While I am writing this, it is raining in our area! We praise God, because without rain, plants will not grow. We can do all the weeding we want, but plants need water. It is good for us to water our plants, but no one waters them like a good rain shower. Another important mode of gardening in the Spring is pruning.
What is pruning?
Pruning is when you selectively remove branches from a plant. The goal is to remove unwanted branches, improve the plant’s structure, and direct new, healthy growth.
Why is pruning necessary?
John 15 describes Jesus as the true vine, and God the Father as the gardener. Those who ‘abide’ in Christ are the branches (true Christians). Two very important things are mentioned in verse two. First, those branches that are dead are removed! I pray that this is not you. Second, those branches that are alive are pruned so that they will bear more fruit. When watered, a plant produces many new shoots ... sometimes too many. So, the gardener cuts off a few of the good shoots to shape the plant, and to ensure that the shoots remaining produce well. Removing dead or sickly branches ensures that the nutrients brought up from the roots go fully to producing fruit on the healthy branches, rather than getting used up by the unhealthy or extra branches.
In the Christian life, God wants us to be focussed on producing fruit (see Galatians 5:22-23), using the gifts of the Spirit that He has given us. Therefore, He prunes us, removing a little bit here and there in order to help us produce better and more. Sometimes what He removes, we understand as bad or extra, but other times we wonder why He removes it, thinking there is nothing wrong with that ‘branch.’ We must remember that God is the perfect gardener, and He knows best what we need to produce as He intends. “A wise vinedresser doesn’t let his fruit grow wildly on its own. In order to produce the best fruit, he must follow the established rules of pruning by cutting away dead or overgrown branches to encourage growth.” (Dave Furman, TGC) Writer Paul Tautges gives five reasons for the pruning: (1) that we bear more fruit, (2) that we become more dependant on Him, (3) to assure us of our salvation, (4) to better answer more of our prayers, (5) so that we can better glorify Him.
When is pruning necessary?
With plants, we are told Spring is the time to do most of your pruning, but the question is, which part of spring? Plants that flower on new wood can be pruned in early spring, just as the new growth begins. This leaves them plenty of time to recover from pruning and still create flower buds that will bloom that season. Leviticus 25 describes pruning as a regular process ... for six years. It is then that the land and the plants are to be given a break, a Sabbath rest. “(v1-4) The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard.”
The pruning that happens in the Christian’s life, is a regular process of removing things that we did not know needed to be removed, for the betterment of our spiritual growth. Dave Furman of TGC says, “Pruning often happens during our trials because suffering is a prime time for the revelation of the idols in our hearts. We can’t really grow spiritually and turn away from our idolatry if we can’t identify our own idols.”
What if the pruning is painful?
Very often, the process of pruning is painful, but when it is done in Spring, then the plant can recover and become stronger. James (1:2-4) explains why we should be glad for the pain. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Just like with working out and exercise, pain is meant to make us stronger and more beautiful. Paul explains to the Roman believers that this process is meant to make us more like Christ, in the image of the one to whom we are grafted. (Romans 8:28-30) “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” The pruning of our lives, though painful, brings about better character and more glory for the one who continues to abide. Paul Tautges explains, “When God chastens believers, He trains us in righteousness—and He does so motivated by love and familial commitment (Hebrews 12:6). Sometimes this includes enduring painful consequences of our sinful words and deeds; which He ultimately has wisdom to discern. However, He only does this for those who truly belong to Him (false believers are not disciplined because they are illegitimate children).” God does not punish His children, He prunes and trains them.
God is doing a work of pruning in your life. You need to learn to do two things. First, is to recognize the pain as pruning ... a good thing! Second, is to learn what it is God is pruning from your life, and why. Let us be good branches, bearing much fruit for the glory of God!