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Archive for the tag “Pruning”

To Stay Under

Last night, I wanted a good movie to watch. I didn’t want fluff. I wanted substance. I found Corrie Ten Boom’s story called The Hiding Place. I read the book many years ago and I had forgotten the details. I remembered it was about her life in the concentration camp.

Before the time of hardship, their family led a quiet life until the Nazis showed up in their world. The Ten Booms decided to take a stand. They decided to help anyone who came to their door. They had a safe place for Jews to come until they could make their way out of the country. It was because of that stand that eventually led to the family’s arrest.

Corrie, her elderly father, her sister Betsy and her two brothers were arrested. Her father died soon after the arrest. Her two brothers died while in prison. Corrie and Betsy were taken to the same prison and eventual concentration camp. Betsy seemed to have had the greater faith. She encouraged Corrie not to hate but to thank Jesus in everything even the hardship.

Their conditions were harsh. Betsy was beaten because she could not keep up with the work. They stayed in an infested dorm room in overcrowded conditions. But Betsy kept telling Corrie, even in the deepest pit, Jesus is deeper still. Betsy thanked Jesus for the conditions of the room – the lice kept the guards out of their space. It gave them opportunities to read the Bible and talk about Jesus to others.

This morning, I got up with the message of hope in this trying time. This is nothing in comparison to what the rest of the world suffers every day. Yes, we’ve lost some of our comfort and our normal way of life. Maybe it will come back some day, but we may be in this storm for another month or two or ten. Who knows? But hardship is the perfect way of seeing what’s beneath the surface.

Both Pastor Louie Giglio and Pastor Andy Stanley used James 1:2-5 in their messages this morning. Okay, seems important to remember that trials are for our good. Trials help us to persevere. To persevere means to remain or to stay under. James, the brother of Jesus, reminds us trials are a way for God to finish His work in us. It matures us and makes us complete. That’s why we’re supposed to find joy in our trials. God is working in us to complete what He started.

Our trials or hardships are a way of finding out what’s underneath the surface of our faith. Is it rock solid or is it made of sand? Without storms in our lives, we would never know the authenticity of our faith. Faith is a muscle that has to be tested in order to become stronger.

Jesus told Peter Satan had asked to shift Peter. Peter said he would follow Jesus to his death. But was it true? Peter needed to see what was underneath his declaration “I will die for you.” The story didn’t go as planned for Peter. He denied knowing Jesus on three different occasions. Peter had to see his fault in order to become the man he was saved to become. There was a greater work that would be soon coming where he needed a deeper, abiding faith.

We may not like this time we’re in, but God has allowed it for our good and for His glory. We may want this pressure to end. But it’s best to stay under and let God complete His work. I don’t want to get through this time and not see progress on my faith journey. I want this to change me (in a good way). Pastor Louie reminded his listeners that God does not send us storms to destroy us but to refine us. This could polish and perfect us and transform us into the image of Jesus. That’s our purpose as believers in Jesus – to be conformed into His image.

God uses shifting from the enemy. He also uses shears to cut off any branch that isn’t fruitful. For the fruitful branch, He prunes in order to produce more fruit. Living the life we’re meant to live means we have to go through hardships in order to be useful to God and to glory Him. Hardships get us to the place we are meant to be and to be the people we were born to be. We cannot allow ourselves to get out from under the pressure before the work is done or the next storm we face, we may not be able to withstand it.

Corrie Ten Boom’s faith was tested. But in the end, after she was released from the concentration camp by clerical error, she went on to live a life glorifying God and proclaiming His goodness even in the deepest pit. She reminds us even in this hard time we face, He is deeper still. This is our time for shifting to see what is beneath our faith; our time of cutting off the thing that is not producing fruit and it’s time for pruning what remains to become more fruitful. Stay under as long as it takes until what God wants is polished to shine in perfection. Keep the faith – He is deeper still.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

Potential Maker

God wants to develop our potential. It’s His plan of developing the potential that we shy away from. I tend to run when adversity comes much like Jonah. I would rather escape on a boat to whatever exotic location far from the adversity. Adversity may be the thing though that God sends to develop our potential. It might be the only thing that will bring our character into full alignment with who we are meant to be in Jesus. James said in his letter that we are to rejoice in our trials (James 1:2). We are not to run from it but to embrace it. In James 1:4 we see we are to “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” There is potential building up in us – complete, lacking nothing. We are supposed to get something out of adversity. We need wisdom to understand the lesson we are learning through our trial. James goes on to write in verse five: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Jesus teaches His disciples about being connected to a vine. John wrote about Jesus’ teaching in his Gospel found in chapter fifteen. It’s a wonderful picture of a gardener who is lovingly taking care of his orchard. For the branches that are in the mud and muck, the Master Gardener takes that branch and lifts it up. I can imagine the gardener tying that branch to something that is stable and where the branch will receive light. It hasn’t produced fruit because it wasn’t in the right environment to cultivate fruit. There is another branch that is fruitful; but in order to produce more fruit, the branch needs pruning. I am sure the pruning hurts the branch in the short-term – there is definitely cutting involved. The branch will have an open wound until a scar is formed and healing can take place.

Adversity may be the thing that prunes us to be better for God’s purpose. It may be a something that moves us into the right environment to start producing fruit. The trouble is: when we are fruitful, there will actually be more pruning involved. There will be more adversity to contend with! Oh boy – something to look forward to! This is a good thing, but we tend to ask God to remove it quickly. We don’t have the stomach to persevere. We want to cut the loss – move on; be done with it. James said “count it as joy” – we are producing fruit and will be producing more fruit because of the adversity.

I was listening to North Point Community Church getting this wisdom from the “Now what?” sermon series. The teacher was saying that every branch gets pruned. The pruned branches cause a dependency on the vine. The pruned branch experiences growth in new areas. And of course, pruning causes the branch to reach greater potential that was once impossible to achieve without the pruning. Interesting points that can be related to our own adversity battles. Like David who faced his own personal giant, David faced Goliath with a dependency on God to defeat his enemy. David reached his potential to become a mighty warrior. And David went on to become a man after God’s own heart.

Adversity is a good thing even in the midst of the battle – dependency on Jesus, increase in wisdom, and eventually a life-bearing significant fruit! Sign me up – for the battles that don’t have much pain involved; that don’t leave ugly scars; that leave me in my comfortable place. Will this develop my own potential? Will this give me an abundant life that Jesus said He came to give me? Will this make me a mighty warrior for Jesus? The new prayer for today: God, use this adversity before you chose to remove it – let your will be done. Mold me into an instrument for your purpose that will give you greater glory! (And send Jesus to bind up my wounds so that it doesn’t hurt so much.) Amen.

“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. 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.” John 15:1-2, 5

North Point Online, Clay Scroggins, March 29, 2015, “Now what – part 3”

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