The Process of Growing in God
Updated: Mar 24
Do you find growth and change to be a little painful...or uncomfortable? Growing pains are a natural part of growth, even when growing with God. Learn how to allow God to help you continue to grow in Him in this devotional blog.
A God Who Prunes Us
“I am the real vine, and my Father is the gardener. Every branch which is part of me but fails to bear fruit, he cuts off; and every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes, so that it may bear more fruit. Right now, because of the Word which I have spoken to you, you are pruned. Stay united with me, as I will with you – for just as the branch can’t put forth fruit by itself apart from the vine, so you can’t bear fruit apart from me.” - John 15:1-5
Since the devotional I wrote last week was about the Fruit of the Spirit and staying connected to the true Vine, Jesus Christ, in order to bear much fruit; this week I would like to discuss a second aspect of producing much fruit, pruning. I give credit to Beth Moore in her well written Bible study, A Woman’s Heart, God’s Dwelling Place for the following two-fold concept on pruning.
In John 15: 2-3 Jesus said, “Every branch which is part of me but fails to bear fruit, he cuts off; and every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes, so that it may bear more fruit. Right now, because of the Word which I have spoken to you, you are pruned.”
Agriculture is a vital aspect to life in Israel, so Jesus spoke in terms that the people could understand. In order for a vine, a plant, or a garden to grow, it must be pruned. Because The Lord loves us, He will prune us, in order that we may bear much fruit. How does He prune us? One of the ways is as Jesus said in John 15:3, by The Word. A second way we are pruned is by circumstances.
Let’s focus first on pruning by The Word. Let’s look at 2 Timothy 3:16-17,
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living; so that anyone who belongs to God may be fully equipped for every good work.”
Let’s look next at Hebrews 4:12 “See, the Word of God is alive! It is at work and is sharper than any double-edged sword – it cuts through to where soul meets spirit and joints meet marrow, and it is quick to judge the inner reflections and attitudes of the heart.”
God is the only one who can judge rightly. And because The Word of God is living and active it convicts, exhorts, and encourages us accurately and rightly, as nothing and no one else can.
In James 1:22-25, the brother of Jesus and Jude wrote,
“Don’t deceive yourselves by only hearing what the Word says, but do it! For whoever hears the Word but doesn’t do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror, who looks at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But if a person looks closely into the perfect law which gives freedom, and continues, becoming not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work it requires, then he will be blessed in what he does.”
In Hebrew the word “law” means “teaching and instruction”. The passage in James says that “the perfect law – or the perfect teaching and instruction – gives freedom.”
There is a passage in Deuteronomy that just struck me one day as I was reading it. First, let me share something about my life to give you some background and therefore, a frame of reference. I grew up in a very legalistic home and spiritual environment. As a result, I came to equate my worth as a person with what I did. In other words, I felt I had to earn love by what I did. Feeling love, acceptance and approval were based on performance. I was given love when I did what I was supposed to do, and love was withheld when I didn’t. Beyond discipline, I am speaking of the emotional messages that were given to me as a child.
So, I came to view God the same way. If I did what was right and good, God would love me. If I didn’t, then God really didn’t love me and would punish me. It took many years for me to understand and embrace grace and to believe the truth that God loves me … regardless of me or what I do. There is nothing I have done, or could do, that would change God’s love for me. And the same is true for you.
Due to this upbringing and legalistic environment, I found it such a struggle to consistently and constantly do what was right, and to forgive myself when I messed up. As Bible teacher Chip Ingram puts it, it was the self-reliant cycle of “try hard, do-good, fail … try harder, do-not-so-good, fail …. re-double my try hard efforts, do-sort-of-good, fail … don’t try so hard, just give up…”
God gave the Ten Commandments and the other 603 Mitzvot (Hebrew for “command”, more broadly: “general principle for living, good deed” (see Mt. 5:19 +) to the Israelites, through Moses, as a way of life that God knew was best. But there is another purpose for the law; and it was to show us that no matter how hard man or woman tried to observe all of God’s commands (613 of them), we would not be able to obtain righteousness on our own.
“It is only by grace that we are saved, not that of ourselves,
lest any man should boast.” - Romans 3:24
Am I alone here, or have you found it difficult to always do what is pleasing to The Lord in your life too? I remember when I was younger, trying to obey every command seemed like such a cumbersome burden to me. Add to it, all the man-made laws and Christian cultural expectations … it seemed overwhelming and unattainable. So, with this framework in mind, here is the passage which set me free from thinking of God’s commands as a burden … to desiring and delighting in obedience:
“For this mitzvah (plural for “command”) which I am giving you today is not too hard for you, it is not beyond your reach. It isn’t in the sky so that you need to ask, ‘Who will go up into the sky for us, bring it to us, and make us hear it, so that we can obey?’ Likewise, it isn’t beyond the sea, so that you need to ask, ‘who will cross the sea for us, bring it to us and make us hear it so that we can obey it?’ On the contrary, the Word is very close to you – in your mouth, even in your heart; therefore, you can do it!” … “Therefore, choose life, so that you will live, you and your descendants, loving The Lord your God, paying attention to what He says and clinging to Him - for that is the purpose of your life.”
- Deuteronomy 30:11-14, 19-20
When asked by one of the Pharisees, which was the greatest of all the mitzvot (commands), Jesus replied, ‘You are to love The Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’ This is the greatest and most important command. And a second is similar to it, ‘You are to love your neighbor as yourself.’ All of the Torah and the Prophets are dependent on these two mitzvot (commands).” - Matthew 22:37-40 (Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18).
Why these two? Because they pertain to our relationship with God and to our relationship with ourselves and others. Like the spokes of a wheel, everything in life stems from the hub of these relationships. Likewise, obedience stems from love. When we love The Lord and love His Word, we will desire to obey.
Pruning by The Word can be much less painful than the second method of pruning, which is through our circumstances. James 1:2-4 says, “Regard it as joy when you face various kinds of temptations [trials]; for you know that the testing of your trust produces perseverance. But let perseverance do its complete work; so that you may be complete and whole, lacking in nothing.”
If we can view the temptations we face and the trials we experience through the perspective of joy, it is because even in the process, we trust The Lord for His best and we know the final outcome … that we may be complete, whole, and lacking in nothing.
Herein lies one of the keys to why God prunes us in the first place … to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). One of the methods the Master Gardner uses, is our circumstances.
“And I am sure of this: that the One who began a good work in you
will keep it growing until it is completed.”
With that in mind, how can I look at my life, my choices, perhaps that which I may not have chosen, good circumstances and challenging and difficult circumstances, or even painful circumstances, in such a way that I see the refining process of God skimming off the dross so that I may reflect the image of His Son?
“We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called in accordance with His purpose; because those whom He knew in advance, He also determined in advance would be conformed to the pattern of His Son”
When we have been successfully pruned by the Master Gardner, in addition to reflecting the image of His Son and bearing much fruit, what other result will we reap? John 15:9-13 says Joy. Pure, complete joy!
I encourage you to look up each of the Scriptures and ask God to speak to you through His Word. I also encourage you to take some time for prayerful reflection. Are there areas, attitudes, or actions that need to be pruned from your life in order for you to grow? What would it look like to ask God – to trust God – to prune away these things?
May you be blessed and rejoice in bearing much fruit!
This blog is by Freedom to Flourish Life Coaching Founder and Christian Life Coach, Jen Stone-Sexton. She is currently accepting new clients. You can learn more about Jen here.
Jennifer Stone-Sexton © 2022. Freedom to Flourish Life Coaching. All Rights Reserved.
A Woman’s Heart, God’s Dwelling Place, Bible Study by Beth Moore, Copyright 1995 and 2003, Life Way Press, Nashville, Tennessee,
All Scripture references and quotations used with permission: Copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern, Published by Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., Clarksville, Maryland USA & Jerusalem, Israel
Photo Credits: Cover & Photo 1 by Anastasiya Romanova on Unsplash | Photo 2 by Annie Spratt on Unsplash | Photo 3 by Sandie Clarke on Unsplash | Photo 4 by Aaron Burden on Unsplash