It’s autumn here in the UK, and winter’s approaching fast. Although the temperature’s been mild there’s a lot of wind and rain. All this indicates it’s time to get pruning in the garden. We have some large bushes, which needed cutting back, and also a high fence, smothered in clematis, honeysuckle and roses. We didn’t want to lose this lush growth, but we knew that pruning had to take place, in order to have a good display of flowers next year. As I’m not so good at knowing where to cut, I asked a gardener friend to come and help. The result was a bare-looking fence, with a few strands of plant trailing up the supporting wires.
At first we were a bit shocked at the radical cut-backs, and now we’re waiting with a bit of apprehension to see what will happen next year. As my friend’s an award-winning gardener, I’m sure it will all turn out right in the end! It just doesn’t look good at the moment.
I’m reminded of the passage in John’s Gospel, where Jesus tells us that pruning is essential for growth: ‘every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so it will be even more fruitful’ (John 15:2). However good a display there is on the outside, our heavenly Father reserves the right to cut us back, where He sees we need it. His intention is that we go on and produce good fruit – even better than before, but we need to go through the process of being cut back.
It’s hard to submit to such pruning when everything seems to be going well. Sometimes God takes someone out of our team or church, who seems to be giving such a boost to our ministry. Sometimes an area of our Christian walk is suddenly curtailed, just when it was going on strongly. What’s that all about, God? If I was God I wouldn’t have done that. That was the best bit!
It’s hard when someone significant leaves your team, or when your successful ministry suddenly gets stopped for a season. If we focus on the cut-backs, like my bare fence, it can be depressing and demoralising. However, we’re to look beyond the presenting picture to the vision that God has for us. The Father Gardener knows what we can accomplish, as we trust His Spirit to bring new life and growth to the work we’re involved in. He sees the beauty that spring will reveal.
I’m looking forward to seeing my fence covered with new growth and masses of flowers next year, and Father looks forward to the fruit we’ll produce, once this season of pruning is over.
Prayer: Abba Gardener, we don’t like it when You cut us back hard and remove what looked like good growth. Help us to trust that You know exactly what You’re doing. Give us the confidence through Your seasons of pruning to live with the vision of what is to be, whilst we deal with the reality of what appears to be now. Amen.
"He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, whilst every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so it will be even more fruitful."
John 15:2, NIV
John Berry has recently stepped down from the full time team at Ellel Glyndley Manor, where he has been involved for almost seven years, before which he pastored UK Baptist churches for 30 years. He continues on the Associate Ministry and Teaching teams at Glyndley Manor, where his wife Jennie continues on team. They have been married for nearly 43 years and have seven grandchildren. John is also an elder in a local church.
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