Two days ago, a kind friend reminded me of a truth I used to share often with my classes or in conversations with struggling friends. This truth gave encouragement I needed, and it seemed timely to share.
As a Christian growing daily in your walk with the Lord, it may begin to seem like you’ll “arrive” at some point–that the pressures and challenges the Lord uses to chip away imperfections will cease and all will be smooth sailing. Ultimately, of course, that is what God will do through the Gospel, when believers leave this sinful flesh behind. But until then, the opposite is true. Contrary to those who teach a health-and-wealth message, Christians can EXPECT pain in this life.
John 15 is the beautiful passage about our dependence on Jesus as the Vine. The opening verses make it clear that Christ (and the Heavenly Father as the Vine-dresser) desires fruitfulness from our lives. He desires to see increasing evidence of godliness in our thinking, dispositions, and actions.
Verse 2 is the pointed truth we easliy overlook. There WILL be some pain in every Christian’s life. Jesus gives two scenarios. The first is the truly saved individual who does not go on to grow and live consistently with his/her identity as God’s child. After patiently waiting for fruit and giving that believer every opportunity for growth (Luke 13:7-9), God may cut away the unfruitful branch, taking the consistently unrepentant Christian to heaven prematurely (see also I Cor. 11:30, where “sleep” means “death”).
The second scenario is for the growing fruitful Christian. What can he or she expect? Well, John 15:2 makes it clear they can expect some discomforts, too. God’s goal for us is that the Gospel fully accomplish its purpose in our lives, transforming us into obedient followers, whose lives are characterized by abundant fruit. That’s beautiful–and it’s an outcome that every devoted Christian would earnestly desire…that God find our lives supernaturally overflowing with fruit!
But how will God accomplish that in us? By pruning. By cutting away fruitful stems at the end of the season so that the next season they will grow back to be even more fruitful.
Abundant fruitfulness is what God wants to see in each of His children, and I pray that you desire to be abundantly fruitful from the very core of your being as a Christian. If so, keep in mind that the route to that abundance lies through a divinely wise and loving work of tenderly shearing areas of our lives (obedient, godly areas, even) to make way for an even greater harvest.
Pruning involves a severing of some kind (often bringing disappointments, hurts, loneliness, illness, or many other possibilities in the spiritual, emotional, or physical realms of our lives), and it makes us wince. But don’t focus there. The cutting is just the process–not the end. In fact, it’s just the temporary route to a joyous outcome that will be far better than anything we could have hoped for.
As a Christian, anticipate discomforts in this life. And knowing they’re overseen by an infinitely wise and loving God, rest in Him. Take your pain to him, then wait patiently and trustingly for the life he’ll bring out of the “death” of that stem.
God has told us how He works and what He intends, so let’s not resist His work in us. And because we know the great heart behind the work, we can be confident that the result will be worth it all–and then some!