“Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. …Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the Vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing”. John 15: 2-5
When God called me and Laila to start a ministry in Egypt in the year 2000, we did not know what we were getting ourselves into. Everything seemed hard yet at the same time encouraging. We had just come out of a season in our lives where we had been unfairly treated. We had a lot of question marks and questions: “Lord, why is this happening to us”? “Lord, have we sinned, and are you disciplining us”? Yet, examining ourselves, we could not find any known sin. We humbled ourselves in front of God, asking for answers.
At that time, I was invited to go to Bahr Dar in Ethiopia with my mentor Dr. Phil Walker. When we landed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, the team discovered that they did not book my ticket from Addis Ababa to Bahr Dar where the conference was to be held. So Dr. Walker gave me a bunch of books to read until they returned a couple of days later. I took the box with the books and sat by the pool at the hotel, wondering why God did not let me go to Bahr Dar with the team, my very reason for traveling from Egypt.
I opened the box with the books, and my eyes rested on a small green book at the top of the pile: Secrets of the Vine by Dr. Bruce Wilkinson. I started reading the book, and a few pages into the book, I could not contain my tears. I realized that God got me to Addis Ababa not to go to Bahr Dar. He brought me to Addis to a secluded place to speak to me One on one. God was not disciplining Laila and me through all the events that happened, and through all the pain we suffered, He was pruning us to bring more fruit. I discovered that when we bear fruit, God prunes us to bring more fruit and much fruit.
Pruning is painful, pruning is uncomfortable. Pruning makes you vulnerable, yet it is a necessary part of spiritual growth.
I discovered that I needed to thank God and trust Him during the pruning season; however unpleasant it felt.
Fast forward 19 years, God called Laila and me to resign from my position as international director at Walk Thru the Bible that place where I have worked for 18 years. He called Laila and me to start 4G3 in that last season of ministry to be more focused and strategic in our labor for the Kingdom. Laila and I have been going through a season of extensive and harsh pruning for the past year. It’s a season of distress and affliction. Yet, because we have passed through a previous season of pruning, we can face this season with thanksgiving. We know that this is a season where God wants us to surrender to Him as His Hand molds us into the shape He has in mind. We are facing this season with joyous anticipation.
We are abiding in Jesus so that all His love, all His compassion, and all His grace will flow through us to those we serve. We are abiding so that others will see Jesus and Jesus alone. It is our abiding in the Vine that will bring forth the fruit, not our hard work, not our past experiences, not our intelligence, not even our planning. Only abiding in Him will we bring fruit because without Him we can do nothing. Nothing means NOTHING. I pray that everyone reading this newsletter, whether you are a partner, a donor, a prayer warrior, or just someone curious about 4G3, that you will truly abide in the Vine.
Whatever you are passing through, I want you to be absolutely sure that your Heavenly Father knows the plans He has for you. He has the blueprint of the final product. Trust Him; love Him, abide in Him even during those painful episodes of deep pruning. Rejoice because God sees you worthy of pruning to bring forth much fruit.