By Victor Ochieng
Dave Furman, Senior Pastor of Redeemer Church of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, has a very interesting story about an experience he had with their gardener. Being someone who worked from home, he’d look through the window at their beautiful bougainvillea while preparing sermons. These motivated him so much.
Then one day, a gardener was at work, pruning the plants. The gardener chopped branches and leaves until he made piles. Deep in his mind, Furman was thinking of how they’d hired a terrible gardener. He had to share this with his wife. He told her: “Have you seen what the gardener is doing? He is destroying everything!” How could the gardener mess up the beautiful plants that had been radiating with beauty, a source of inspiration for him?
For someone who doesn’t understand much about gardening, that kind of reaction is understandable, especially when the pruning comes at a time the plants and flowers are looking beautiful and healthy.
But now let’s look at the Bible. When Jesus shared His last sermon with his disciples, He decided to rope in a gardening metaphor to underscore the importance of spiritual growth and yielding of spiritual fruits. “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2). He was basically telling them that He was putting them on a path of bearing fruits. The fruit wouldn’t come because they’re growing like wild fruits, but because of the wise pruning by God.
Every wise vinedresser is keen not to let his fruits grow without pruning so that they produce the best. For the best result, the vinedresser will target dead overgrown branches, removing the sickly ones to ensure that the growth of the healthy branches isn’t deterred.
Just like the branches Jesus talked about in the story, we must understand that we’re all different, meaning our pruning can’t be the same. Despite the pruning being different in each one of us, we entrust that the intention is so that we may bear more fruits.
Our pruning often happens during our hardships, understanding that it’s during this time that we have the idols in our lives revealed to us. We cannot grow spiritually unless we’re able to identify the idols in our hearts.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2–4)
That’s why biblical counselor David Powlison says that “Our biggest problem isn’t outside of us, but inside our own hearts.” This is where we should identify the idols and do away with them.