Pruning: Cutting Out Things to Become Stronger and More Productive
I love being and working outside, especially this time of year with planting and gardening. Plants make me happy. I might even describe myself as an amateur gardener. However, I use this “gardener” term very loosely! Over the years I’ve learned a lot about God through the planting process. In fact, the bible is full of gardening and agricultural analogies, being they were so prevalent in that culture.
Because I love gardening so much, it’s easy for God to talk to me and for me to understand in gardening terms. For that reason, it happens a lot. Just this past week in fact I was reading John 15 where Jesus is describing himself and the vine, us as the branches, and God (the Father) as the gardener.
During this particular reading, the pruning process stood out to me. I think this was because of what God has been speaking to me about lately. Specifically, this made sense with regard to removing distractions when spending time with and listening to God. I mentioned last week that I was being “corrected” in this area! Therefore, pruning distractions fit right in the theme of what I was already learning.
John 15:1-8 (NIV)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
Bearing Fruit=Being Successful
If we are to bear fruit (biblical terminology for success), there are some things that have to happen. Branches need to stay connected to the vine. Cutting branches off completely, cuts them off from their life supply, and they die. Subsequently, they can’t produce fruit if they are dead. This one is kind of a no-brainer. Therefore, spiritually-speaking, we need to stay connected to Jesus in order to spiritually thrive and survive.
The pruning process
Another vital part though to producing fruit is the pruning process. What’s interesting with plants (and in the above bible passage) is that plants are cut and pruned regardless of whether fruit is being produced. Branches not bearing fruit are cut off. Branches bearing fruit are pruned so that they’ll produce even more fruit.
Both are cut, but one is cut off completely. The other is just cut back in order to help it to grow fuller and stronger. This enables the branch to rely more on the base of the plant for its strength and supply. Both methods of pruning, cutting off and cutting back, are beneficial to the plant to make it more productive and successful.
We too then are going to have to cut some things completely out of our lives, as well as pruning and cutting some things back. This pruning enables us to grow more and to learn to rely on God for our strength and supply.
Don’t fear pruning
We shouldn’t fear pruning. Initially we may not want to be pruned or cut. It’s painful, no fun. We sometimes may fear we will have to prune out or cut off something that we like or enjoy. Except, God knows better than we do about what will make us happy. He’s pruning us to help us, not to hurt us. If we’ll endure the pruning with patience and trust God, he will cause even more growth in us. Joy, strength, and success will come because of the pruning.
Sometimes it doesn’t make much sense to us that to cut something off will make it grow bigger. We think, “It was already growing and getting bigger by leaving it there!” However, God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours.
““My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)
Pruning plants makes them healthier. They will grow and expand, and new shoots will grow because of and in spite of the pruning.
“Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot–yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.” Isaiah 11:1 (NLT)
Likewise, new growth, new fruit and new success will come into our lives when we prune things out that God directs us to.
A personal example
I recently decided to take the summer off from teaching (both at the college and at Glory House, the women’s restoration home where I have volunteered for the past 7+ years). It’s “cut off” for a while–a pruning of sorts.
It is somewhat painful because I enjoy teaching and helping others. I love the ladies at Glory House so much, and I’ve also personally grown by teaching. So it’s weird to think that I can still grow even more by cutting something off that has helped me to grow. Nevertheless, I have to trust God and believe that I can and will grow more and even stronger as I focus on other things for a short period of time. I need to trust that I will be healthier even through the pruning.
The same is true with other things that we have to cut off such as…
- Extracurricular activities
- TV time
- Sleep time (i.e. getting up early for quiet time)
- Cutting off certain friends
- Having a day (or even a season) of rest
So what do you need to start pruning?
Take Some Practical Steps to Start Pruning Some Things to Increase Your Productivity:
- First, realize that you are going to HAVE to prune. It’s inevitable. Like John 15 said, you’ll have to prune things that aren’t productive, but you’ll also have to prune things that are productive in order to make yourself even more productive. You’re pruning either way. Just deal with it.
- Secondly, understand that pruning is going to be painful. Pruning always is. It hurts to have things cut off. Some things that you have to cut off or cut back are going to be some things that you enjoy and don’t really want to prune. It’s going to be hard. Knowing that in advance will help you to face the decision a little easier.
- Keeping the big picture in mind will ease the pain of pruning. When you realize that even though pruning will hurt temporarily but there’s a payoff later, it’s easier to cut the painful things off or back. It’s kind of like when the doctor gives you a shot due to sickness. The shot hurts, but it will eventually help you feel better in the long run. Without the shot, and without the pruning, you may be worse off. Think about the long-term, the payoff, or the dividends that you’ll receive by pruning, and stay focused on that during the painful parts. Remember what Isaiah said about new things to come!
- Decide what you need to cut off or out completely.
- Are there friends that keep you from producing godly fruit in your life or are maybe just a distraction?
- Are there television shows that you need to stop watching?
- What about music—is there any music that might not be the best message for you to be listening to?
- What about sleep—are you oversleeping, taking long or too many naps? Or the reverse—are you getting enough sleep? Do you need to cut out the things that prevent you from sleeping?
- The list could go on…games, foods, hobbies, bad habits, etc.
- What should you cut off that isn’t currently productive and will keep you from being productive or successful in the future?
- Spend a couple of minutes praying about it. Ask God what things that you need to cut off. Be sure to stop and listen—remember we learned about that last week!
- Decide what you need to cut back.
- Are there things that maybe don’t necessarily need to be cut off completely because they still “bear fruit” but that you might need to cut back on?
- Maybe you watch T.V. a little more than you should, or spend more time on social media than is necessary, or mess with your mobile devices a little too much (guilty as charged on all of the above!!!).
- Are there foods that you tend to overindulge on?
- What about extracurricular activities that steal time away from other things that should be a higher priority?
- Is there anything that you need to take a break from for just a season to help you refresh or to allow you to focus on other things for a period of time?
- What could you cut back that will help you to be more productive and more successful in the long run?
- Again, spend a couple of minutes praying about it. Ask God what things that you need to cut back or minimize (even if just for a short amount of time). Then, be sure to stop and listen!
- Lastly, obey—do the necessary pruning.
What are some areas of painful pruning that have ended up paying off for you eventually? Share them with us by leaving a comment below.
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