God calls us to worship Him in every season – both the pleasant and the painful - because while our circumstances shift and change, He does not. Our hope is rooted not in our situation or surroundings but in His steadfast nature.
Jesus is the unbreakable Vine in which we grow and thrive.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me” (John 15:5).
But how does this God Life flow through us in those seasons that deplete us, stay too long or never leave this side of heaven? How do we abide in and worship Jesus when it seems like the very situation we are in is ripping us from His hand?
1. Know your job.
In this agricultural metaphor, Jesus is quick to assign roles: He is the vine, the giver of life, our sole source of sustenance. We are the branches, the receivers of this life who are nourished, held and kept by Him.
Our job is to surrender our self-reliance for total God dependence, to consent to His loving care. No matter how hard we try, we cannot be both the vine and branch.
We are the branches He has chosen to be an extension of Him. The fruit that comes through us is not of us (Galatians 5:22). Our love and joy and peace and patience and every good thing only comes by staying connected to Him, relying on Him, resting in Him - even when the wind blows hard and the ground turns cold and our branches looks barren.
Are you in survival mode right now? Your job is actually not to produce spiritual fruit or feign vitality or insusceptibility to the harsh climates of this world. You don’t have to be put together or enjoy the season you’re in to bear His fruit.
The Holy Spirit will bear the fruit through you as a result of abiding in Him, not as a result of your striving to produce it or pretending that you're okay.
You just have to stay close to Jesus. Pour out your heart in prayer. Drink up His Word. He will do the rest.
2. Trust the plan.
Jesus promises that as we remain in Him, fruit will be brought forth irrespective of our circumstances. Yet, it is easy to look around and compare the details of our trials. Her load looks lighter. His problems smaller. Her provision greater. His prayer – already answered.
Comparing lots can either make us feel less loved or make us feel stupidly superior.
We must trust the unique and tailor-made plan God has designed for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11). Your plan does not look like my plan, because God purposely didn’t create us the same. Our past isn’t the same. Our current worries, desires and heart aches aren’t the same. Our gifts and strongholds aren’t the same.
There is beautiful variation in God’s vineyard. We each need to be tended differently by the same tender Hand to reach full maturity in Christ. A fruitful vine always points to a heart surrendered to the Savior.
Christ is not limited in any way by our past or our present. In fact, He uses it to sanctify our future. Remember, He is the One who causes all things – yes, even our failures and tragedies - to work for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
Winemakers will tell you that each step in the process plays a vital role in developing grapes with ideal characteristics for making wine. Each experience we have as a believer is critical to the perfecting process that Christ has underway in our lives.
Why? So that we will bear more spiritual fruit and give off the sweet aroma, taste and appearance of Jesus.
“But I am like a flourishing olive tree, anointed in the house of God. I trust in the unending love of God; His passion toward me is forever and ever” (Psalm 52:8).
God’s passion for you is tireless. You can’t wear Him out. Trust that like fine wine, your maturing process will be different than your neighbor’s. Trust that Jesus, the great Winemaker, will bring you, His masterpiece, into completion (Philippians 1:6).
3. Know the timing of your trial is providential.
How many times have you asked God, “why now?”
God allows trials and inconveniences as part of our development cycle, because there is no greater way that we will draw near to Him. But the timing of when He allows a trial can perplex and even anger us.
Yet, God’s timing is impeccable. While it might seem like the absolute worst time to us (is there really ever a good time in our minds?), Scripture repeatedly shows that God selects the exact time for a trial to occur. No detail is left unturned. Even the provision for the trial is fashioned around the timing of it.
That person who showed up … that doctor's appointment that opened up … that Bible verse that popped up … are all fingerprints of God's gracious hand setting the clock of life.
Like a meticulous Vinedresser, God carefully times when and where and how He allows us to be picked and pressed.
The night that Jesus asked His Father to remove the cup of crucifixion before Him, He prayed in a garden lined with olive trees called Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36). Jesus knew His time had come, so He went to the place that literally meant “olive press.” There, He prepared to be the offering for the forgiveness of our sins. His body, broken for you. His blood, poured out for you.
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies” (II Corinthians 4:8-10).
It is not an accident that Jesus died at 3 pm, when the first Passover lambs were traditionally slain. It is not coincidence that Jesus’ resurrection coincided with the Feast of the First Fruits, when Israelites sacrificed the first parts of their harvest to God. Through His resurrection, Jesus became the first fruits of those raised from the dead, our hope and promise of eternal life.
God’s timing is providential for the ages and for today. The timing of your trial is on purpose, so that the power of Jesus can been seen through you for such a time as this.
4. View trials as a pathway to purity
Some seasons bring struggle and make becoming like Jesus seem nearly impossible. They bring to the surface the very ways we are not like Him – the dross of our strife, doubt, impatience, frustration, discontent, and worry, to name a few.
But these trials can actually be a pathway to our purity.
In ancient Hebrew, the definition of holy is “what follows the threshing.” The threshing floor is where farmers would separate the chaff from the grain, the useless husks from the good corn or wheat.
Holiness is about God setting you apart for Himself and sanctifying you to become like Him. Trials are the wind God uses to separate our chaff from our grain, our flesh from our spirt, to make us holy. Trials are our threshing floor.
“That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
5. Look forward to the end result
God as our sovereign Creator can choose the means for the end. He knows exactly how to grow and refine us to achieve the perfect result.
“Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
God's goal, in love and mercy and kindness, is that we would be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. This is not how I feel most days, and certainly not in the midst of a trial. But when I think back to past hardships, I can clearly see the maturing effect they have had in my life: a deeper trust in Jesus, empathy for others, and a treasured testimony of His faithfulness.
“For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Trials teach us to glance at life but gaze at God.
When we grow weary with our Winemaker for pruning and picking and pressing us, we must turn our hearts to the blessed assurance of knowing that the end result is a holy harvest.
“Those who sow their tears as seeds will reap a harvest with joyful shouts of glee” (Psalm 126:5).
The good news is that once saved and in Christ, your climate cannot affect your ultimate outcome. Your climate – how you were raised, the sins of your past, your disabilities and disease – cannot affect your reality to one day be restored to the full measure of Christ.
God is not finished with you yet! He will perfect you. While this process is progressive, it is also divinely led.
"This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:5).
Give yourself grace on the days where you act more like vinegar than a fine vintage wine. When you grow discouraged during trials – keep pressing into Jesus in the midst of your pressing. He will bring forth the fruits of His Spirit in you as you abide in Him.
Worship the Winemaker!