I am not a gardener and honestly have no desire to be. But yet I live on a farm where we grow crops and have a small apple orchard. Apple pie is one of my favorite things to eat, but something I can not make! My kids love applesauce, but making it isn't really a hobby of mine! So the other day when I was looking at our trees and saw an abundance of apples I honestly wasn't too excited about all the work I knew the apples would bring.
In that moment, God brought to mind John 15:1-4, "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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me."
Two weeks ago, I read this verse at the close of our ReNEWed Life Women's Event and God has been using it to speak to me about pruning. Our speaker that day, Wendy Blight, had talked about God's Word being living, active and sharper than a double edge sword. As I thought about this and spent time in prayer, God had me focusing on the fact that it is sharp and can cut...He uses it to prune.
So that day as I looked at all of our apples on the tree and the ground, I found myself thinking, "I'm glad we didn't prune these trees. Then I'd have even more work to do!" As that thought left my mind, God said to me, "Jill, sometimes you feel the same about the pruning work I try to do in your life."
That struck me and got me thinking. Initially I thought about why we hadn't pruned our apple trees and three reasons came to mind - time, work and the know-how. Life on the farm is busy and we had not made the time to care for the trees. Pruning takes work and effort, you have to get the equipment, do the work and clean up the mess. Before we can even do the work, we have to know how to do it. And then God reminded me of a 4th reason...pruning would lead to more fruit which meant more work and I'd chosen to avoid that.
God clearly showed me I uses the same excuses in my own life. Sometimes I'm not still long enough for God to work...I don't take the time. I also don't do the work of building my faith and fighting my flesh at times. There are also moments when I don't know how to cut off what needs to be trimmed away. But He showed me at times my biggest reason I avoid pruning is because of fear of what it might bring. That reason alone convicted me to dig a bit deeper into the idea of pruning.
So what does it mean to prune? According to some of the definitions I read it means to clean and selectively remove parts of a plant. Why do we prune? Again according to my research, in nature we prune to remove dead branches, control and direct growth and to improve and maintain health. In the plant world it is ideal to prune when things are young.
Though I don't have much experience with pruning in nature, experience tells me it is quite similar to spiritual pruning. God determines what needs to be cut away...selfishness, false growth, pride - just to name a few and He does. The pruning process may be painful, but it has a purpose.
When God removes what He knows we don't need, we are able to grow, He is able to shape us and it is healthy. Though the cutting away can hurt, in the end it's for our good and will result in a blessing.
I discovered in nature when plants are pruned, their roots go deeper which leads to them producing better fruit and I have to believe the same is true for us spiritually. When God, the Gardener, prunes us, His branch, we grow deeper into Him and produce more fruit.
Friends, last week we spent a couple of days making apple sauce and the work wasn't that bad. Actually I was able to enjoy some special moments with a few of my kids as we worked side by side. I know when we open a jar this winter, the work will have been worth it. As I have those thoughts, God is whispering to me again, "Jill someday when you see the fruit in your life that results because of the pruning I'm doing, you'll be grateful."
I know God is right...He always is!! Regardless of the time it takes, effort it requires or pain pruning produces, it's worth it because God is worth it!! I doubt I'll ever be a gardener, but I'm thankful I'm a branch in the hands of the greatest Gardener; I trust Him to care for me and use me to produce fruit that benefits Him.
Friend, do you trust Him to do the same? If so, take some time and pray about the pruning He needs to do in you. Is there something in your heart that needs to be cut away? Is there fruit you should be producing but can't until you grow? Does the Gardener need to shape you and restore your health? Or perhaps pruning is necessary so your roots will grow? I don't know, but God does! Ask Him to do it! He has a tool that is sharp and capable of doing the job that needs to be done!
Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." May I encourage you to allow His Word to prune; I was content with an average apple crop, but spiritually I have a desire to produce fruit that is the best! That will only happen if I allow Him to cut away what I don't need!!