“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, NIV)
One of the few parables that Jesus overtly explains is the story of the four soils. As we sow seeds, some fall on the path and are eaten by birds; these are the truths that we hear and the devil takes away. The seeds that fall on the rock are truths that sprout, but wither in hard times because they have no root to sustain them. The seeds that grow up with the thorns are eventually choked out; these represent the cares and the emails and the current events that distract us from God. But the seeds that fall onto good soil yield good fruit in abundancethis is the soil that pleases God.
God wants us to grow in our faith, like trees planted in good soil. Trees are mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible. Wherever theres a tree, a branch, a bush, a vine, or a stick on the page, its a safe bet that God is at work. At the center of the Garden of Eden are two of the most important trees: the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge. God speaks to Moses through a burning bush. Moses holds up a branch to part the Red Sea. Abraham meets the angels under the oaks of Mamre. Deborah holds court under a palm tree. Nathaniel prays beneath the trees when Jesus calls him to be a disciple.
All of these scriptural references to trees, branches, and vines call us to bear fruit in our lives. Jesus describes the fruit of the Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When our actions are filled with the fruit of the Spirit, we are in a right relationship with God, our neighbors, and His creation. Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. Apart from Him, we cannot become better stewards of creation, but with Him all things are possible.
For more of Dr. Sleeth’s reflections, see the Blessed Earth Hope for Creation Films and Guidebooks (Zondervan 2010).