I have a fascination with gardening.
I use the word fascination as I don’t hate it, but I would not say that I love it. I am just fascinated by the process of life in my backyard.
I love growing things and flowing through the process of a plant’s growth. I am one of those gardeners that truly get disappointed when a plant dies, rejoice (literally) when I see a new bud and super excited if a tree actually bear fruit.
What I couldn’t figure out though was pruning.
So today, testing it on my parents lime tree, I got a lesson in pruning from a good friend.
The goal was to prune away the dead limbs. She explained that continuous pruning allows the plant to increase fruitfulness and grow.
As we clipped away the dead limbs, some were harder to come off than others. Sometimes our fingers got pricked by the small thorns on the branches. And others fell down in the lower branches or under the tree forcing us to tread carefully to avoid getting pricked when cleaning the dead branches away.
But as I was doing this I learned six (6) key things:
1. As people of God, the bible provides analogies to humans and trees or branches. We have to continually be pruning ourselves. In order for us to grow and be fruitful, we have to continually prune so that ‘briars and thorns’ (Isaiah 5:6) doesn’t overtake our lives. “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;” Psalm 92:12. We will only know what to get rid of (prune) in our life by a close relationship with God.
2. We love to ask God for things. We love to think that the world revolves around us. But God is very clear in his Word: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” John 15:16 In other words, if we are not fruitful in our lives, then we shouldn’t expect to get whatever we ask God for. When we are fruitful and obedient to God then we are in God’s will. When we are in God’s will, then our Father will give us what we ask, because we will still be asking in God’s will.
3. The dead branches that were harder to chip away are the real difficult sins we try to get rid of. You know the ones I am speaking of… The ones that people don’t know about and you feel it might be okay to keep on doing it. But God knows. Or the sins that you absolutely love and crave; even though you keep on saying you will end that affair, stop taking that drug, stop lying or stealing, or stop watching that porn. Or the people you hang with that you truly don’t want to lose. You realize you may not be strong enough to cut it/them away. Thankfully you serve a God that loves you and assures you that “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
4. I kept on getting pricked by the thorns as I cleared the dead branches. Getting rid of sin is not an easy process. Along the way, we will feel pain, sorrow, anguish, anger and maybe even frustration. But once you get rid of that sin, do you not feel joy? I was happy with not only the end product but for every prickly dead branch I threw away, I felt happier and happier. “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:7
5. The more dead branches I clipped away, I noted there were still much more dead branches at the root or the middle bark of the tree. We all may have surface sins that either persons or ourselves are aware of. But we also have sins that may stem from the root or core of ourselves that we may not even realize. I have a very close friend that realized recently that not only is she the abuser in her marriage (verbal abuse) but it all stemmed from a bitterness that she had been carrying around in her heart for over 30 years. We can’t choose which dead branches we want to cut off. We have to seek God’s help through prayer and ask for HIS guidance in identifying all sin in our lives so that we could be more fruitful. “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.” John 15:2
6. The dead branches that fell in the lower branches, or under the tree reminded me of sin that we cast away, but it just keeps on coming back. So we use to cheat, but we never forget because we may be constantly reminded by our spouse. We use to steal but we have a police record that will always be there. We use to be X and now everyone labels us as that. I had to go back and carefully remove all of the dead branches until there was no more. Like those missing branches, we have a loving Father who can forgive and clear away all of our sins. “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25 God remembers your sin no more. So don’t let this world cause you to stop growing in Christ. Pray and ask God for a change in your life and it will come.
Food for thought: Pruning is serious business. Let us “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2) We can’t do this alone. Let us not be content with dead branches in our lives. Whether it is our sin, our environment, the people that we associate with… Let us take it all to God, the Master Pruner.
Prayer: Father, your word speaks clearly that those of us who are not fruitful in your kingdom will be cut away and thrown in the fire (Matthew 7:19). May we live a life of Psalms 1:3 “That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.“. In Jesus name. Amen
May God’s mercy and peace be with you.