July 27, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Isaiah 5:4 (NIV)
What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?
Centuries ago, as God looked upon his people, he saw that they had not produced the fruit of good lives. They were a vineyard that produced bad grapes. As God looks upon your life today, what does God see? Are you producing fruit that honors God?
In Isaiah 5, the people of Israel are portrayed as God’s vineyard, with God as the owner and tender of the vineyard. Even though God invested great effort, lovingly caring for his vineyard, it did not produce the fruit for which he had labored. Israel had failed to live rightly with God, turning from God to worship idols and to wallow in sin.
We who belong to God through Christ are also God’s vineyard, in which each individual Christian is a branch on the vine of Jesus (see John 15:1-8). Jesus shows us that we are to bear much fruit. Indeed, this is the sign of true discipleship.
And it is also a sign of true humanity. If we go all the way back to Genesis 1, we see that human beings are created in the image of God who has been at work making heaven and earth. The very first thing God tells the human beings to do is: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). We are to bear fruit in various ways: by making more human beings and raising them well, by taking the stuff of the world and making more useful stuff, by taking good care of God’s creation, by filling the world with beauty, by creating just institutions, and so on.
I wonder if God looks upon us today and asks, as in Isaiah 5, “When I expected good grapes, why did my vineyard give me bad grapes?” When the church is snared by selfishness, relativism, rationalization, and schism, are these not bitter grapes? When the lay people of God are not empowered and deployed into daily ministry, does this not shrink God’s rightful harvest? When we fail to steward well the creation God has entrusted to us, are we not failing in our fundamental fruitfulness?
Positively, if we use well all the gifts God has entrusted to us, if we are productive in our daily work, if we live each day as an active disciple of Jesus, if we contribute both to the health of the church and to the common good, God will delight in the grapes that grow on our vine. And, according to Jesus, God will be glorified through us and our joy will be full (John 15:8, 11).
Sometimes people in the third third of life – people like yours truly – believe that our season of fruitfulness has passed. We’re no longer bearing and raising children. We may be retired or see retirement on the horizon. We’re less involved in church than we once were, in part because our church doesn’t seem to want our leadership anymore. We’re not sure what to do with our lives, and our culture doesn’t give us much encouragement. In my work with the De Pree Center’s Third Third Initiative, I regularly point to the promise of Psalm 92, which reads, “The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar of Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap” (92:12-14). So, no matter what season of life you find yourself in, you can live fruitfully, making a difference that matters for God. (You can learn more about our Third Third Initiative here.)
As God looks upon his vineyard today, what might he say?
Are you a fruit-bearing branch of Jesus, the vine? If so, why? If not, why not?
What is the fruit for God in your life? In what ways does your daily work bear fruit for God?
Set aside some time to reflect on how your life, including your “ordinary” work, bears fruit that glorifies God.
Gracious God, as you did for Israel so many centuries ago, so you have done for your people today. You have tended us with love and care, giving us more than we need for fruitful living. Yet at times our fruit is not what you expect. We also produce bitter grapes . . . or no grapes at all. Forgive us, Lord.
Help me, Lord, to be so deeply connected to you that I live fruitfully. May my life bring you honor as I extend your kingdom into my world, whether in my workplace, my neighborhood, my family, my city, or my church.
Today, I pray for your church in this world, that we might be abundantly fruitful for you. Thank you for places across the globe where your church is flourishing. Help those of us who are in hurting churches. May we return again to Jesus, abiding in him, his truth, and his love, so we might produce a generous harvest. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: I Am the Vine and You Are the Branches (John 15)
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.