Saturday, May 23, 2009

God's Gentle Hand Prunes to Produce More Fruit

On the previous post, I wrote about abiding in Jesus and the fruit that results when we do so, in Him alone; fruit that is beautiful and nurturing and vitalizing. It is the fruit of the character of Christ in us.

In addition to the importance of abiding in Jesus, John 15:1-5 also talks about God's pruning purpose in our lives, in regards to fruit bearing. John 15:2 says, " ... every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit" (NASB).

Every branch that bears fruit, God prunes that it may bear fruit? I wish that more fertilizer and watering would produce more fruit, not something painful like pruning. But that is not what Jesus says. He says that in order for there to be more fruit, pruning must occur.

Unfortunately, and don't we all know it in some sense or another, pruning hurts. It hurts, but it helps. We do not enjoy it, but it is necessary. It is essential if we are to be more like Christ.

In the physical world of vines and fruit trees, it is the gardener's job to prune the branches in order to bear more fruit. The gardener is trained to know how to best prune. In our case, God already knows, because He knows everything so we can trust Him. He knows where to cut, how to cut, what angle to cut at, and when to cut. I am thankful that God can not make mistakes when He prunes.

He prunes off the things in our lives that are not good for us -- our sin. He prunes away (to note only a few) our anger, bitterness, love of self praise and selfishness. He cuts away that which is not good or necessary so that the strength of Jesus may be put in to full force to produce more fruit in our lives. And, as the verse says, he often cuts away fruit that we are already producing. Has this ever happened to you? You were serving the Lord, doing what you thought He had called you to do. You had prayed. Perhaps circumstances seeming from the Lord had led you in a direction of a certain project or ministry for Him, and -- poof! -- it was cut off. It can be hard to understand, and great amount of sorrow can be experienced as you see that fruitful portion of the branch lying on the ground. It can seem as if we are left bare and with out much of anything at all, but we can trust that no cut is too sharp or too many, if it helps us to be more like Jesus.

But we can have hope that God does have a purpose. Romans 8:28-29 reminds us that "...we know in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to
His purpose ... to be conformed to the likeness of His Son." God prunes us for His glory, for the good of others, and as a result, for our benefit as we are made to reflect the beautiful character of Jesus more and more.

He uses His Word, the Bible, to help prune us. God's Word convicts us with the truth and changes our thinking. In addition, God uses circumstances in our lives to prune us. It can be scary when we know the pruning Hand of the Father is up on us in our times of suffering, and yet it is a gentle and loving Hand.

God increases the holiness of His children by the circumstances that he places them in. He uses the circumstance as an instrument to make us more fruitful, helping us to draw closer to Jesus, His Word, the Bible, and prayer. He uses it to help us to not love the world so much, but love Jesus more. Our hearts become humbled and become more sensitive to the Word of God which comes in and transforms our lives.

Dear reader, I do not always (okay, ever) enjoy the pruning process, as I am sure you do not, as well. It is painful, sometimes, horribly painful; and yet, as I walk through these current times of pruning, I can sense the beginning of new growth. And I can trust God's Word that this new growth will eventually lead to more fruit; more fruit to benefit others and to glorify Him. And so I will choose to continue to trust His all-knowing and tender hand as He trims and shapes my life to be more like Jesus.

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