While Helen and I were coming home from a walk on the beach (yep, suffering for the faith) she mentioned how God had shown her He has her in a time of pruning. One of our team members had brought up the image from John 15 of God as the Vinedresser, and as Helen reflected on the idea of God’s pruning the ones He loves, she realized He was doing that in her life. Since that conversation I have thought a lot about not only this season on outreach with Titus Project, but really the last couple of years, and I realized I have also been going through a season of pruning. I believed at times that this season was just one of little to no growth, and because of that belief, I felt again and again I was failing as follower of Jesus. I was unable to see that what felt like a lack of growth, was God pruning back the old to make room for new. The last couple of years have not been ones of great charismatic experiences of God, and in the past, I would have seen that as an indication that God was distant in my life. This would lead me to doubt my faith and even salvation. Now, however, I know with certainty that no matter what I feel or do not feel, my standing with God does not change. I have assurance of my salvation, that I have been redeemed from sin, and transferred from the kingdom of darkness into God’s kingdom of light. I have this assurance because I know I did nothing to earn God’s forgiveness, and God promises to never take away what He has given to me. My status of righteousness before God is not dependent on anything I have done, but on the unchanging reality of what Jesus did on the cross.
In the same way that I am certain of my justification before God, I am certain of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life and His work of sanctification in me. The Holy Spirit is the promised sign and seal of the salvation I know I have received as a gift from God. I do wish I found the expression of the fruit of the Spirit in greater measure in my life, but I do not doubt the Spirit is working with me to help me grow. I may not see the fruit in the abundance I would prefer at the moment, but I hope as God cuts away the old, it will make way for new and fuller fruit to appear in my life. It is this promise of God that comforts me in this time of pruning. God is okay with what I experience as a lack of fruit at the moment, because He knows what a good vinedresser or arborist knows – what looks hacked back and almost pruned to the point of damage, will bear fruit in its season. My certainty around this comes from seeing the work of the Spirit in the gift of teaching He has given me. I know it is the Holy Spirit that has called me to teach by way of gifting me so. I see how even when I do not “feel” the Spirit’s presence I see the results that could only occur if the Spirit was present and active. If the Holy Spirit is active in using and growing the gift of teaching He placed in me, how much more is He also active in pruning me so the fruit of the Spirit will be evident in time also. The challenge of faith at these times is having the assurance that God fulfills His promises, even when it is difficult to see how those promises are fulfilled. My hope at the moment is in the promises I find in God’s Word – that they will come to pass. My prayer is for eyes to see where God is at work in my life in every season, even ones in which He is pruning me.