I felt this 'Mid Week Moment' from Connie, written in September of 2018, fit in with this month's theme of 'Lent'. Ponder and enjoy.
A Lesson In Pruning
A few weeks ago I shared one thing I learned about growing tomato plants--and the spiritual lesson. But there's something else I learned. I also learned about pruning. I don't know if we like talking about pruning as believers, but we should.
When it comes to tomato plants, my sister showed me that the little suckers that sprout in the V between the stem and the stalk need to be pinched off on a regular basis so that the nutrients feed the flowers and fruit rather than these little stems that are screaming for food. A pinch here and a pinch there, and--we're all done.
Contrast that with the pruning I saw when we were staying in a Tuscany Villa in the heart of wine country last year. One morning my husband and I decided to walk down to the closest little town. When we passed the neighbour's vineyard, the vintner, or one of his workers, was out pruning the vines. And guess what he was using? A chainsaw. Yes--a chainsaw. Being pruned by a chainsaw--such a painful thought!
Chainsaws are generally not the tool used to prune vineyards. However, when I did a bit of research I learned when and how they're used. (Consider the spiritual application to these points.)
Sometimes, if the vines have turned into a thick hedge, blocking the sun from reaching the grapes underneath, a worker will use a chainsaw to trim the hedge back. Other times, chainsaws are used to re-invigorate or renovate old vines that are no longer producing healthy fruit. And still other times, if a plant becomes diseased, what is known as "chainsaw surgery" must be done to return the plant back to health and to prevent disease from spreading further.
I learned two things when reading Scripture verses about pruning:
1. In John 15:1-4 Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 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. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 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."
Jesus differentiates here between completely cutting off a branch and pruning a branch. The branch that is cut off is like the stony ground, the thorny ground and the unripe ears in the story of the sower and the seed. (Matt. 13). The pruning, on the other hand, is for the believer who is already showing the fruit of abiding in Jesus. And the word "prune" here takes on the idea of cleansing and purifying. If we are true followers of Jesus, is this not what we want? To be more like Him? To sing the words of Thomas Chisholm, "O To be Like Thee"?
2. Pruning is not about me. Yes, it happens to me, but the purposes are for a much greater good--and for God.
God cleanses us for His glory, and He does it not because He's a taskmaster, but because He LOVES us! In the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17, Jesus cleanses the lepers but only one returns to give thanks--to glorify God for His cleansing. If I am truly seeking to glorify God in and through my life, then I should welcome the pruning.
God also cleanses us for each other. 1 Peter 1:22 says, "Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart." God prunes us for each other--so that, as His church, we will "love one another deeply.." As Oswald Chambers says in his book, My Utmost for His Highest, "It is not that God makes us beautifully rounded grapes, but that He squeezes the sweetness out of us." And isn't that what we all desire? To be an offering of sweet fragrance (or aromatic wine) to be poured out before the Lord?
2 Cor. 4:14-16 (ESV) says, "But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life."
As believers, the word "pruning" should not have negative connotations, but rather, positive ones. Pruning should be something we desire if we are truly seeking to become more like Him and to glorify Him.
My prayer for us this week is that we will, in humility, ask God for His pruning touch. And that we will remember that our lives are not to be lived selfishly, but for God and for each other. And may you know His joy in the offering.