“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." (John 15:1-2)
In the great commission, Jesus tasked His disciples with the following command,
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you." - Matt 28:19-20
As Christians, we (myself included) rather than making disciples, have a tendency to want to make converts. Jesus did not tell us to convert other people, He told us to make disciples of them.
Part of being a disciple is having intimate knowledge of their Master's teaching. A disciple seeks to mold himself to the patterns of his teacher.
In John 15, Jesus describes the process that each of His disciples will necessarily go through: the process of pruning.
Sometimes as Christians, we can start to lose hope or faith when we go through seasons of tribulation. But we must remember that tribulation is precisely what Jesus told us to expect:
"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." - John 15:18
Rather than the pruning process being a sign that God is disappointed in us, it is actually a sign that God is pleased with us.
We live in a broken world tainted by sin. Within the Biblical cosmology, even natural disasters and diseases are fundamentally a result of the sinful nature of this world.
Evil and suffering came from sin.
Sin came from the free will of man.
The free will of man came from the love of God.
In the beginning, God was tasked with a decision; He had to choose between:
- A life filled with love but also with suffering
- A life free from suffering but without love.
He chose the first option, as He deemed a life without love not worth living. The Cross of Christ is the demonstration of that Love, as Jesus endured the worst suffering imaginable to communicate God's intimate love to each of us.
Suffering is an inevitable part of this life. God cannot eliminate it without eliminating us. But God does promise to use it for our ultimate benefit if we give Him permission to. There is no situation too broken for God to redeem it in our lives. When we go through trials and tribulations, we can be sure that God's providence is working to transmute our suffering into glory. We will always come out the other side better (whether on this side of the veil or the other) if we allow His pruning to take place.
I have told you these things
so that my joy may be in you
and that your joy may be complete