A couple of years ago I wrote about the necessity of weeding when we started to create our own garden. It is only three months after planting when that important duty starts. I shared about the different types of weeds and the different root systems and how differently you must go about getting rid of them. And often Jesus must do root treatment with us to tackle the unhealthy fruit in our lives, a process which is not always so pleasant.
Now after three years it seems it is time to start the pruning process on shrubs, bushes and trees. The more I read about this process, the more I find some interesting parallels and discover lessons for our lives. For healthy growth of most of the plants pruning is a necessity. If you neglect plants they suffer, or they grow wild shoots, and very often you find that fruitfulness is hindered. One would think that cutting a tree would lower the fruitfulness, but it is quite the opposite.
Most fruit trees must be pruned to increase the harvest. Other plants must be pruned to get them into the shape you like. In some topiary gardens they have managed to cut some amazing shapes. Other plants have to be pruned prune because they cast too much shade on other parts of the garden or vegetable patches. And sometimes you must prune plants because they become too overpowering and dominant. Then other plants can’t develop properly. Do you start to get the message?
It is so encouraging to read and see the practical pictures the Bible uses. In our passage we can read about Jesus being the vine, His Father being the vinedresser and us being the branches which bear fruit. It is talking about followers of Jesus, His disciples. They are already bearing fruit. But He prunes them in order to bear more fruit. What does that mean? He cuts away everything which is not in accordance with His word, His will, His original plan for mankind, His specific plan for every individual or His character and nature. When the Bible talks about fruit it is usually about godly character traits and not necessarily about deeds.
God’s pruning can come as a correction, a discipline, a healing, a dying to our flesh life, a change of course, a sacrifice, a leaving behind, a deliverance, an exchange of a lie for the truth, a renewing of our mind, and a letting go of something we like for His higher purpose. Sometimes, when discipline comes, it does not feel nice, but it does bring an everlasting joy and peace.
Only someone who really cares for his garden and loves it does faithful weeding and pruning daily. He has an eye for every single plant and its beauty and its needs. In John 15 Jesus promises us we will bear much fruit if we stay connected closely to Him. We have been watching the sunflowers in our garden and marvelling that one little seed brings forth hundreds of new seeds.
When you think of all these tasks in the garden, you could be overwhelmed. But, looking more closely, you realise that all of it is growing organically and naturally. An apple never decided one evening to push itself out of the branch overnight in an act of power. It gradually grows and matures, if it is connected to the branch and drawing from its sap.
I believe results are the outcome of effort, but fruit is the outcome of being in relationship. Staying connected with our true vine means maintaining an intimate daily relationship with our Lord and Saviour and letting Him bring forth fruit in our lives. I believe this includes the ‘works’ He has prepared beforehand for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). It is interesting that, in John 15, Jesus says we can’t do anything without Him. For a long time, I wondered what He was talking about, as I looked at this world and saw what mankind has achieved without Him. One day I believe I got part of the answer. Outside of Him we can’t do anything with eternal value or significance.
If we remain in that intimate relationship, He will give us everything we need and more. The fruit will just grow, develop and mature naturally. Then it is not our own effort or initiative anymore, but God’s gift to us through His Son Jesus and the working of the Holy Spirit within us.
Prayer: Thank you so much, Heavenly Father, that You have called me and brought me into a place of intimate relationship with You. Please help me to stop striving for results, but to reach out for that precious fruit of Yours which changes me more and more into Your likeness. Help me also through the challenging and often painful process of pruning. Give me a willing heart. May You be glorified through my life. Amen.
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