Monday, February 3, 2014

Pruning to be Fruitful

 Growing up, we had an apple orchard behind our house in Ohio.  Those apples were as sweet as honey and I quickly fell in love with my mother's homemade apple crisp.  It was a treat for us.  However, what I never realized was just how much work is involved in producing a good harvest of apples.
     From time to time, my father would have to prune those apple trees in order to increase their productivity.  He would lop off whole limbs trimming here and there until the remainder of the tree looked like a stub.  I thought he had killed the tree for certain, but in time, those trees developed new growth and produced wonderful fruit.
     Our lives are not unlike those apple trees.  We have some branches that are too leafy and need a little trimming while we have other branches that need to be removed completely.  Jesus mentioned this pruning process in John 15:1-2:  "Jesus said, '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 do not know about you, but I do get somewhat uneasy when God begins the pruning process.  This is where trust comes in.  Do we trust Him enough to allow the process to go forward?
     Personally, I have never heard a tree go "Ouch" when my father trimmed it, but in my own life, I know when God has pruned away an area that needed correction it was painful.  A familiar sin, a bad habit, lack of self-control are just a few of the limbs God may choose to lop off as He seeks to conform us to the likeness of His dear Son.  Then again, God wants to trim off jealousy, pride, self-reliance and impatience so that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self control can grow in abundance.  He wants us to be fruitful in our lives so that we may glorify Him and nourish others with the fruit of His Gospel.  We can not sustain, encourage or bless others if we ourselves are a sick branch on the vine.
     Pruning is a necessary function for our growth.  Even now, in the time when our family is grieving a loss, God is behind the scenes working in our lives to strengthen us and draw us closer to Himself.  We cannot always understand the methods which our Heavenly Father uses or His timing, but we know that He loves us with an everlasting love.  As we allow Him to prune our lives, we will become more fruitful and rest in His providence.
     When I think back on my mother's sweet homemade apple crisp, I know that all the pruning my father did was worth it.  Likewise, when we come to the end of our lives, we want to hear God say of us "Well, done, you good and faithful servant".  All the pruning, hurt and pain will quickly be forgotten as we enter into God's great rest knowing we have lived a fruitful life to His glory.  Selah!

Picture is done by MarkusHagenlocher through Wiki Commons

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