• Christian

The Painful, Meticulous, Repetitious, and Good Work of God

At the end of the first chapter in the book of Job, we read, "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

I once read a quote by author and pastor, Paul David Tripp, who said, “Most people who are angry with God are angry with him for being God.” When God does what God is supposed to do, we don’t like it because it’s not what we want. Most of the time our perspective is so limited that we can’t even fathom reasons for God doing, well, God-like things.

When we suffer, we act as though we were promised no suffering - even though he’s made it clear that it should be expected (1 Peter 4:12-19, James 1:2-4).

When we don’t get our way, we act as though God hates us - even though he’s told us it’s because he loves us as his children (Hebrews 12:5-11, Deuteronomy 8:5).

When we experience the consequences of our sins (which is usually the cause of most of our pains) we angrily pout in confusion - even though he’s told us he won’t be mocked (Galatians 6:7). Indeed, the proverb stands true, "When a man's folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD” (Proverbs 19:3).

It is certainly obvious, and clearly seen in scripture, that nothing happens to a believer that is not directly or indirectly used for their good. Nothing comes into contact with our lives that isn’t first vetted and prepared to cause good according to the purposes of God (that last part is key!). I think John 15:2 is a perfect example of this idea.

John 15:2 says, “...every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” According to this passage, we will be, “pruned” to bear more fruit, but what does pruning mean?

In agricultural terms, which is how it’s being used in this context, it means to cut away or remove anything unnecessary or dead for the branch to bear more fruit.

It’s painful, it’s meticulous, it’s repetitious, and it’s good.

If we are the branches in John 15, and he is the vinedresser who prunes - that means we are constantly going to be losing things in this life that prove to be superfluous, damaging, or sinful. What’s more important to understand is that it doesn’t just happen once or twice, or even that it stops after we have produced a considerable amount of fruit - because the more you produce, the more he prunes. This process doesn’t end because there will always be dead leaves, branches, or even withering fruit that must be removed for our good to come and his glory to be brought.

It’s painful because the dead, superfluous, unwanted parts that he takes away are attached to us - we do not lightly give or lose them.

It’s meticulous because it deals with the totality of our lives, not just one area - but all of who we are.

It’s repetitious because there will always be things, whether brought about by Satan or ourselves, that must be removed over and over again until we are taken home.

It’s good because it makes us more like Christ and allows us to bring glory to God - and that’s the whole point of this life!

It’s not to just simply, “bear more fruit,” but as verse 8 makes clear, "By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” The reality is like Job said, God will give and he will also take away - whether we like it or not. There will be things that only he can remove or work on that we may not even be aware of or have the power to do anything about. But there are a plethora of other things that we can willingly and proactively remove.

Matt Chandler said in a sermon once, "It is almost always morally neutral things that distract me from being serious about a love relationship with Christ.” Did you catch that? The things that cause the most disturbances or hindrances to our walk with Christ are not the obvious, black and white sins - but rather the “morally neutral things."

Morally neutral meaning, they aren’t inherently sinful or wrong. Take for example things such as television, social media, or video games - these things could be considered morally neutral. They are neither right nor wrong, yet they are the very things that subtly distract us from our relationship with Christ. It could also be friends, romantic relationships, jobs, hobbies, music, family, food, exercising, or even school! No matter what, there are always things to be pruned. Herein lies the two-fold challenge:

1) What can and should you prune out of your life for the sake of your relationship with Christ? It could be a friend, a job, a significant other, social media - whatever it is, there is something. What is it and what’s holding you back from removing it? Be, as James says, "doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).

2) Accept and submit to God’s painful, meticulous, repetitious, and good removal of that which is dead, superfluous, or sinful from your life. Don’t try to fight him, you will lose. Don’t try to hold on to it, it will only make it more painful. Let God do his work in your life and trust him to remove that which is unnecessary to bring about what is truly good. Let Hebrews 12:11 comfort you, "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."

At the end of the book of Job, in the final chapter, we read, "I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” (Job 42:5). Let it be our prayer and eager expectation that God prunes us of anything unnecessary so that we, along with Job, may joyfully say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you."