“I am the Vine; you are the branches.
If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;
apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
That’s a pretty definitive statement, don’t you think?
I’ve been thinking and praying a lot about this lately. Pastor’s are often overzealously doing, doing, doing; or thinking about what we are going to do, do, do; or figuring out how to get others to do, do, do. The idea that remaining is an actual job is mind-blowing. We haven’t even begun to understand this calling.
Perhaps that’s why our congregations are full of a few very tired do-ers and many sit-around-and-watch-ers. We end up either burning ourselves out or not even getting involved to start with: “Look at those do-ers! I’m tired just watching them!” Yet, the answer is not found at either extreme, nor anywhere in the middle. Unfortunately, we haven’t the faintest idea how to simply remain and let Jesus work through us even though every other alternative equals nothing. Nothing! It is impossible to do kingdom work that bears fruit without remaining in Jesus.
“So,” you may venture to ask, “how do I do that?”
The first thing I had to remember was that Jesus only did what He saw His Father, our God, doing. Jesus lived life out of His Father’s presence and we need to do the same. He is life. So I learned that I need to cultivate a relationship with God through His Word and His Presence.
I started by reading the Bible through every year. It has begun to reform me: my thoughts and inner life. The Word has a way of going deep down inside of us as we feed off of it bit by bit, day by day, season by season until it has it’s way with us: increasingly giving us the mind of Christ.
I also need to hear God’s voice and know His desire for me, not only through His written Word, but through His living Word and Spirit: His real presence with us. This requires me to cultivate a relationship with the Lord. Relationship is a living exchange; the difference between knowing about a person because you read about them somewhere and living with them on a daily basis. It may seem silly, but I wanted to know what the Lord thought about the smallest things so that I would begin to trust Him increasingly for the various situations of life: from choosing parking spaces to spouses!
After all, trust is a big issue.
Have I learned that I can trust God more than what I, or anyone else, think? Trust comes increasingly to us through a living relationship with God. The more we are with Him, the more we realize that He is completely trustworthy – as the Word says. I discovered that I had to learn to stop worrying about what everyone else thought I should be doing. People are great for letting you know how you should be spending your time. I, too, had to learn to stop worrying about what I thought! After all, these are our daily options: fixing on what others say, on what I think, or on Who God is.
Finally, obedience is a deal-breaker. I can listen to and clearly hear what God is saying as I remain in His Word and Presence, but I need to take the final step and do it. That is faith. Faith is not simply believing there is a God or knowing about Jesus. Faith is obedience in love.
“As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:9-11
Payoff! Remaining in Jesus, living into and out of His love, makes our joy complete. Instead of doing until we drop, we do out of His loving presence, direction, and power working with and through us – and the result is joy, joy, joy.
Look, if we learn to stop when God stops and go when God goes, to speak what God is saying and do only what God is doing – we will experience God’s love, rest, power, and joy in our daily lives. The life and power of God comes through Vine Jesus to us branches; and the first fruits of abiding are love, joy and peace (Galatians 5). These fruits are the markers of a life rooted and dependent upon Jesus.
Now that’s a whole lot better than anything we can do ourselves, with abundant fruit to boot! Nothing? With God all things are possible.
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21