In family worship this week, my family has been going over the fruit of the Spirit and what they mean. A couple of nights ago, my father concluded the talk with the illustration of the Vine and the branches.
As Christians, we believe that Christ is the Vine, and we are the branches. We cannot live, grow, or produce fruit outside of Him. He is the source of our life, and ultimately, our lives rest in Him.
There are times when He prunes His branches. Some are unfruitful, and so they are taken off completely, so that they don’t drain life from the other branches. But He also cuts or prunes branches that aren’t bearing as much fruit as they could. Now the latter are not completely cut off, but are cut so that they are renewed.
A bud is left; He has not taken away our salvation. (And no, I don’t believe that you can lose your salvation) He has left the Spirit within us; He’s just cutting our sinful part, so that the Spirit can do all the work.
We all suffer, whether it’s from persecution, hardship, trials, and temptations. Not all of these are a part of pruning. God does not tempt us. There are bugs and diseases in the vineyard, as well as the Master Gardener, and we must learn to tell the difference between them. The bugs cut at us so that we die or get sick; Christ cuts us so that we grow.
The pruning hurts at the time. It could be the loss of a loved one, a lost game, the delay of something that means a lot to you, etc. In each case, you are forced into a situation where you have to realize where it is you place your trust and joy. Is it in Christ, or is it in things of this world that don’t have any lasting value. Maybe God saw how much that game meant something to you, and saw that He had a rival with it. Maybe you were practicing too much and not reading His Word. Maybe you were daydreaming of victory and the cheering crowds and not kneeling at His feet and sending up your own praise to Christ.
I am not perfect. In fact, I’m not even close. Christ has lots of work to do on my branch. He shows me my weaknesses all the time. I already mentioned one of the ways in my post Bow the Knee, which I will post a link to just in case you wanted to read it. I also live in a larger family, where I am the oldest of five with the youngest being three. I don’t treat them with as much patience as I ought to, and I can tell when I’ve been harsh, because my little siblings stop smiling and laughing and start sulking. I can tell when I am being too disrespectful to my parents, because I see the hurt and sad faces they give me, especially my dad.
He prunes my branch quite often as well. There have been many times when I have gotten too excited about things, and He took them away. It wasn’t until they had been taken away that I realized how much I had been attached to them, which had taken away from my dependence on God.
Even with all the pruning Christ has done in my life, there is still much more to do. I don’t always learn from my mistakes, and often find that I have to have something taken away more then once before I finally learn my lesson.
An example is how I spend my time. I just got back from a friend of mine up in the mountains, and I loved every second spent there. I also went up to this same friend’s house (who also happens to be the one who “forced” me to read The Lord of the Rings) last summer. While I was up there last year, I talked about how much I missed my siblings, but to be honest, I don’t think I missed a lot. I definitely didn’t miss the constant chatter and silly questions! When I got home, it took a long time to settle down, but it was more then just the usual figuring out my place in the family again: I was discontent. I began comparing everything in my house to my friend’s house. I began wishing I were back up there and not at home. A few weeks of this went by, and I just couldn’t find peace. Finally, I opened my Bible and though I don’t remember exactly what it was that I read, it spoke to me. I saw how much sin I had committed since I got home, and broke down crying. Christ had “pruned” me back by bringing me home, away from the peace and quiet.
This year, I had quite a bit of trepidation that I would have the same problem when I got home again, but I didn’t. I wanted to be home, honestly and truly. Now, that doesn’t stop me from sometimes wishing the Littles had been born with mute buttons! But I felt content. I enjoyed my stay up in the mountains, but I also understood that God had put me where I was when I was for a good reason, and that griping about it was not pleasing to my Savior at all. I still had to figure out my place again, especially since some major changes had been made in my absence, but I was at peace.
Christ prunes us so that we bear fruit, not so that we wither away complaining about what He has taken away.
Let me know in the comments section below times where Christ has “pruned” something out of your life in order to cause you to bear more fruit.