When Jesus instructed His disciples to abide in Him, He used the illustration of a vine and branches. The pruning of the branches was an integral part of that lesson, and of abiding in Christ:
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2)
It is fitting that Jesus chose the vine for His illustration. More than other plants, the vine needs pruning. It needs constant and deep pruning. Otherwise it will yield no fruit. But when it is pruned, it does yield fruit, and that fruit is unsurpassed in the life and energy it imparts.
Great is the care that the Vinedresser must give the vine, and great is the reward for that care.
God is after followers of Jesus, who rest continually in Him and are made productive in Him. Such followers require a high level of maintenance, but it is God Himself who maintains them.
Jesus prepared His disciples for “pruning.” So much meaning is packed into that word, and so much power. “Pruning” is able to lend its meaning to otherwise meaningless suffering. Suffering can be pointless, but “pruning” never is.
And do not doubt that pruning involves suffering. It does. Understand and accept this, and trials and afflictions will only cause you to rest more deeply in Jesus.
Flee into Christ in times of suffering, just as you would take shelter from a storm. Find comfort in Christ so that, when the trial passes, you will have learned to keep the comfort you have found in Him.
And when the trial passes, continue to rest in Jesus. It is not necessary for your heart to wander from Christ when everything is going well and life is easy. It is not necessary, but it is so common.
Let it not be so for you. Rest in Jesus in the good times as well as the bad times. Let every hardship send you into a deeper rest in Jesus. Let it be a rest that peace and prosperity cannot distract you from. This is what God wants for you.
The chastening of the Lord is for our profit, Hebrews 12:10 tells us, “that we may be partakers of His holiness.”
Your suffering can become a cross that brings you into closer fellowship with Christ and His cross, even though your suffering is minor compared to His. Suffering doesn’t have to be great to be a cross. It only has to be recognized and its power appreciated.
Let the small trials conform you to His image, even the ones that are so small they are almost not worthy to be called trials. Use them to practice getting the value out of suffering. Then you will be ready should greater trials come.
Hebrews 12:11 says, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Through chastening, you will learn a deeper rest in Jesus, but only if you are trained by it. It’s not enough to simply experience it.
Suffering does not always lead to spiritual blessing or growth in maturity, even for Christians. Many of God’s children can suffer much and be no better for it. This simply means they did not learn to rest in Jesus in the midst of their suffering.
Yield to God, rest in Jesus, and let every trial increase your share in His holiness. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, who is also called the Comforter (John 14:16).
God will certainly comfort you in your suffering. He has the power and the desire to do that. The Holy Spirit will assure you of God’s love and kindness, even in the midst of your trials. He will supply peace to your heart when your mind is troubled.
But this is not the only reason He is called the Comforter, neither is it the deepest comfort He gives. The deeper work of the Comforter is not make you comfortable, but to make you holy. He comforts you by conforming you to the image of Christ. In this way, the comfort He gives you in the trial remains when the trial is over. This produces a deeper and more permanent comfort than passing thoughts about God.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t just supply you with comforting thoughts about God. He does do that, but even more, He teaches you to rest in Jesus, where all comfort is found.
When you meet with suffering and pain, see what closer fellowship with Jesus you can attain by going through it. Count Christ as closer to you than any pain. However close the pain, He is closer.
This is a preview chapter of a book I’ll be publishing in January 2018:
Find Your Place of Rest in Jesus – An Adaptation of Andrew Murray’s Abide in Christ
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