Friend, God is your gardener.
And God wants to prune you.
How do I know?
Jesus said, I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunesso that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:1-2)
Why does God want to prune you?
If you want an adequate life, no need for pruning.
If you want an abundant life, then it comes with a price.
And that price is pruning.
If you’re content with a living a mediocre life, receiving a mediocre harvest, achieving mediocre dreams—go right ahead living the way you live…
Don’t submit to God’s pruning.
But if you want all that God wants for you, and if you want to fulfill the God-sized dreams for your life, I urge you today: Submit yourself to God’s pruning.
To have an abundant harvest in every area of your life, some things in your life will have to go.
From my experience, there are two ways God prunes you…
Two Ways Of Pruning
The first way is when God asks you to remove something from your life. The second way is when God removes something from your life without your permission.
1) When God Asks You To Remove Something
When I was a 13-year-old Preacher, I gave up TV.
I just felt inspired to do it. So while all my classmates were talking about the latest episode of Charlie’s Angels, I felt very out of place. (I wish I could tell you that my version of Charlie’s Angelsconsisted of Drew Barrymore, Lucy Lui, Cameron Diaz, but…)
Throughout my teenage life, I grew up without TV. Looking back, I now believe that was a huge blessing. Imagine freeing 3 hours a day to do other fantastic things. I read books, played instruments, composed songs, and most of all, served in ministry.
Here’s something to think about: If you live until 75 and watched 3 hours of TV a day, (and you removed normal sleeping time), you would have wasted 14 years of your life.
Would you give up 14 years of your life? But that’s what many people do by watching TV.
When I was 21-years old, I gave up my girlfriend. Reason: I felt I needed time to discern if I was called to celibacy or marriage. And for the next 10 years, I had no romantic relationship. (You can imagine how difficult that was, not only for me, but for all the girls around me who found me irresistible.J) Again, I believe those ten years were the liberating years I stretched my wings, expanded my world, and grew my horizons.
Ask yourself: Is God asking you to remove something from your life?
But there’s another kind of pruning…
2) When God Removes Something
Without Your Permission
My friend was working as an executive in a huge company. I used to tell him, “Brother, ask God if He’s calling you give up your job and serve Him in ministry.”
But he never resigned. His job was paying him well. He told me, “When I retire at 65, I’ll serve God.” But when he was only 53 years old, it happened: His company was bought by a larger company. And they eased out all their executives—including my friend. He was now without a job.
He could of course apply for another job. But he felt that this was God’s way of telling Him, “Serve me now in ministry.”
I have a similar story. Once upon a time, I owned a number of food stalls. I was selling hotdog, ice cream, and squid balls… And everyday, I prayed that they succeed. But one by one, they began to fail. I was losing a lot of money. I felt very sad when they all failed.
But today, I thank they failed.
Because if they didn’t fail, I wouldn’t have given them up—I’d still be chugging along. And I won’t be in my present businesses now—which are twenty times more profitable.
Sometimes, God allows failure, sickness, retrenchment, separation—so that there’ll be space in your life for new and better things.
Did your boyfriend dump you? Thank God. Someone better is coming your way.
Did your company retrench you? Thank God. A better job is coming your way.
Did your business fail? Thank God. A better business is coming your way.
Did you get sick? Thank God. You’ll learn how to live a healthier lifestyle, and better health is coming your way.
Did a thief steal from you? Did a partner cheat from you? Thank God. You’ll learn from this painful experience, and God will return double what you have lost.
Remember: God’s pruning isn’t God’s punishment. Yes, it feels like it. When bad things happen, you want to cry, “Lord, why? I’m a good person. Why are you doing this to me? Have I done something wrong to displease you?”
No, God isn’t mad at you. God is madly in love with you. He’s doing something wonderful in your life. At the end of your life, you’ll tell yourself, “Thank God He pruned me!”
Let me tell you what God removes or prunes from our life…
Two Things That God Prunes
Gardeners cut away diseased and pest-ridden branches, so that the disease and the pests won’t spread to the other parts of the tree…
1. What Destroys You
Gardeners cut away sick branches.
God is a gardener. And He does the same thing in your life.
God wants to cut away sin from your life. Lying. Greed. Selfishness. Bitterness. Lust. Etcetera.
God’s focus isn’t on removing but on adding.
He just doesn’t want to remove lust. He wants to add the joy of purity. He just doesn’t want to remove greed. He wants to add happy generosity. He just doesn’t want to remove the habit of lying. He wants to give you the freedom of honesty.
Let me give you an example.
As a single person, I wasn’t physically promiscuous. But I was mentally promiscuous. Because of porn, I was sexually active in my mind.
It took years, but I finally cut away that part of my life.
After pruning comes abundance. I’ve experienced it.
How? My married life is now so rich and deep and beautiful today. Because I’m mentally and emotionally monogamous. I’m faithful to my wife in my body and in my mind.
Yes, there is power in focus. What you focus on grows! My wife has grown lovelier in my eyes because I’ve decided to focus on her.
I’ve met married people who have fallen into emotional adultery. And then they complain why their marriages aren’t life-giving, why their spouses are terrible, and why they’ve fallen out of love.
These are diseased branches that must be cut if you want fantastic abundance in your life.
Are there things in your life that are destroying you?
Alcoholism? Gambling? Materialism? Lying? Theft? Greed?
Cut them away.
2. What Distracts You
Gardeners also cut away healthy branches, if this will make the tree bear more fruit.
Most of the time, they do it to increase light penetration. If the branches and leaves are crowded, very little light is able to enter the thick foliage. Thus, the pruning.
In the same way, your life can be so crowded with a lot of good things, you’re so busy, very little of God’s light enters your life.
Here’s a fact. Good things can steal away your attention from the great things that God wants you to do.
Ask yourself: What good things distract you from great things?
Let me give you an example from my ministry. Each year, a lot of parishes invite me to preach. I could fill 365 days of the year just preaching in parishes.
But most of the time, I turn down parish invitations. Reason? I feel God has called me to speak to the unchurched. To people who aren’t religious. (Now you know why we hold our Feasts, our weekly spiritual gatherings, in malls and theatres.) We bring God’s Love to the people who need it the most.
By the way, preaching in parishes is fun. There’s a homecourt advantage. Everyone is open. Everyone laughs at my jokes. Everyone is willing to sing, “Lululalulalulalulalei…” and “Ang Buhay ng Kristyano ay masayang tunay…”
But I can be so busy doing this fun thing, I won’t be able to do the great thing that God wants me to do—to reach out to those who are far from God. To those who don’t even know how to pray theOur Father without missing a few words.
First things first: Identify the great thing that God wants you to do. And then prune your activities. Remove distractions that will take your time, attention, and energy from this great thing.
This includes recreation.
For 2 Months, I Became Addicted To Games
Recreation is supposed to re-create. When you do your recreation, it’s so supposed to create a new you. It recreates within you a new perspective, a new passion, and new possibilities.
For many years, I never played computer games.
I just felt it was a waste of time.
People ask me, “Bo, how can you do so much—writing, speaking, publishing, leading…” I think one reason is that I don’t watch TV or play computer games.
I’d rather play with my kids, or write a book, or read a book, or prepare for my talk, or play the piano, or play the guitar, or making plans, or expand my business…
But something happened last year.
One day, my friend said, “I play with my sons a computer game called Plants vs. Zombies. It’s a strategy game and we have so much fun.”
I got intrigued. So I bought the game online. And I invited my two sons to play together. Soon, my wife joined us as well.
My friend was right. It was great fun. And having my youngest son on my lap, playing the game together, was wonderful.
But I had a problem. The game was addicting.
I noticed I was getting addicted. How did I know? I usually write after the kids are in bed. I write my articles or prepare for a talk. But at 10pm, I found myself opening my computer to zap zombies with pea shooters!
There were nights when I actually slept at midnight. Or even at 1am. I actually spent two to three hours zapping zombies!
I had to make a decision. The game had to go.
I had been playing Plants vs. Zombies for two months.
If I played 2 hours a day, that means I spent 60 hour playing that game. I could have written one book. I could have read 5 books. I could have created a business plan. Oh, I could have done so many things!
I decided to quit cold turkey.
Choose Real Re-Creation
Here’s a list of activities that nurture me:
- Prayer and Meditation
- Reading great books
- Listening to inspirational Talks
- Watching really great movies
- Being with people you love
- Playing a musical instrument
- Listening to uplifting music
Here’s a list of activities that I believe don’t nurture but actually drain people. (This is my personal opinion; There may be rare individuals out there who get nurtured by these activities.):
- Watching mindless TV
- Playing video games for hours
- Reading non-consequential stuff (gossip and showbiz pages)
Note: There’s nothing wrong about watching mindless TV. There’s nothing sinful about playing Bejeweled and Farmvilleand AngryBirds. I’m not saying we can’t play games. I think we should! But we do so with moderation and discipline. But if you spend so much time doing them, they could be distractions, sapping your time and energy dedicated to fulfill God’s dreams for your life.
Focus On The Prize
No doubt about it. Pruning is painful.
Growth usually happens through pain. There is truth when your gym teacher says, “No pain, no gain.”
God’s Word says, No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. (Hebrews 12:11)
But pruning doesn’t kill you; pruning heals you.
Here’s the challenge: While going through the pain of pruning, don’t focus on the pain; Focus on the prize!
St. Paul says, I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
My wife and I go to a Bikram Yoga class. (Note: No New Age stuff; Just exercise.) The class is done in a really hot room. And in that oven, we tryto do 26 postures that only Plasticman can do.
The key word is try; I end up splattered on the floor, wondering why I’m torturing myself to become a human pretzel.
Yoga is painful for me. I’m so inflexible, when I bend, I can’t even touch my toes.
But I don’t focus on the pain. I focus on the prize. One day, my body will become flexible, strong, and (ehem) sexy. To my wife!
Are you going through a pruning right now?
Don’t focus on your pain.
Focus on the prize that God has in store for you after the pruning process is over.
Let me end with a story…
Submit To His Pruning, Submit To His Purpose
One day, Bill’s wife died suddenly.
Bill was so distraught, he turned to heavy drinking. Everyday, he stayed home and tried to drown his sorrows away with alcohol. (Have you noticed? Sorrows are good swimmers.)
Bill’s Pastor heard about it and visited Bill in his house. Seeing the mess that his house was in, he did something totally unexpected. He volunteered to do the laundry for him.
Every week, this Pastor would visit Bill and do his laundry.
Curiously, Bill waited for his Pastor to castigate him for his drinking. But the Pastor would not speak one word about it. Instead, the Pastor would talk about the great dreams that God has for Bill and his family. “You’ll have a wonderful life. Your kids will grow up to be wonderful adults. You’ll be playing with your grandkids….”
One day, Bill just stopped drinking and regained his life. He was set free from alcoholism and depression because one man loved him.
God is like that Pastor.
God visits you, not to scold you, but to do your laundry. To wash your soul with His forgiveness.
And God wants to prune the things in your life that destroy you or distract you. But He won’t let you focus on the pruning. He’ll let you focus on the purpose behind the pruning.
Friend, focus on His purpose!
Focus on your magnificent dream.
Go to God now.
Submit to His pruning.
Submit to His purpose.
May your dreams come true,