Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
I pray that today’s message, which is inspired by this very familiar text, will be a source of great encouragement to you—perhaps in an unfamiliar way!
Most Christians are quite familiar with the concept of the vine and the branches. We understand that Jesus is the life-giving Vine and we are the branches, and we acknowledge the vital importance of staying connected to Him if we are to have any measure of success in living the life God has called us to live.
But it is also important to notice this foundational truth: to remain in Christ is to partake of Christ. Nowhere are we guaranteed that we will partake of the fruit! To be sure, the ox is not to be muzzled while threshing out the grain, thereby taking nourishment from the grain it has threshed (1 Corinthians 9:9), but often the Christian’s reward will be found in our relationship to Jesus Christ . . . not in our results for Him!
Branches are simply the conduits of Christ, bearing fruit to those whom we have been called by God to serve because of our abiding connection to Him. The branch exists for the benefit of others, not for its own benefit. My years in ministry have taught me that the greatest blessing in service to others is simply the service itself. Knowing that we are serving our Savior is the great reward, because we are constantly reminded that our Savior did not come to be served, but to serve others (Matthew 20:28). So when we are serving others, expecting no reward other than the joy of pleasing our Lord, we are most like Him.
It is all too easy to catch ourselves expecting a reward for ourselves in our ministry to others. Our service to God can become a means to an end rather than the end itself. You and I must always check our hearts to see what they are beating for at the time. Are we ministering in order to gain some benefit for self? Or are we truly pouring ourselves out because Christ emptied Himself for others (Philippians 2:7 NASB) and we genuinely want to follow in His steps?
So . . . what has your heart been beating for lately? Have you been living a life that is focused more on you? Or on Jesus? Make no mistake, God is in the business of giving good gifts to His people (James 1:17). But the key to living as our Lord lived is to keep our focus on God and not on any rewards we might hope to receive. The greatest gift is God, and the more we (as branches) stay connected to Him (the Vine), the more we will experience our richest reward: a joyful, vibrant, growing relationship with our Redeemer!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!