“Jesus said to his disciples:
‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.’”
OK, we’ve looked at the what and why of pruning, but how does God do it? And how do we best respond? That’s what we’ll consider in the next several installments.
One way God prunes us is through events that force us to deal with things that impede what He wants from us. We see prime, if somewhat extraordinary, examples in the lives of Joseph and Moses. God expected a lot of both men, but both had pride issues. So God orchestrated events to deal with that. Joseph was forced to spend years in slavery. Genesis 37, 39, 40, and 41. Moses had to flee the power, prestige, and prosperity of Pharaoh’s household to spend 40 years in the desert. Exodus 2 and 3. Those were extraordinarily difficult experiences, but they prepared Joseph and Moses for extraordinary fruitfulness. We see similar patterns in the lives of David, Daniel, and Paul.
Most believers don’t go through such extreme events, but most go through some type of hardship that sets up their fruitfulness. I had to go through a career crisis before I turned my life over to God. I know many other fruitful believers that were brought into proper relationship with God through adversity.
We shouldn’t be surprised by that. Jesus told his disciples (in the same extended conversation that included John 15), “in this world you will have trouble.” John 16:33. His disciples repeatedly acknowledged that reality. Romans 5:3-5, Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:16-17, 2 Corinthians 7:8-11, Hebrews 12:2-13, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:3-7. See also Deuteronomy 8:2-5, Proverbs 3:11-12, Wisdom 3:5. As Sirach 2:1 put it, “when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for testing.”
The good news is that we come through that as more fruitful disciples. As Hebrews 12:11 explains, pruning “always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” See also Romans 8:18, Wisdom 3:5, Sirach 4:17-18, Sirach 6:18-31
So how do we get through those times of pruning? We’ll look at that in the next post in this series. In the meantime, meditate on the scriptures cited here.