Visiting the dentist is no fun. Just lots of pain and lots of blood. And you pay them to do it on you. To stick those scaling hooks into your tender mouth and rip out the bad plaque. It’s terrible. But it’s totally necessary. Going to the dentist saves my teeth and gums from getting decayed. As the blood flows, my teeth and gums are getting healthier. The present pain saves me from lots of future pain.
Discipleship is something like spiritual dentistry. We don’t want it because it’s painful. It digs out ugly sins long buried. It smashes our pride. It rips us from our comfort zones and makes us stretch. Sometimes we forget that discipline is part of discipleship. In the midst of this pain, we grow into who Jesus wanted us to be. Healthy in Christ. Whoever said discipleship is easy? Jesus didn’t.
I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.
Pruning is painful as parts of our life that are unproductive are chopped off in order that we may bear fruit. The pain is only a path for productivity. The pain isn’t the purpose but the process (lots of P’s). The writer of Hebrews explains that discipline is for our good:
For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.
The next time you go to the dentist and experience some pain, think about discipleship. Think about how God has to perform painful pruning so that our lives will become more like Jesus, bearing fruit that will last.