I have a neighbor who is an expert rose grower. His front and back yards are beautiful, so I invited him to come over to my back yard and work his magic on my roses. He was a wonder to watch. He brought his loppers to do his pruning, and he was ruthless. It hurt me just to watch him cut back my rosebushes. Whack, whack, whack! By the time he was finished, my rosebushes were only little stubs. Professional pruners will tell you that most people are too timid when it comes to pruning. I used to think that pruning was going in and gently cutting off the little dead pieces. Not so. The live stuff needs to go too — branches, leaves, and flowers. Evidently my neighbor knew what he was doing, because my roses have never bloomed so beautifully.
Here is my point: most of us think that when God prunes us, he cuts off the sinful and the superficial, the deadwood in our lives. He does do that, but he also cuts off stuff that is alive and successful: a ministry that is going great, a satisfying relationship, good health. Some of that may get whacked off for greater fruitfulness.
It is not just deadwood that goes.
God often cuts back good things too, in order to make us healthier.
Pruning Is Not Pretty
Like discipline, pruning is unpleasant. Have you ever looked at a pruned tree or a pruned plant? It is ugly. A few years ago I had twelve sixty-foot eucalyptus trees in my front yard. I had a man come out and top them. He “topped” them all right — he left no branches! I ended up with twelve “totem poles” standing in my front yard. Some of my neighbors joked that a UFO had dropped these giant toothpicks. I think some of them thought I was starting some kind of Stonehenge cult. Those trees were ugly. But do you know what? After that pruning, the trees came back with greater fullness than ever before. Now my problem is raking up all the leaves!
When Pruning Fails
Can God’s pruning fail to produce? Sure it can, if we don’t cooperate. If we resist, rebel, complain, or become resentful, our character will not develop the way God intends it to. We have now looked at nine specific character qualities that God wants to develop in your life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He produces these qualities by allowing you to encounter situations and people full of exactly the opposite qualities. He teaches you love by putting you around unlovely people. He teaches you joy in the midst of sorrow. He teaches you peace by allowing irritations all around you. He teaches you patience by allowing things to frustrate you. God uses all of those things to make you more fruitful, but you must cooperate with him. The way you express that cooperation is by praising God in every circumstance (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
– Excerpt from God’s Power to Change Your Life, by Rick Warren
How To Use This Book
“In the years I have been a pastor,” writes Rick Warren, “the number-one question I’m asked is, ‘Rick, why can’t I change?’” People want to change—but they’re stuck. This classic book is about two things: where the power to change comes from, and what we want to be like after we change (the Fruit of the Spirit). This book is great to go through with new believers, or with people who are feeling stuck in their spiritual growth. There are three chapters that help people draw upon the power of the Holy Spirit to obey God’s Word, and nine chapters describing each Fruit of the Spirit that will emerge as evidence of their changed lives.