21 Feb Pruned By The Gardener
Have you ever had moments wondering what is God doing in your life? Why are you facing some hurdles? Why are some problems not getting resolved for so long? Why are some weaknesses so burdensome? Why are you undergoing the harder path than other people?
I used to think that a lot because I felt the pain and sufferings in my flesh, my feelings and my thoughts. I was struggling and I wanted relief, but when the relief seems far away and the issues persist, you cannot help but wonder what is God’s part in all these? Why would He subject me, His child, to all the stress and long-sufferings in life?
The Gardener Prunes
The answer can be found in John 15:1-2, where Jesus said, “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.” The vine is Jesus, the gardener is God and the branch is us. When you are a child of God, no matter how big or small your fruits are, God values every one of them and to make you grow in faith, He prunes you. He needs to keep cutting away “diseased, damaged, dead, non-productive, structurally unsound, or otherwise unwanted tissues” in the “branches or stems” in your life, to encourage growth. And that could come in the form of some refining moments where we wrestle with our problems or weaknesses and in the process, gain new and deeper understandings of our nature and God’s works. The way God works in each of us is creatively different and subjective. But the heart of it all is the same, He loves you, He prunes you, lest you be entangled by more accumulation of temptations and worries that drag you away from having an eternal mindset set on things above as a child of God should.
The Vine Provides
But now that we know God prunes our lives by purging some dead or unwanted desires, habits and old self, how do we lead a life that “bears fruits”? Sometimes when we look at our current state, conditions and even past shame, bearing fruits for the Lord seemed like the last possible thing we can do. But John 15:5-7 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Now vines are the source and sustenance of life for the branches. Without it, like the verse says, the branches will wither and be thrown away into, eventually, the eternal flame of Hell. However, when we remain and abide by the way and leading of the Vine, Jesus, taking in all spiritual nourishment from it, we will be more and more one-hearted and in sync with God’s concerns. Thus, what we ask for, God will bring to fruition. Now I am a person that likes to avoid conflict or difficult situations. And there has been a time during my shepherding that I have neglected certain issues of people because I did not know how to handle it and I chose not to address it. But it was a lot of my own selfish reasons and my own fears that later on, led me to feel accused and disheartened for not ministering to someone in a better way. And that better way, was to first “remain in the Vine”. The first thing when we are faced with a struggle or inability, isn’t to think of our own way to settle things, or self-motivate or find someone to rant about it to or squirm out of it. It is to go back to the Vine for source of the right perspective and conviction to take the next step. Now of course, I was pruned through this painful process of feeling like I shortchanged the person that God prepared for me to shepherd, but at the same time, Jesus is urging me, and all of us here, to not dwell in discouragements, lamentations or fatigue but to remain in Him, His word and how He guides our Holy Spirit to do the next blessed thing. Whether it is to restore a more prayerful life, to take practical steps to show someone love, or to change our way of not looking at our issues per se, but testing and affirming God’s point of allowing some struggles.
The Branches Grow
Now once we see the importance of leading a life that remains in the Vine and we intentionally want to abide in Him, it is not going to be easy. We may desire to bear fruits from our faith living, but there may be fruitless seasons or fruits so small that you can barely see. Like a stagnant cell group, a difficult person to minister, showing our bad side to people again, still having unbelieving family members or recurring weaknesses, but we must remember that that is not the end of it. God sees the heart of those who wrestle with their flesh and circumstances to ultimately desire God’s leading for them. Those discomfort we feel in us through these struggles are the signs of pruning in progress and as long as we continue to remain in the Vine, even after each fall, God will help us bear fruits in His time.
Brothers and sisters, again, it is not the size of the fruits we bear or the duration of our harvest, but the heart that desires to draw close to Jesus and His way. As John 15:9-11 says, ““As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept 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.” May we all experience the more complete joy this 2021 to keep remaining in our source and sustenance of life, Jesus, as we journey through any rough waters or valleys. God bless.