John 15:1-2 – I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (KJV)
My sister planted a "thornless" blackberry bush, which eventually had many thorns but no fruit. After about a year, she dug it up completely and put it at the back of the yard. There it grew back with a fury and bore fruit! Sometimes we need to suffer changes and be transplanted to a new area of witness before we can bear the fruit that God intended.
Moving this blackberry bush did not destroy it, but rather improved it. Being uprooted from the familiar, comfortable things of life is never easy, but often God will use such changes to bring blessing in our lives, blessing that will spread out to feed others.
I think of the churches in Laos, which are undergoing much suffering and persecution these days. Many Christians have been put in jail. Two believers were even put in stocks in tiny, coffin-like cells because they refused to denounce their faith in Christ. One prisoner is very ill but no doctor is allowed to see him. Another Christian's wife died while he was in prison, but he was not allowed to attend her funeral. There are several children in the family.
It is hard to understand why God would allow such suffering, but God plans a harvest of souls in Laos. Five men were kept in tiny cells for a month in the dark. Later when these five were put with other prisoners, the convicts begged them to stay with them and continue sharing the Gospel. The suffering had only refined the believers, not discouraged them. Other prisoners are hearing the Gospel and turning to Christ because of the witness of these brave Christians.
The government of Laos is trying to destroy Christianity and at times it might seem like it is succeeding. Time will show that it will only make Christianity stronger and Christians will be more fruitful.
If we allow God to use the circumstances of our lives to make us more like Christ, he will give us abundant fruit as we reach out to others. In fact, pruning and suffering are necessary to produce fruit.
Prayer: Father, help us to accept the difficulties of life as from your hand. Use our trials to make us better witnesses to the unsaved around us. And strengthen the Christians in Laos who are suffering because of their faith in you. May there be a rich harvest of souls. Amen.