The Pruning Knife of Heaven

When God sets out to produce spiritual fruit in our lives, he doesn't send the fruit; He sends the instrument through which that fruit will be cultivated.
by Lorraine E. Espenhain | Source: Catholic.net

To the extent that we are willing to yield to those 'instruments,' is to the extent spiritual fruit will be developed in our lives. Many years ago, I had a real eye-opening experience as I was reading the Bible one morning in my home. As I meditated on something St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatian church, I found myself becoming increasingly uncomfortable, because I saw that something was clearly amiss in my walk with Christ.

In the Apostle’s letter to the Galatian believers, he wrote to them as follows: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control..." [Gal 5:22-23].

According to St. Paul, if we identify ourselves as ‘Spirit-filled’ Christians, this is the fruit that should be growing in our lives.

I guess you could say that when I was younger, I didn’t quite ‘get it’ when it came to spiritual fruit and how that fruit is cultivated in our lives. Truth be told, my life was not producing this fruit at all; I was all leaves. If there was anything hanging in the tree of my life, it was small, green, and sour.

I couldn’t figure it out. I knew that I loved the Lord. I was very active in my church, and my faith in God was strong. But I wasn’t very loving. Joy and peace fluctuated, as they were fully dependent upon my outward circumstances. Patience was non-existent. Since I frustrated easily, faithfulness to any job or ministry was always on a short-term, temporary basis, as I would quit the minute I became irritated. Gentleness and self-control? We won’t even go there.

If I was in Christ, and His Spirit abided in me, why in the world wasn’t my life bearing the fruit of that Spirit?

I didn’t understand then, as I do now, that when God sets out to produce spiritual fruit in our lives, He doesn’t send the fruit; he sends the instrument through which that fruit will be cultivated. Jesus said, "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.’ [Jn 15:1-2].

Through the work of the Holy Spirit, God the Father prunes us in our daily lives so that our lives will produce the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 and will reflect the Lord Jesus Christ in His character.

Unfortunately, God’s pruning knife is usually sharp and painful. The minute it makes contact with our flesh, our natural tendency is to resist and rebel, which is what I had done for many years.

It’s not that I didn’t pray for this spiritual fruit. In my time with God in prayer, I would faithfully ask Him to ‘give me’ love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I really don’t know what I was thinking. Being young at that time, I truly believed that while I slept at night, God would wave His magic wand and a tremendous metamorphosis would take place during the night. I truly believed that I would arise the next morning a changed woman, but this was not to be.

When I prayed for the fruit of love, Christ sent me the neighbor from Hell. When I asked for the fruit of kindness, I was given an employer who made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. When I put in a request for the fruit of patience, frustrating family situations became my constant companions.

Instead of yielding to the instruments through which God intended to cultivate this fruit, I ran from them! Whenever God’s pruning knife made contact with my flesh, I was convinced that I was under a Satanic attack, and I would fight back...vehemently, I might add. I didn’t understand that the Lord doesn’t send the fruit into our lives; He sends the instrument through which that fruit will be cultivated.

Because I spent many years resisting God’s pruning knife, I remained spiritually unfruitful and immature, and my life did not reflect the Lord Jesus Christ at all. By the grace of God, as I grew older, I finally ‘caught on’ and surrendered my will completely to the Lord, and it was then that my life began to produce spiritual fruit.

When we find ourselves facing unpleasant situations, we must learn to recognize them as a pruning knife in the hand of God Who is faithfully, skillfully, and lovingly using them to develop spiritual fruit in our lives. Sometimes, what we think is a weapon in the hand of Satan is really a pruning knife in the hand of God.

It’s been said that where the mind goes, the man will follow. Perspective is everything, for it determines how we react to situations when they come into our lives. If our perspective is right, our reaction will be right as well.

There are many reasons why the Lord has given us His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives in us to lead, guide, counsel, and instruct us in the ways and will of God. He also empowers us so that we can yield our lives to that leading, guidance, counsel, and instruction. Who among us could yield our flesh to the will of a Holy God apart from the power of the Holy Spirit? Thank God for the gift of His Spirit!

But another job of the Holy Spirit is to produce spiritual fruit in our lives and to make us like Christ. In St. Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he wrote to them as follows: "For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son..." [Ro 8:29].

The Holy Spirit wants to change us. He wants us to become spiritually fruitful so that we will become more like Christ. He wants to eliminate those areas in our lives that are keeping us from being like Christ. It’s the Spirit’s job to carry out this work; it’s our job to yield. The Lord isn’t going to do it all for us; we must be willing to do our part as well.

If we are in Christ, we cannot remain as we are. Until the day we leave this world in order to be with our Heavenly Father, the Spirit will be working and moving in our lives in order to change us and make us more like His Son. To the extent that we yield our lives to His work in us is to the extent His goal will be achieved.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be all that God wanted us to be at the moment of our baptism? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out like that, does it? According to St. Paul, there is a spiritual tug-of-war continually going on within us.

In his letter to the Galatian church, St. Paul instructed them as follows: "Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other..." [Gal 5:16-17].

Profession of faith in Christ does not take away our sinful nature. This is why we still struggle with sin and temptation. Unfortunately, we will find ourselves struggling with our sinful nature until the day we close our eyes in death. It doesn’t go away just because we are in Christ. But God has given us His Spirit, that we might conquer this sinful nature and overcome.

It’s up to us, however, to yield to the Spirit, and this is where many of us have a tendency to trip and fall. The Spirit isn’t going to do it all for us. We must be willing to do our part as well; we must be willing to yield.

Jesus made it very clear in the Garden of Gethsemane that man’s flesh is weak. It gets in the way of our yielding to the ways and will of God. To combat this weakness, Christ instructed us as follows: "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." [Mt 26:41].

While it is true that God has given us His Spirit, we are still required to spend time in our daily lives ‘sowing to the Spirit’ through prayer and the reading of God’s Word, that we might be empowered to yield our lives to that Spirit. When I neglect prayer and the study/meditation of God’s Word, I find it a lot harder to yield to His Spirit or to even be open to It. When frustrating situations cross my path, I respond to them in a carnal manner, rather than in a spiritual manner. Why? Is this because I am no longer in Christ? Of course not! It is because I am reaping what I have sown. If I am not sowing to the Spirit in my daily life, then I cannot expect to reap His power either.

Prayer and time spent in God’s Word do not change our circumstances; they change us. And as we are being changed, our reaction to those situations changes as well. This is why Jesus exhorted us to pray often. By prayer, I mean speaking to God from our hearts. Talking to Him as we would our dearest friend. Sharing with Him things which we could never share with man.

When I was in my early twenties, I found prayer boring. I had no problem studying the Bible, but prayer was difficult for me because, truth be told, I really didn’t know how to pray. I would sit before the Lord, stare at a wall, and try to think of spiritual things to say that would impress the Most High. Fifteen minutes later, I would walk out of the room frustrated and discouraged. One day, after a grueling day at work, I went before the Lord and poured out my heart to Him about my job, my boss, and my co-workers. I then started talking to Him about other things going on in me and in my life. Before I knew it, an entire hour had passed! Suddenly, prayer wasn’t an effort. When I walked out of the room, I felt a thousand times closer to God than I did before I walked into the room.

God wants us to ‘get real’ with Him in prayer. If we are struggling with issues and temptations, we need to open up our hearts before Him and talk to Him about them. He sees it all anyway! Refusing to talk to Him about difficult situations doesn’t make them invisible in His sight.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. To what extent will this fruit be produced in our lives? To the extent that we are willing to yield to the pruning knife of God.

Before going to the cross, Christ uttered the following words to His disciples: "This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples." [Jn 15:8].

May Christ our Lord continue to pour out His grace upon our lives, that we might yield those lives to Heaven’s pruning knife...

...and not resist.

 



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