“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2 ESV).
This week will beIf you were to ask some of my friends, they would probably say that I’m a masochist because I set challenging physical goals that, as a matter of course, cause me pain. But I’m just like most of you; I don’t like pain. Although, if given the choice I’d prefer physical pain over emotional pain.
I think that our desire to avoid anything that would make us the least bit uncomfortable, is perhaps the biggest obstacle we face in reaching the lost.
Our society is largely predicated on the idea of comfort. We have furnaces and air conditioners (You won’t hear any complaints from me about those two!); saunas and hot tubs; even recliners with built in refrigeration so we can avoid the long walk to the fridge when a commercial comes on.
Some of our cars even have seats that are heated and air conditioned, and some of our churches have living-room sofas instead of pews, because, God forbid our butts get the least bit cold, hot, or sore! We even expect our Bibles to scratch us where we itch.
It’s gotten easy to read around, or avoid altogether, the verses that remind us that Christianity isn’t supposed to be easy, and it certainly isn’t supposed to be comfortable. God does comfort us when we mourn and encourage us when we are downtrodden, but—I’m just keeping it real—God doesn’t exist to make life comfortable for us!
And to take it one step further, He has expectations of us. The “Great Commission” isn’t a bonus check passed out on judgment day for those who have ticked the salvation checkbox!
John 15:2 is one of those verses we tend to read quickly, hoping to get to some wonderful promise from God as soon as possible. We don’t like the thought of prunings. Pruning is a cutting away of the parts of the tree that don’t bear fruit so that valuable resources are not diverted from the fruit-bearing parts. We are well aware of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and we do strive to produce them. But I don’t believe that is taking things far enough.
As part of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives to produce fruit, He also wants to cut away the thing in our lives that hinder that process. It is not enough for Him that we produce fruit; He wants us to bear more fruit, abundant fruit. But in order for that to happen we need to allow Him not only to identify things that are holding us back, but also to remove those things.
Unlike the fruit trees here on earth, we have the ability to tell God that we won’t allow things to be cut out of our lives. He will not force us. But refusing to submit to His leading only kills the fruit we do have, starving it of the nutrients it needs to grow.
Pruning is uncomfortable, no doubt. But holding on to the things that we know are harmful to our faith walk deprives us of a closer walk with our Messiah and King. It is my prayer for each us that we learn to follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit, which show us how best to grow.
Blessings on your week!