In John 15:1-8, Jesus talks about pruned branches. “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[a] 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.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
These are powerful and difficult Bible verses. As Christians we like to think about our lives and our churches constantly growing in Christ. We are glad to be the branches that bear much fruit. We have a harder time recognizing that sometimes we have to be pruned.
As a pastor, I went through a time of pruning. I remember it as the most difficult part of my ministry. We were doing too much, going in too many directions. Some things needed to go that were no longer bearing fruit. But some of these programs were very precious to people – had helped bring them to Christ – and they didn’t want to let go of them. Because we were clinging to withered branches, it was difficult to discern God’s will. God pruned us as a church so we could resume bearing fruit for his Kingdom.
Are you going through a time in your life when God is pruning you? Do you need to say no to some things in order to say yes to others? Is God calling you to let go of dead branches? These kinds of decisions, these life lessons, can be very difficult.
But if we are willing to be pruned by God, we can return as fruitful branches of the vine. Apart from Christ we can do nothing. But if we are patient with God’s pruning, we will emerge shaped as he wants us to be.