“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”
You better know what you’re doing before you start pruning. With some plants, if you cut them back at the wrong time, you risk killing the whole plant or preventing it from flowering next season. Other plants need to be severely pruned in order to generate new growth. I claim little horticultural expertise, but I know enough to admit that I don’t know enough to start blindly hacking away at a healthy plant. Better to leave the pruning to the experts.
Jesus is an expert, of course. He knows how to prune grapevines and fig trees and olive shoots. I don’t even know if you’re supposed to prune fig trees, but Jesus knows. More importantly, He knows how to prune human hearts. He knows when to give us blessings and when to make us wait. He knows what lessons to teach us. He knows how to guide us through trials of faith, especially the hard ones that hurt as they heal. We can trust Jesus to cut away the dead and fruitless parts of our lives to make way for new, meaningful growth. Often, what needs to be pruned from us are things like sin, fear and doubt – the obvious areas of weakness that keep us from growing strong in faith. But Jesus also prunes us in more subtle ways. He knows how to cut away misguided ideas with the truth of his word and when to close the door on something good so we will have the courage to open the door to something better.
For us, the challenge is discerning when and where Jesus is pruning. Sometimes bad things happen, and they are just bad things from a bad world. Other times, Jesus leads us through hardship or times of waiting for the purpose of teaching us to rely on him. You may not be able to tell at the beginning of a trying experience whether it’s God’s hand at work, but in the end, if Jesus has been doing the pruning, you will see good spiritual fruit begin to grow. That’s how you know Jesus has been working on you. That’s when you should give thanks for the tough days and hard lessons that draw you closer to our Lord.
Thank You, Jesus, for doing the good work of pruning my heart. Thank You for helping me to produce good fruit for Your kingdom. Teach me to recognize Your hand and to accept the ways You are changing me to become more like You. I pray in Your holy name. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian