Friday, November 28, 2008



Most of us get a haircut, trim or styling rather frequently. Our hair grows because it is alive. Likewise things in the natural world grow according to God’s design. Nevertheless, cultivation is necessary if the gardener, farmer, or vine grower wants to assure bountiful produce. God instructed Adam to tend the Garden in which He placed Him. Part of cultivation is to clip and trim and prune shrubs, grapevines, and especially fruit trees by removing overgrowth and wild shoots.

Pruning gets rid of the unwanted extras, the undesirables. The little sprouts or new twigs the gardener removes are not inferior or bad—they are usually healthy and strong. But if he allows all the natural branches to develop just because they look good or he feels sorry to cut them off, he limits the strong main growth. The life of the tree or vine would be detoured into too many branches and inhibit fruit bearing. The gardener shows wisdom and skill as he says NO to certain shoots and YES to others.

Does it hurt the tree to be pruned? Not in the emotional sense of pain. Even elective tree surgery is beneficial to future production. The gardener does the tree a favor by his apparent rough treatment of cutting off its little branches. If the tree could speak, it might NOT say, "Thanks, I needed that!" when the sharp clippers nip off an apparently healthy branch. It might even yell "Ouch! What did I do to deserve that?"

Jesus illustrated the pruning process in John chapter 15 and applied it to our spiritual lives. He made the point that pruning was done to a flourishing, good vine, the already-fruit-bearing vine, not to punish a bad vine. Pruning is done to produce MORE fruit and then MUCH fruit.

He said that God, the Father, is the vinedresser, the Master Gardener. Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. He taught that abiding in Him, and He in us, was absolutely indispensable for fruit-bearing. At the same time, He must deal with our wild shoots. If they aren't pruned, we, like a vine in nature, become a tangled mess of unfruitful, unruly shoots.

What are these untamed shoots that must be pruned? They are different for each of us. Some people have many popping out all over—like I do. Some have fewer. They may be good things in themselves: good works, good ideas, good talents, even good ministries. But if we attempt all of them, allow them to remain and mature in their own natural way, they will make a jungle out of our lives and hinder our productivity for the Lord.

We don’t always know which branches should be eliminated and which we permit to develop. Only God knows. And if we don’t prune the unproductive shoots ourselves, He takes over and removes certain branches for us. Painful? Yes, often. Resisted? Probably. Not understood? Generally.

The Lord prunes our branches by closing doors to us, removing certain people from our lives, teaching us to say NO to some things which appear good, but are not God's best for us. As we open ourselves to His will and work in our lives, He provides us with wisdom and the gift of discernment to lay aside the unproductive. Sometimes he lays US aside for a time so we can get our priorities straight and concentrate on His mainline will without wild shoots.

It is less painful if we joyfully yield to God’s way and live the self-examined life instead of waiting for the Lord to do the pruning. Either way, in the end we will flourish and produce more pleasing fruit for His glory.


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