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Pruning Season: When God Causes the Decrease

As I sit reflecting on the last three years' journey, I thank God for the decrease. In American Christian culture, we rarely see people thank God for "the decrease." Our prayers and affirmations are that we should increase in wisdom, stature, territory, influence, which are all wonderful things -- unless they come onto corrupt hands and hearts.

God wants to trust us with good success and wealth. The only issue with God finding someone he can trust with power and riches is the Bible demonstrates over and over again in the book of Genesis, Judges, Samuel, and Kings; human beings can rarely be trusted with power.

The verse goes on to say that God searches hearts and tests minds, rewarding everyone according to their behavior and what they do. Scary. While in the Old Testament (we do have a better covenant in Christ Jesus), this verse causes me to beg the question, "What is my reward?" What would my behaviors and actions earn me? It sounds self-centered, but the truth is, I came to Christ for selfish reasons. I needed deliverance. I needed healing. I needed to know there was something better than the life I was living. 

Unless you grew up in church and have been a sanctified bible totin’ believer your whole life (don’t lie to yourself), it is also likely that you first turned to Christ out of selfishness. This isn’t problematic in and of itself, as most people in the Bible also came to Jesus with their problems expecting solutions. He HEALED ALL OF THEM, by the way. Yet, what separated the vast multitude of those who followed him for miracles, signs, and wonders, with those who truly sought to learn and love him? They were the ones who stayed in the storm. They were the few who travailed with him to the Garden of Gethsemane in his darkest hour. Still, even Peter, Jesus' closest ally and confidant, would betray him at his lowest valley moment. 

What does this teach us about our walk with God? Sometimes, God causes the decrease so you can understand; it was ONLY ever him. It was never your pastor, mentor, mom, BFF, cousin, sister, husband, business partner, or the friendly train conductor who always let you ride the train for free (he was such a blessing in that season of my life). The source of your provision has and will always ever be, God alone. 

The other day, I observed a gentleman trimming shrubs across the street from my home. The once lively, vibrant shrubs I admired each morning stood with nothing but roots and stubs of branches by the time the landscaper was done butchering them.

“What in the world is this?”

I asked myself, as I saw him tear up the Azalea plant I’d been fawning over all summer. I would later understand that the man knew something I did not understand about trees and shrubs. Winter was coming, and he needed to prune them so they could bear more fruit in the following season. When I saw how he pruned those plants, I understood why my life's pruning season was so painful. 

If we are not careful, we will confuse God's sharp pruning for the reckless chops of an ax murderer trying to come for all we’ve ever had (that’s how that man was using his saw on those plants, it was wild). But whether God is removing friendships you thought would last a lifetime or resources you felt you truly needed, we have to trust our lives in the breaker's hand. The one who prunes us not to hurt us, but to give us hope and a future, an expected end. The one who desires to see us blessed, but understands the little foxes that exist within our hearts' depths, might cause us to compromise the blessing and forfeit the seat of honor he has prepared for us.

There is a seat of honor with your name on it. No matter how small you think your gifts may appear before men and God, God has a way of taking the “least of these” and the “foolish things” to use them for his glory. The real question is, are you willing to be pruned to bear fruit? Once you bear fruit, are you ready to be pruned yet again? Thus is the life cycle of trees that bear fruit in their season(not somebody else's season), whose leaves do not wither.

Basically: Jesus don't need no burned-out ministers.

The dead leaves and underperforming branches of your life must be cut off before God can bless you with more fruit. Everyone will admire the fruit once bore, but very few will stick around to celebrate a tree that has been cut down to the stub; it just isn’t pretty to look at anymore. 

For now, I have lost the beautiful view I enjoyed all summer, admiring my neighbor’s shrubs. But I trust that when spring comes again, the blooms will be glorious. 

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