I heard someone share recently that she was reading John 15 about abiding in Christ (John 15:1-8). She had become worried when she read the part of branches not producing and being cut off (verses 2 and 6). She is being called into a season of rest and recalibration right now (as many of us are). She was worried about not producing in rest, and thus being cut off.
While I understood her concern – a common concern that many of us are probably asking – I reminded her to go back to the part about abiding. If we are truly abiding in Christ, we are where we need to be in any season.
John 15 reminds us that we ourselves are not producing (verse 4). Rather, it is the Holy Spirit who is producing in us.
Sometimes we may see this visibly. It may be a season where we are discipling or serving, and we can see the fruit. In other seasons, the fruit may be less visible – but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. We have to discern by the Spirit and not with our human eyes.
If we are genuinely abiding in Christ, we can trust that God is producing His fruit in us, no matter what season we are in.
Jesus often taught using examples that His first disciples were used to seeing in daily life. In John 15, He gives an example from nature – vines and branches. It might help us also to watch God at work in nature.
Fields lie fallow for a season. During that time, it looks like nothing is growing. What we don’t see is God at work, replenishing the soil. Trees are barren in winter. The landscape looks bleak. What we don’t see is God feeding nutrients and energy into the roots deep underground, which leads to those blossoms and baby green leaves we love in spring.
Or think about how God works in us physically. Have you ever had a deep cut, or a bad cold, and you wonder how you will ever feel better? Time goes by, and you become well – as if you’d never been hurt or sick in the first place. What you don’t see during that time is God working inside the cells of your body, setting the healing process in motion.
In the same way, it is God who produces His spiritual fruit in us. We don’t “make” the fruit happen. He does.
Sometimes we can see the process. More often, we don’t see it. We have to discern it. Sometimes we can’t even discern it. We just have to know that we are abiding and trust that He is working in us, especially in seasons of rest.
It helps to remember the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). If we are truly abiding in Christ, we can count on the Holy Spirit to be producing these fruits in us. And people will “feel” them coming from us, even if they can’t point to a specific “action.”
Have you ever known someone who brings peace into a room, simply by walking through the door? That is a fruit of the Spirit being produced in that person – even if that individual is in a season of rest.
Have you ever known someone who brings joy to your heart, even on difficult days, even without smiling or laughing? That’s because the fruit of joy is being produced in that person – and it speaks deeply to your spirit, even if that person is weeping with you in a time of grieving. Even as your heart grieves, your spirit is reminded that a time of joy will come again for you, like the promise of Isaiah 55:10-13.
The body of Christ needs to learn how to abide. As a church, we don’t teach or practice it as well as we need to. We often miss our season of rest and replenishing. This is one area where that warning verse (verse 6) really comes in. So often, we get this backwards.
We also need to get away from a “works” mentality and learn to discern the genuine fruits of the Spirit. If we are truly abiding in Christ, God will grow the right fruit in the right season.
This is what James 2:14-26 means by evidence of faith. This passage is often misinterpreted through a modern cultural lens of “work mentality.”
Remember that the fruits of the Spirit are produced by God, not by our own efforts. If we are truly abiding, His works will come through us in the right season. And the fruits of the Spirit in us are tangible evidence of our faith.
However, if we aren’t abiding in Christ, our works will bear the stamp of our own wounded, striving, and burned out flesh. Nobody needs to drink from that bitter fountain (James 3:11; John 7:37-39).
Today I encourage all of us to spend time meditating on John 15, asking God to help us discern the genuine fruits of the Spirit in every season, and most importantly, to help us learn to abide in Christ in every moment of life.
John 15: Jesus said, “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 bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:1-8 NKJV)