“Every branch that bears fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2b WEB)
There were a lot of trees on the property of my childhood home. I remember my Dad tossing a rope over a high branch then attaching a tire so we could enjoy a good swing in the shade. I’ve always enjoyed the shade of a good tree but sometimes a branch starts to die and needs to be pruned from the trunk. The stub is then tarred over to keep it from growing back and sapping (any pun you’d like to apply) the tree of vitality. That’s what I remembered about pruning.
Then I spent a number of years in “wine” country with grapevines almost everywhere you turned. I learned there’s more than one purpose for pruning. As a child I learned you pruned to get rid of the dead wood. As an adult I learned you could also prune to increase the fruitfulness of the vine. Not only grapevines but also a number of shrubs, flowering plants and other beautiful vegetation can be improved by careful pruning.
Sometimes I thought it looked brutal when trees were pruned down to just a stump. Grapevines are pruned of almost every branch until they look like naked stalks. But that’s one of the secrets. When a branch first bears fruit it might not be the best. The art of pruning back the branch so it regrows actually improves the harvest of fruit.
I’m reminded of Jesus’ sermon about the vines. One verse comes to mind: “Every branch that bears fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2b WEB) It’s interesting Jesus tells us that bearing fruit is like an invitation to be pruned. It’s not a bad thing but for our benefit. The art of pruning in our lives allows us to bear more fruit. We don’t always understand this when God suddenly moves us from what was a fruitful ministry into a new place. Beth and I experienced this several times in our lives.
We were involved with our church in the USA and bearing fruit in music and teaching when the Lord called us to be missionaries. We were pruned from that ministry to head overseas. Next God allowed us to bear fruit on Guam in youth work, music, leadership, teaching, and training and then we were pruned from the Guam ministry. God then allowed us to bear more fruit in Austria in music, preaching, leadership, training, pastoral work and teaching.
Next, we were pruned once more from a fruitful ministry in Austria. We then looked forward to what God had in store. We grew in a new land but were connected to the same vine. Each time God applies his pruning shears we learn more about ourselves as we watch God work in us, and the lives of those around us.
Our fruitfulness in local church ministry also impacts our global fruit as we bring the message of God’s grace and hope to the world via media as missionaries with TWR. The two ministries build upon one another and help us to grow as God’s servants. It would be easy to be sad and wonder why God would remove us from a fruitful ministry to start over. But it becomes an encouragement when we consider Jesus’ teaching about the vine and the branches.
It’s not bad to be pruned. It’s not trimming of the bad branches. It’s trimming our branches so we have the chance to grow back and produce even more fruit. God prunes in wisdom. The vine-dresser knows what he’s doing and does it for our own good and the growth of the Kingdom. When we’re pruned we need to look forward to a new harvest of fruit for eternity.