[Month 1, Week 4: This post is part of the “6 Month Discipleship Plan” series]
Recently, in one of our ministry area’s Cell Charger sessions, the topic of process items in terms of Christlike leadership was discussed. “Cell Charger” is basically a once a month back to barracks type of session where the Cell Group Leaders of our church gather together to encourage one another to grow in the love and likeness of Christ, and persevere in fulfilling His Great Commission.
In the beginning of the most recent session we had, we were told to ask the person beside us, “How are you?”
The speaker then said, “Ngumiti ba? Pangiti-ngiti lang yan pero marami ring pinagdadaanan yan.”
Everyone had a fair share of laughter because what he said was so agreeable. Followers of Jesus (have to) face personal life and ministry struggles because such struggles reveal areas in our lives where one should grow from or overcome.
As my favorite chapter in the Bible says, “…while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:2) In the book of Job, it also says, “Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hands also heal.” (Job 5:17-18)
Knowing that I was not the only one in that Cell Charger session who’s struggling to overcome many process items actually relieved me. It felt like I didn’t have to go through things thinking that I’m alone in the fight. Instead, it felt like I am in a body who is eager to also finish the race set before us. And not just to finish but to finish well. The stories of Jesus’ victory in the lives of those who shared their personal testimonies that day also blessed my heart deeply.
It’s almost impossible to raise your hand in a crowd that is asked, “Who here wants to be pruned?” Correction and training is uncomfortable, inconvenient and hard to swallow. As pruning is necessary for flowers since the ultimate goal for flowers is to improve its plant health and quality, pruning is necessary for followers of Jesus since the ultimate goal of any personal relationship with God is Christlikeness.
I believe that a Christian who isn’t going through pruning isn’t really imitating or following Jesus at all. It is either you are attached to The Vine which is Jesus Christ, bearing fruit and is being pruned to become even more fruitful OR you just look like you are attached to The Vine but the truth is you are not because there’s no fruit thus will be cut off, thrown into the fire and burned (John 15).
And so Romans 5:3-4 stands true: “… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…” There is something to rejoice from whenever God is pruning us especially because endurance, character and hope can sprout from it.
Pruning is also meant to help us die to ourselves.
It says that anyone who desires to follow Jesus, must deny himself or herself, take up his or her cross daily and follow Jesus! (Luke 9:23); and that those who live should no longer live for himself or herself but for Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:15). This is the reason why pruning is also intended for us to die to ourselves.
Yes, dying to one’s self is not an overnight thing; it is a constant process in order that Jesus becomes greater and we become less (John 3:30). But even in its constancy, a disciple’s heart will remain to be a teachable heart — willing to learn from the Lord no matter what stage he or she is at in his or her walk with Him — always asking, “What is God teaching/telling me in this situation?”
Pruning also reveals the genuineness of our faith.
1 Peter 1:6-7 says, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Since pruning cuts off characters, attitudes, mindsets and motives in our lives that will hinder inward and outward fruitfulness, it is able to reveal what is truly in our hearts.
Here are some of the areas where a disciple of Jesus can be pruned or tested. I hope that this list also gives you a light-bulb effect moment. We have to take note however that these areas are not processed one after another. Often, God processes these areas simultaneously in quantity and/or increasingly in quality. Sometimes, He even double checks or triple checks until true inward completion.
Reference: Lakas-Angkan Ministries, Inc. – School of Leaders 3, Lesson 5
- Faithfulness Test – to test whether you can be trusted with the smallest things and tasks or not (e.g., being consistently available and on time for the Lord’s will and work; giving your whole heart in small or seemingly mundane tasks)
- Conviction Test – to test whether your motives in following Jesus, His life and ministry, are purely out of serving Him and glorifying Him or out of selfish ambition
- Stewardship Test – to test if the way you steward your God-given resources is dependent and submissive towards the Lord
- Wilderness Experience Test – to test if you will still seek the Lord even in the midst of spiritual dryness or isolation
- Integrity Test – to test if who you are behind closed doors and who you are when surrounded by people are the same (i.e., this test targets complacencies, checks credibility, reveals compromises)
- Submission Test – to test whether your heart attitude is willingly submissive towards your God-appointed direct and delegated authorities
- Readiness to Forgive Test – to test how willing you are to forgive those who have offended or hurt you just as how the Lord Jesus forgave you
- Warfare Test – to test if you will still seek the Lord even in the midst of danger, chaos or temptation
- Endurance Test – to test your willingness to wait on the Lord (e.g., this also checks your heart attitude during the waiting period)
- Lordship Test – to test who really is the authority in your life (e.g., Do you make not-so important or very important decisions out of self-will or out of God’s will?; Do you make small or big decisions out of your circumstances and feelings or out of faith in God?)