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From the Pastor’s Heart

You’ll produce righteous fruit when you let the Lord prune your life.

I used to live in the mountains of North Carolina in a town called Fruitland. The name was fitting because it was apple country, and still is. As the pastor of a church there, I made it my practice to visit the members.

I remember arriving at one gentleman’s house, but discovered that he was out in the orchard. So I went in search of him and found him pruning the trees.

The tree he was working on looked pathetically bare. I told him, “Man, you’re going to kill that tree if you don’t stop cutting.”

He replied, “You stick to preaching, and I’ll take care of the pruning.”

He was right. I didn’t know anything about pruning, but he obviously did.

Eventually we became friends, and he explained to me the value of pruning. He said, “If you’re going to get good fruit, and a lot of it, you’ve got to cut back the branches. It may look like you’re killing the tree, but if you let all those branches stay, the sap will be wasted on new growth instead of producing fruit.”

I never forgot that lesson because Jesus taught the same thing to His disciples. He used a vineyard as a picture of their relationship with Him and the Father. He described the Father as the vinedresser, Himself as the vine, and the disciples as the branches (John 15:1-5).

In order to produce more spiritual fruit in our lives, our heavenly Father gets out His pruning knife and goes to work on us.

We may think, “God, if You loved me, You wouldn’t let these things happen.” But oftentimes, He’s taking away things that hinder your spiritual growth so you can bear more fruit, because that’s what brings Him glory (v. 8).

Now you may be wondering, “What is the fruit that God is after in my life, and what are the things He’s cutting away?”

Before I tackle these questions, I want you to understand the relationship between Jesus Christ as the vine and you as the branch.

When you were saved, you were joined to Christ and indwelt with His Spirit. Like the sap in a branch, His life now flows through you, producing righteous fruit.

That’s why Jesus said, “The one who remains (or abides) in Me, and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (v. 5).

A branch doesn’t strain to produce fruit; it simply remains attached to the vine as the sap flows through it. We’re not the ones who produce spiritual fruit; we simply bear the fruit that results from obedience and faith. That’s how we’re transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

The fruit the Spirit is producing in us comes in two forms—our character and our works.

In other words, He’s enabling us to become the person God wants us to be and to accomplish the work He’s given us to do. Both are essential in the Christian life and cannot be produced apart from the work of the Spirit. In this way we glorify God and prove to be Christ’s disciples (v. 8).

You’re probably familiar with the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

Now we don’t bear all this fruit to the same degree or as consistently as we’d like, but it should be increasing and visible in our interactions with others.

The other fruit is displayed in our works or service to the Lord. In ourselves, we’re totally incapable of obeying the Lord, living righteously, or serving Him with any eternal effectiveness.

We may look impressive on the outside, but if the Spirit isn’t accomplishing God’s will through us, the results are short-lived and produce no genuine fruit.

To help us become more fruitful, God cuts away whatever is hindering the bearing of that fruit (John 15:2).

This includes sin in all its forms, as well as anything that distracts us from the Lord or draws us away from Him. The cutting tools He uses are varied and specifically designed for each person.

Many times His pruning knife comes in the form of trials. Problems and suffering have a way of bringing our eyes back to the Lord and returning us to complete dependence on Him.

And that is exactly how it should be.

Instead of resisting the pruning process, yield to the Spirit by confessing and repenting of any sin in your life. Then consider whether anything is distracting you from focus on the Lord.

Sometimes even something good can occupy too much of your time, attention, or affection. You don’t have to live in complete self-denial of all earthly joys. The goal is to keep them in the proper place so that the Lord is your priority.

If you’re currently feeling the sharpness of God’s pruning knife, I hope you’ll realize that He’s doing a good work in you. 

His goal isn’t to hurt you unnecessarily, but to benefit you eternally. The Lord is much more interested in your spiritual fruit-bearing than in your temporal comfort and ease. 

Right now, you may feel like that apple tree my friend was pruning, but come harvest time, you’ll have great joy in glorifying God with fruit that lasts forever.

Prayerfully yours,

Charles F. Stanley

P.S. In Touch is honored to serve you. Though I won’t always be here to see the amazing ways that God uses this ministry, I’m awed by His faithfulness through the years. And I trust in His goodness to continue blessing you and the coming generations through In Touch, long into the future.