful that I will be like the grapes that the twelve men found that were sent into the promised land by Moses to spy out the land. “When they reached the valley of Eshcol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them…” (Isaiah 13:23a) A cluster of grapes SO healthy, SO large that it took two men to carry it! That is the kind of vineyard results I would expect to see as a result of the Master Gardner and the primo Vine of the world.
I do not believe that God promised us a rose garden, but I do believe He promised us a healthy vineyard.
Written by Karran Martin – February 15, 2019