– by Tom Caballes
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” – John 15:1-2 ESV
Isn’t it easier if once we decided to follow and serve the Lord, everything else would fall into place? No more personal struggles, relationship issues, financial challenges, and so on.
Sometimes, life is like a whack-a-mole arcade game – as time moves on, the challenges seem to increase in frequency and with greater difficulty, and we feel like giving up. But God uses those difficulties in life to mould us and shape us to be more like Him – and therefore they increase our capacity to love and serve Him and His people.
God is committed to continue and finish the work He began in you [see Philippians 1:6].
Are you ready to live a lifetime of pruning so you will continually bear fruit? He will not finish pruning you until you are like Christ’s image – that is God’s goal in you.
So How Do We Become More Open to Being Pruned So We Can Bear More Fruit?
- Be realistic about your expectations in life. Do not assume perfection will ever come on this side of eternity; if things go well, then all is good. But more often than not, things go awry in life – things you have not faced before. Be ready for a lifetime of pruning. Hope for the best, but be prepared when things go haywire in life.
- Be a learner for a lifetime. Learning does not stop when we finish school or university; when we follow Jesus, we enter into a lifetime school of love. Jesus is our teacher by showing us how to act, think, and behave like Him. Like imperfect students, we fail at times by being selfish and sinning. Repent. Be open-minded to learn to be a better spouse, parent, worker, servant, and a brother or sister to your brothers and sisters. As you get older, circumstances change; you need to be open to learning to adapt to new ways or responding lovingly.
- Live with a goal of pleasing and loving God in mind, not people. If our goal in life is to please someone other than God, we are not allowing God to prune us. “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24a ESV)
- Grow in the wisdom and knowledge of God. There are many ways we learn – including experiencing mistakes, learning from someone else’s mistakes, and by learning God’s Word for us. If we come to know God’s wisdom for us in different situations, we avoid the unnecessary errors we commit to getting through life. Immerse your mind primarily in God’s Word and in good spiritual books. Let your mind be held captive by God’s Word.
- Remember that God is mainly concerned about forming your character, not your riches or success in life. When you said your yes to God, you began a lifetime of transformation in becoming more like Jesus day by day, little by little. When you start your day and look in a mirror, do you see Jesus’ reflection? If not yet, be ready for some pruning during the day – some ‘stretching’ here and there, some forgiveness needed, or some forbearance required. Great things can result from small actions done consistently day by day.
- Never give up! We will only win the prize at the end of our journey. When times are challenging, and it seems like the mountain you are climbing is too high, look to Jesus. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…(Hebrews 12:1-2a ESV) We might need to rest and pause for a while in our spiritual race, but we should never give up.
Other Scripture passages:
- “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Hebrews 12:6-7a ESV)
- “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11 ESV)
- Other Bible verses: Psalm 94:12-14; Proverbs 3:11-12; Revelations 3:19; and Deuteronomy 8:5.
For personal reflection or group sharing
- In what ways do you need to be pruned by God so you can bear more fruit?
- Are you ready to increase your capacity to love and serve God by being pruned daily?
Tom Caballes is the National Senior Administrator and a National Coordinator of the Lamb of God, a community of the Sword of the Spirit with 7 branches located throughout New Zealand. Tom also leads Kairos New Zealand, an outreach program for high school, university, and post-university aged people. Taken from Living Bulwark October/November 2018 edition. Used with permission.