This post is one of many on the names of God. Clement of Alexandria declared, “Each name by itself does not express God, but all together are indicative of God” (Stromata 5.12). Each of these names represents a dimension of God, one still exhibited today: somewhere, somehow. For an extensive list of the more significant names of God, click here.
The Christian knows God as a gardener, who works in his garden that it might bear much fruit. John 15:1–16 states, “I [Jesus] 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 prunes* so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean* because of the word I have spoken to you.… You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.”
The above asterisked verb (“prunes”; kathairō) and noun (“clean”; katharos) are cognates: they come from the same original word and in their respective forms typically carry the same meaning. God’s word can “prune/cleanse us,” so we can bear more fruit. Perhaps you’ve experienced a time, when a scripture or a God inspired thought brings about change in your life. With respect to this inner cleansing and fortification process of the mind John Chrysostom states, “What is it then to be a fool for Christ? It is to control one’s thoughts when they stray out of line. It is to make the mind empty and free so as to be able to offer it in a state of readiness when Christ’s teachings are to be assimilated, swept clean for the words of God that it needs to welcome” (On the Incomprehensiblity of God, Sermon 5, Greek Fathers 48.710). Faith, which comes by hearing, both opens up the heart through the risen Christ to God and fuels the Christian’s pilgrimage toward being fully “conformed to the likeness of the Son.” God’s cleansing word to us is amazing!
C.S. Lewis elaborates on this thought, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, but shouts in our pain. Pain is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” By way of Heb 12:1–13, we also understand that “hardships” can “produce a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” For they can change stinking thinking; they can till up hard soil to receive God’s good seed. Unfortunately they can also make us bitter instead of better—an outcome primarily dependent on the letter “I.” Will “I” believe God can cause even this hardship to bring about good? Will “I” cooperate with this process and realize that unless God speaks light into darkness no good thing can come from this hardship?
With these above thoughts in mind, perhaps the following prayer and closing quote will prove helpful.
LORD, speak your word to me; prune me and give me ears to hear. May God-breathed words of life teach me and discipline me, so I can walk in your ways. I realize that Jesus learned obedience through the things he suffered and that in my case hardships can be your way of turning up the megaphone. Who among us isn’t from time-to-time hard of hearing; nonetheless, I’d so much rather not have to go through unnecessary things that help me hear you better. Have mercy on me; have mercy on ______. Today, as I read your Word speak to me, prune me, so that I might be changed. I desire to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. May I hear your Word freshly spoken to me and devour it like fresh bread out of the oven. You chose me to bear good fruit that will last. Have at it, LORD; may the good work you began in me continue to progress forward until that Day, for I desire to think and act more and more like Jesus.
Like John’s story about the Ten Virgins, a person must stay awake as he waits on God to show up and do his perfect work. A second century preacher said, “Let the soul collect its scattered thoughts … Let it await unceasingly in sobriety and love the day on which its Lord will come truly to visit it.… [Be a person] living in hope and faith awaiting the Redeemer. When he comes he transforms the thoughts of the heart” (Pseudo-Macarius Thirty First Homily, 1; Greek Fathers 34.728).