This week, I will see God’s pruning for what it really is.
God could let you coast, but you wouldn’t grow as strong as you might — and your ministry wouldn’t be what it could.
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
~ John 15:8-11
Try to grow a lime tree in the desert (as at least one foolhardy pastor has), and you’ll learn the value of pruning.
Jesus said, in John 15:1,2, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He 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.”
Who are the branches? We are, as Christ-followers. But what’s pruning? It’s cutting back a branch so that it will bear even more fruit, and better fruit, later on. The lime tree in question was in a pastor’s backyard in a hot, dry region of the country. The pastor thought the lime tree was doing so well; he was proud of it. Then one day he went out there and it was about four inches tall. His wife, the senior gardener of the family, had hacked that thing back to within an inch of its life. At first the pastor thought he had made his wife mad somehow, and she had taken it out on the poor lime tree! But no — it was just a skinny, flimsy little tree, and she wanted it to become a stout, strong tree. Pretty soon, sure enough, it started coming back strong. It went on to produce superb limes, instead of lame little goofball limes.
When God allows trials and tribulations to come into my life or ministry, he’s pruning me. He’s giving me a little pain now in order to grow my character so I can stand strong, no matter what, in the days to come. Who knows what challenge will befall my ministry a year from now … that I’m getting strong for now?
So — if I’m bearing fruit, I’m going to feel the pruning shears.
Fortunately, when Jesus talked about pruning, he added a reassuring little parenthesis, in John 15:3: “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” In other words, I’m not pruning you as punishment. Yeah, you’re going to have problems, and God is going to allow character-growing problems to come into your life. But don’t make the mistake of equating that with a loss of relationship with him. You’re clean; I made you clean; and that’s that. It’s not a make-the-dirty-clean thing; it’s a make-the-limes-fat thing.
Is my ministry hitting some snags? If there’s good fruit, maybe God is just working on better fruit.
My Prayer for the Next Seven Days… God, I don’t like the pruning. But keep pruning! I want my life and my ministry to produce the best possible fruit — to accomplish absolutely as much as possible for the sake of your Kingdom. Amen.