I’m sorry it has been so long since I have posted. There are of course many ideas bouncing around in my head but I have been very busy with all my various responsibilities and that’s a lot of what this post is going to be about.
As many people, I have a lot to do these days. I love all the responsibilities I have and all the chances I have to serve God but at times I do not recognize how I must be working. In a previous post on honoring the Sabbath I brought up the concept that the work we do is not our own but the work God has prepared for us to do (Eph. 2). If you have not read that post you should so that you can have a more full idea of the concept.
If our work is not our own then that requires a very large shift in how we ought to work. When we are looking to God for what our work should be we should not just go and try to do our work. To do that would mean we are trying to please God on our own strength which we cannot do. Paul speaks of this in Romans 7 showing the constant struggle to do what God has placed before us. Our strength is just not sufficient to serve God…it wasn’t enough to save us that is for sure so why would we be able to serve God on our own? We MUST look to God for our strength to do His will. Proverbs 3:4-6 talks about how me must not look to ourselves but to God. In John 15 Jesus preaches on this very topic. This is where he teaches about the vine and branches…in fact this is so integral to this essay I’m going to put it in, so don’t skip it over.
” 1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17This is my command: Love each other. (John15:1-17 NIV)”
Let’s look at verse four for a moment. “No branch can bear fruit by itself,” we are each a branch. No one would throw a branch on the ground and expect it to grow fruit yet we do that to ourselves. We go out to minister but we are not attached to the vine and we wither. We must remain attached to the vine, look to Christ, for our strength.
In vs 16 Jesus speaks of choosing us for our work. Combining this with the idea with Ephesians 2 it is clear that in no way is the work something we can claim as ours. Vs. 16 repeats something very important that is also mentioned in vs. 7. This idea is that God will give us whatever we ask in Jesus’ name. When I read this a few years ago I was rather perplexed by what this meant but I was looking at those two verses out of their appropriate context. In context it is assumed that we are already connected to the vine and obeying God’s commands. This then means that we are already allowing God to work in and through us.
What these two verses are saying is that when we are allowing God to work through us we will be praying not for our own glory but for God’s glory. We will pray for strength for ourselves not so that we can glorify ourselves or others but so that God will be glorified. In James 1:5-8 we see that when we ask God for wisdom we must have faith that He will give it.
I have often struggled to look to God for my strength…in fact it is a daily/hourly struggle. I so often try to run the show and it just fails every time. I try to stop sinning a certain way and for a day it works but I am right back to where I was before. This is because I am trying to be a branch in the grass bearing fruit. Recently I have had some friends reminding me all the time that I must trust in God for my strength and this has been something for which I have been asking God for a while. For this I am extremely thankful. God has been showing me very often that I must remain attached to the vine and use His strength…not my own.
Last week there were some days where I was more tired and I almost panicked about getting work done. At one point in the day it was almost a minute by minute thing and each time I had to remember that the work I was doing was not my own but God’s. God is sovereign and will work through me to accomplish His plan for His glory. If that means I do not get the grade that I want on something it is ok. I’m not using this as an excuse to be lazy in my work. The point being it’s not about what I want but that what I do brings glory to God (vs. 8).
Vs. 15 presents the concept that we have a closer relationship with Christ. While this was said to the apostles I believe it also applies to us as Christians because He has revealed the Truth to us as well and has the same requirements outlined in vs. 14.
John 17:20-26 is the passage where Jesus prays for those who will become Christians who have not seen Jesus…that’s us. I am not going to try to summarize that but it is something that I take much encouragement from and I think you ought to read it.
I don’t write this thinking that I have figured out how to always stay attached to the vine but to help myself think through this more and to hopefully encourage you. My prayer is that we will able to grow and bear the fruit which God will grow through us. I pray that we will not try to grow on our own but through God and always look to Him for our strength.