“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…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.” John 15:1-2,5
John 15 might be familiar to you. The picture is of Jesus the gardener who comes to prune off branches – both those that bear fruit and those that do not. Things don’t always grow in God’s Kingdom. We shouldn’t expect that the things of God will just keep on getting bigger and better – it’s not biblical!
In fact Jesus taught the opposite, that there are seasons of growth, and we should also expect that there will be seasons of pruning. This can feel like failure to us – and we don’t like to fail, we don’t like the things we lead to be seen to be shrinking or in decline. It’s tempting to ask the question ‘what’s gone wrong?’ and then try to come up with a reason that takes the blame off us, or try to fix the ‘problem’ in some way, striving and pushing to keep things going when what we’re actually doing is going against what God is wanting to do – it’s exhausting!
We need to remember that it’s quite normal for God to bring things to a close, for Him to ‘prune’ us and the things we lead, and to lead us into a place of ‘abiding’ in Him (John 15:4-7). Every good gardener prunes plants because they know the truth of ‘so that they will bear even more fruit’ in the next season.
I recently had a picture for someone whilst praying; it was of a sheep being sheared, of having its thick winter coat removed for the summer season. Sheep don’t need their thick coat in the summer, and the shepherd removes the fleece so that the sheep is more comfortable and so they don’t get maggots laying eggs on them. It’s a kind of pruning for sheep and it’s necessary – imagine a sheep who was never sheared!
What feels to you like it’s failing right now, or at least is less fruitful and harder work than it used to be? Is God pruning you? If so that’s good news! Because Jesus’ promise is that He prunes in order that there might be more fruit in the future. Our best response is to draw close to Jesus, to spend time coming near to Him, to ‘eat’ with Him and others, listen and obey, and trust that at the right time He will bring new things and growth again.
The word that God has given me for this time is from Psalm 27:14 ‘Wait for the Lord; Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.’ I am trying to keep reminding myself of what God has said every time I’m tempted to rush ahead in my own strength right now.
The Father is the gardener! We can trust Him. We need not rely on ourselves and our own abilities.
Want to think about pruning a bit more? To read an excellent blog article on embracing pruning click here.