The fruitful branch!
"He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit." John 15:2A
But the gardener does something to the fruitful branch also: "While every branch that does bear fruit — He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." John 15:2B
He is not content with a little fruit from it — he wants more. So he takes his knife and prunes it — and that not once only, but again and again. Not roughly or hastily — but with great skill and care, that it may bear as much fruit as possible.
Does not this show us the meaning of our afflictions? God is the Gardener of souls. What is He doing when . . .
He sends sore trouble on the Christian,
or lays him on a bed of sickness,
or takes away his comforts,
or removes some who were very dear?
What is the meaning of this? God has taken the pruning-knife in hand, and is pruning the branch that it may bring forth more fruit.
People are sometimes surprised at seeing trouble fall on the godly — and not on the wicked. But this parable explains it quite plainly. The godly man is a fruit-bearing branch; he is joined by faith to Christ, the true Vine, and does already bear fruit. But God, the heavenly Gardener, desires more fruit — and therefore prunes him by means of affliction.
It may be a sharp pruning knife that He makes use of — and He has sharpened it for the very purpose. But it is not too sharp. In His wise and gracious hands — it will do its work well. The Christian will rise from his sick-bed, or come forth from the house of mourning, all the better for God's dealing with him — more humble, more spiritually-minded, more sober-minded, more zealous and in earnest. Henceforth the world will be less to him — and his Savior more precious to him.
Cannot every Christian, who has been under God's pruning-knife — bear witness to the gentle firmness with which it has been used? There is no weakness or wavering in God's dealings — yet no roughness. There is no lack of decision, no half-work — yet no rashness, no mistake.
The gardener's hand may make a slip — and he may cut too deep, or cut where he did not mean to cut. Not so with the hand of God. When He takes the knife, He uses it . . .
with perfect firmness,
with unerring wisdom, and
with tender and compassionate love.
He will make no slip.
He will not cut too deep.
He will give no needless pain.
He will take away no comfort that would better have been left.
Sometimes the gardener adds an ointment to the place where the cut has been made — lest the branch should "bleed" too much, as they say.
Just so, God is always ready to apply a healing ointment to the wounds which He makes.
Oh, what comfort He sends in trouble!
Oh, what soothing, heavenly thoughts!
Oh, what a sense of His love!
Oh, what answers to prayer!
Oh, what grace and peace — what thankfulness and love!
These are His precious ointments. This is how He binds up the wounds which He has made.
Do not shrink from your Father's hand — even though the knife is in it! Trust Him, love Him. He will do all wisely, tenderly, faithfully. Let it be your heart's desire to abide more closely to Christ, and to bring forth more fruit to the glory of God.