Read: Genesis 41:46-52; John 15:4-5
This week, we read that Jonathan Lotz had contracted the virus and was in the ICU. His mother, Anne Graham Lotz was asking people to pray for her son's healing. As of the time that this devotion is being written, Jonathan Lotz has improved and is out of Intensive Care. Thank You Lord. In that same article, it was mentioned that Jonathan was witnessing to the doctors and nurses. It was noted that, like Joseph, he was experiencing fruitfulness from God in a place of affliction, Genesis 41:52. I love it when the Lord shows us sweet fruit that pops out at the same time that we are experiencing suffering. But wait. The fruit that God is producing in our lives is not always as obvious as it was in Jonathan Lotz's life, and maybe there's a bit more to Joseph's story to remind us that it didn't always seem that way for him either. Let's use an every-day example to display this truth.
In late winter, or perhaps it was very early in the spring, we asked a tree trimmer to come and trim the fruit trees. His aim is to not only shape them but also to work on them bit by bit so we won't need to climb on a ladder to harvest the fruit. He told my husband at that time that the way he pruned the peach tree would result in no fruit this year. Nevertheless, guess what I have done on more than one occasion? That's right. I spent time searching the branches because I'm longing for fresh tree-ripened peaches. Alas, there were none. Why? There's nothing wrong with the tree. The simple truth is that the one who knows the plan for pruning did his work with purpose, and that meant that this year, there would be no fruit.
When we meet Joseph in Genesis 41:46-52, he is no longer a young man in a pit crying for mercy while his brothers were eating a meal. He's no longer a servant who is blessing his master's household with his hard work only to be accused falsely of rape. He is no longer a prisoner in a dungeon, who in spite of his faithfulness to God, was forgotten for two years, Genesis 41:1. No, when we see Joseph in the latter verses of Genesis 41, we see him elevated and honored. The sweet fruit that God has produced in his life is in view for everyone to see and enjoy. Why the years of apparent barrenness? I would never want to hazard a guess concerning all that God was up to during those years; however, one truth is certain. The Lord, Who is at work in the lives of His children, had a plan for Joseph's life that He would bring about, Psalm 138:8. The fruit that God was producing was not the kind that might have been apparent to anyone who looked in from the outside. Perhaps Joseph looked for it in the difficult circumstances he faced like I searched for tiny peaches among the leaves.
Back to Jonathan Lotz and the beautiful way the Lord worked. It is so wonderful that he was able to pray with a nurse at 3:00 in the morning, and she rededicated her life to Jesus. However, what about the times when someone looks for an open door to share the Lord, desiring it as I longed for juice-laden fruit on the tree? No doubt, that might be the experience of someone even today. He loves Jesus and finds himself in an ICU. Perhaps he longs to tell those who are caring for him with such skill, about the Savior he loves; yet, for reasons unknown to him, that door never opens, Revelation 3:7-8. Is something wrong with him? It might be that like our peach tree, the Master Gardener has set it up so that right now isn't the time for the kind of fruitfulness that Jonathan Lotz experienced.
Surely, Joseph's years prior to his elevation must have been difficult for him to understand. Not as fruitful as he would have liked; yet, the manner in which he conducted his life demonstrated that he remained close to God. A bit more on that subject later; but for now, let's look into the New Testament for a bit, to be reminded of God's primary way of producing fruit in our lives. John 15:1-8 reminds us that we are Jesus' branches. What a picture of our need of strength and sustenance and how we should rely and cling to Jesus in order to receive it. Jesus is our Vine, and the Father, Who is Gardener, oversees the branches. Our response? As we learn to rely and rest in Him more and more, we will grow to love Him and know Him more, resulting in doing what He says. The Bible uses the word abide to picture this intimate closeness. We stay close to Him when we deal with sin promptly, 1 John 1:9 and allow His word to fill our lives, Colossians 3:16. When we live relying on Jesus as the branch relies on the vine, we will bear much fruit, John 15:5. It might look like Jonathan Lotz's sharing Jesus or it might look like a mom patiently bearing with a child's messiness. It might be praying with another believer who needs encouragement or overlooking an offense because we know what Jesus has done for us, Proverbs 19:11; Ephesians 4:32. Or, perhaps the sweet fruit the Lord produces will be lips that honor Him, even during times that seem so unfruitful, Hebrews 13:15.
Joseph bore much fruit in the years prior to his elevation. He was a faithful servant, and his love for God resulted in his display of self-control when Potiphar's wife wanted to seduce him. Through those long years of testing, Joseph was abiding with the Lord. We see another example of this when he was in prison. He showed care for the cup bearer and the baker. Life wasn't all about him, in spite of the wrongs he had suffered. Joseph noticed that these two fellow prisoners looked sad one day, Genesis 40:7. When Joseph offered to help these two men, he was careful to glorify God. He did not take credit when he used the gift he had received from God; instead, he honored the Giver of the gift, Genesis 40:8. These are examples of beautiful fruit that often goes unnoticed, but it isn't hidden from God's eyes, Matthew 6:4.
Lord, teach us how to abide in You each day. As we do, we will bear much fruit, John 15:16. Thank You that it is You Who give us a longing for fruitfulness. Thank You for the sweet fruit that You produce in Jonathan Lotz's life and in the lives of each of us who belong to You.