A beautiful tree stands just outside my apartment window. In springtime, most of its branches overflow with delicate white blossoms. But some branches are bare, cut off near the trunk, unable to produce new life this season.
Why did the caretaker cut those branches? Perhaps they hadn’t produced blossoms in a while. Maybe they were rotting. Perhaps they were growing in a direction that would eventually be harmful to them.
Pruning is a vital process for most trees, shrubs and flowers. It stimulates healthier production of fruit and flowers, removes damaged parts and, as one arborist website says, maintains the plant’s structural integrity.
Just as a caretaker cuts away the weak and unfruitful parts of a plant, so too does God prune our lives to make way for new fruit and help us maintain integrity as we navigate through this world.
“I am the true Vine, 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 bear even more.” (John 15:1-2 NLT)
As offshoots of the true Vine, we each depend on its nutrients to thrive. We grow in different directions, following after the light and producing fruit for God’s Kingdom. So, why is it that we sometimes feel the painful cut of God’s pruning shears?
As we grow and develop, we sometimes latch onto things that are poisonous and harmful. We might stray in a wayward direction, neglecting our purpose and becoming barren in our ministry. We succumb to the temptations of this world.
Temptation. Every human being faces it, and we all know that it’s not always easy to resist temptation. In fact, it’s often a painful conflict in which our spirit battles against our flesh — a battle that is likely easier to surrender than it is to win. Paul captured the frustration of fighting temptation so astutely when he wrote these words in Romans 7:21-22:
“I have discovered this principle of life — that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind.”
Often, we have the purest intentions to follow after God and obey His word, but it can feel impossible to fight the urge to act on temptation that comes against us and leads us into sin.
That’s where we need to rely on God — the true Vine and the gardener who cares for each one of His branches. God doesn’t want us to fail; He wants us to thrive. He understands our struggles, and He is there to give us the strength and nutrients we need to resist. And He acts as the caretaker, knowing which parts of us need to be pruned or cut away to enable the way for new life and ministry.
Maybe a certain temptation consistently draws you into sin, impeding your progress and development. Don’t be discouraged, and don’t give up. Instead, choose to confront each temptation deliberately, fighting with everything you have, knowing God hasn’t left you alone.
“God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT)
Call on Jesus to help you, because you can’t do it without Him. Know that He’s right there with you, ready to help you wrestle that temptation to the ground and cut it out of your life, pruning it away so that something better can grow in its place.
“Since He himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested.” (Hebrews 2:18)
God doesn’t needlessly put us through temptation, like James 1:13 says. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” But God can open opportunities for us to learn and grow from temptation.
Temptation doesn’t need to destroy your progress and growth. But it can provide a chance for you to trust God and allow Him to prune away the parts of you that are unfruitful, making way for new fruit.