Friday, March 7, 2014

John 15:2--Part 5--How To Respond to Pruning Through Adversity

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.

So what does scripture tell us about how to respond to, fruitfully get through, the times God uses adversity to prune us?  It stresses at least four themes.

First, we must remember—while while we are in the midst of it—that there will be good results on the other side of it. The passages dealing with correction through difficulty repeatedly stress that the rewards will far exceed the interim pain. Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:16-17, Hebrews 12:2, 11, 1 Peter 1:6-7, Genesis 45:4-8, Genesis 50:19-21,Wisdom 3:5, Sirach 6:19, 28-31. St. Paul put it well: “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18. Scripture therefore instructs us to keep those rewards in mind as we go through the pain. Deuteronomy 8:6-10, Wisdom 3:5, Sirach 2:9, Sirach 6:19, Hebrews 12:2-3. As Sirach 2:9 puts it, “you that fear the Lord, look forward to his blessings[.]”

Second, we must not just seek to avoid/end the pain, but must realize that there is a lesson to be learned from it and work at learning it.  James 1:2-5 tells us to “think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing.” James is not alone in that view; it runs throughout scripture.  Romans 5:3-5, Hebrews 12:3, Hebrews 12:7, Hebrews 12:12-13, Sirach 2:10, Sirach 2:16. We are therefore instructed to persevere in the midst of adversity. Hebrews 12:2-3, Sirach 2:2-3, 7-13-14, Sirach 4:17-19, Sirach 6:19, and of particular import, we are told to actively look for the lesson God is giving us.  See Hebrews 12:7, Sirach 6:27, Sirach 6:32-33  (“if you apply yourself … and if you pay attention you will become wise.”).

Third, that requires us to control our emotions. God recognizes that our natural reactions are anger, fear, and doubt so He repeatedly tells us that we must work at suppressing them. Proverbs 3:11, 2 Corinthians 4:16, James 1:6-8, Sirach 2:2, Sirach 2:4, Sirach 2:12-14, Sirach 4:17-19.

Fourth, we must remember that God is doing this for our good and will help us through it. He is acting as a loving parent who is trying to get the most for his children. Deuteronomy 8:5, Proverbs 3:12, Hebrews 12:5-10, Revelation 3:19. He therefore tells us to come to him for instruction through prayer, James 1:5, through his word, Sirach 2:16, by looking at how He has acted in the past, Sirach 2:10, and by considering how Jesus dealt with adversity. Hebrews 12:2-3.

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