Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
It was a glorious spring morning. The warm sun shone down on the cottony-white layers of blossoms that covered the old apple orchard. The calm, still air was filled with the sound of buzzing as swarms of bees delighted themselves with the sweet nectar. They flitted from one branch to another, pollinating the flowers as they went and ensuring that in the fall, these same trees would be loaded with apples. Everyone and everything was totally at peace. Everyone and everything that is, except for the one unhappy apple branch . . .
"Why do I have to be attached to this tree?" he muttered to the buzzing bees. "I would fare much better if I was on my own! I could prove the world that you don't have to be attached to a tree to make it!"
And with this, he tried to shake itself off the tree, but it was to no avail.
"Can't anyone help me break free??" he cried in complete despair.
"Why would you want to be separated from your tree?" asked a neighboring branch. "You need its vitality and support to survive!"
"I need NOTHING!" shouted the branch. "My tree is restraining me. I feel like a prisoner. I want to be free and be able to do my own thing and prove myself to the world."
"You are not a prisoner," replied the other branch. "Your tree loves…"
"Stop with your nonsense!" interrupted the dissatisfied branch. "I know what is best for me! Can anyone help me break free from my tree?"
"I can!" boomed the thunder.
All of a sudden the sky was darkened by massive, menacing clouds. Lightning seemed to appear out from nowhere, striking the tree in question, breaking the rebellious branch from its mother trunk and sending it plummeting to the orchard floor.
"Oh thank you," said the branch. "You have made it possible for the world to be able to see what I can do!"
As the days went by, a new sound could be heard over the buzzing of the bees in the orchard: "I can do it. I can do it! I can make it on my own!"
However the branch's buds were turning gray.
"It's not MY fault!" reasoned the rebellious branch. "That other branch shouldn't have interfered with what I wanted to do!"
The other branches didn't pay any attention to him, however. They were too busy enjoying their snowy-white blossoms and all the attention they were receiving from the bees.
The independent branch soon began to see that he was the ONLY branch with wilting buds. Nothing he could do would make those flowers open. "Maybe if I had a drink!" he thought. But this thought just served to remind him of how desperately thirsty he had become. "Someone, please help me," he pleaded. "I need a drink!"
All of a sudden he heard footsteps. The gardener was coming! He would surely be able to provide him with some water! And he would most DEFINITELY compliment him for succeeding in becoming so independent!
But that's not what the gardener said at all. As the rebellious branch felt himself being picked up and transported out of the orchard, the only words he could hear from the gardener's mouth was: "Sure a pity!" He didn't fully understand these words, however, and he repeated over and over again: "See everyone? I knew I could make it on my own!"
Only too late he found out, to his horror, that his fate would be FAR from ideal: "No, no, no," he cried. "Not the fire! I didn't do anything wrong. I wanted to prove myself and live independently. No, no. Not the fire!"
But the smoke prevented him from seeing the tears in the gardener's eyes.
One day the Master Gardener pronounced these words: "Remain in me, and I will 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 a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5 NIV)
Why is it so hard for us to realize the importance of these words? Way too often we find ourselves vying for the driver's seat. We want to be in control! We know what we are doing! We want to prove ourselves to everyone. Only too late do we find ourselves in complete misery, realizing that we cannot do anything on our own.
We wonder why we aren't bearing any fruit. We read Gal 5:22-23: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." NIV and we conclude that we need to try harder. But the harder we try, the more we find ourselves utterly frustrated. We can't seem to be able to bear this kind of fruit. We may have some of them, but not all. The important ones are still missing.
"Why Lord?" we cry. "Why am I not bearing this fruit?"
The answer is simple: Apart from Jesus "we can do nothing!" John 15:4. "No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine." NIV
Way too often we try to remedy the symptoms instead of the problem itself.
"I will take a self-help course on producing 'joy' in my life," we decide. "Then I will learn the 102 steps to master 'peace' and then…"
No matter what kind of effort we put forth, our problem will remain. Symptoms can be treated, but healing can only be done if the problem itself is treated. Complete freedom is only possible by complete dependence on Jesus.
The "I want to be independent!" reasoning leads only to bondage and certain death. The only solution to all of our problems can be found solely in Jesus Christ. Without Him, we are driving ourselves straight to disaster. We may be able to be successful on our own for a short while, but we can't fool ourselves forever: We are not free! The price of our own success is steep! Is it worth it?
Who is in your driver's seat? Do you let Jesus be the driver in all that you do? Without Him no fruit will be forth coming!
Dear Lord, we want You to be in the driver’s seat. We pray today that we won’t try to do it on our own but let You lead us and give us the strength. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.