“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He (God) takes away; and every branch in Me that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2)
According to biblical scholar David S. Alexander, after grapes are gathered in the land of Palestine, the branches are cut almost all the way back to the main stock of the vine. Then, in winter, the stock grows around them so that they quite literally abide “in the vine.” Then in early spring, the branches grow out rapidly, producing more fruit than ever.
Pruning Is Not Breaking
What is interesting about this practice is that, to the untrained eye the breaking off of fruitless branches and the pruning of fruitful branches look nearly the same. In other words, the pruning of fruitful branches (something that is beneficial and necessary) can easily be misunderstood as the breaking off of fruitless branches (something that is judgmental).
This same misunderstanding is what often plagues God’s children when He, in love, reproves and disciplines them. We’re confusing pruning with abandonment. The writer of Hebrews explains that the Lord’s discipline is “sorrowful” rather than pleasurable (Hebrews 12:11). Yet we are assured that this same discipline is administered to us only because God loves us (Hebrews 12:5-6) and that it produces in us the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Both Paul and James tell us the tribulation God sends our way produces perseverance, hope, and our ultimate salvation (Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4).
God Knows Our Pain
Does it seem that all hell has broken loose in your life? Does it seem that God has abandoned you and you cannot figure out what you’ve done wrong to earn such adversity? Please don’t despair. You haven’t done anything wrong. God is simply treating you as His true child. If God didn’t love you He’d let you go your merry way. But God invests loads of loving discipline in us because He wants to make us fit for heaven.
And please don’t think that God delights in our pain. Whatever hurts us, hurts Him as well. Isaiah 63:9 tells us that in all our affliction He is afflicted. Hebrews 4:15 assures us that our heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, suffers with us in our struggles. God is intricately sensitive to our pain. It’s as though our nervous system is connected with His. But He allows the pain because He sees the shining saint it will make us.
Dear Father in heaven, please remind me that Your love not only shelters me from evil, but also allows a certain measure of adversity—for my growth and ultimate good. Amen.
David S. Alexander, The New Testament in Living Pictures, Lion Publishing, Paulton, UK, 1972, p, 68-69;
Eerdmans Handbook to the Bible, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1980, pp. 546-547