John 15:4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
This is a verse that has been on my heart a lot lately during my field time here in Guatemala. Many times I find myself fearing the responsibility on my shoulders and looking at it with a attitude of discontentment and fear. Orchestrating three different kid’s clubs throughout the week with children who don’t even speak the same language as me can seem a bit intimidating, and in my mind it seems out of my reach. Not to mention school starting in January, which means the majority of my time will be spent in the classroom teaching kid’s all day long. Why has the Lord put in me in this position to do what seems impossible?
Before I continue with that thought, I first have to remind myself of just what exactly it means to abide in something. Basically, it means to follow, obey, stand by, or act in accordance with. But often when I hear that word I think of relying or being dependent on something . “Obey and rely on me. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it depends on the vine, neither can you, unless you depend on Me.”
I have been given new life, I have the Lord of all creation on my side fully ready and willing to help me and guide me, but how often do I allow Him to? How often do I forget my absolute need for Him and continue about my life according to my own will and strength? Only until I hit a roadblock in my path do I realise that my own strength isn’t sufficient. I mean sure if I really wanted I could go about my life satisfying my wants and desires, in fact that’s what most people do, but where does that leave me? Empty. Broken. Dissatisfied. How would I know? Because I’ve been there already; I lived life completely dependent on myself and what I wanted and it left me so empty and broken that when I hit that roadblock I was ready to give up. I realised I was empty and had nothing to offer, but that’s when God let Himself be known in my life. He picked me up from the ashes and gave me new life because I allowed Him to. He’s not going to force His way in my life nor is He going to save me without me first coming to Him. His love for me was so great that He allowed me to go through that time just so I could realise how selfish I was. That’s just how God works, He gives us the free will to choose death or to choose life, and sadly so many of us choose the first. Why? Because it’s easier. Yes, it’s easier to go about my life doing as I please, but the end result is ultimately death.
I realise that this new life I have is truly not even mine. It’s the Lord’s life that He has bought with the lofty price, one of His own blood. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Wow, if that hasn’t stirred my heart I don’t know what could. It’s so sad to see how mundane the image of the cross has become to the world today. I remember during my training here a man named Keith Wheeler came to teach me class. You could definitely say he was bit different from a normal teacher, considering he carried around a huge cross on his back which he has carried almost all over the world to proclaim the message of just what exactly the cross meant. He took the verse in Matthew 16:24 very literally. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desire to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desire to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’”
He gave a message one Sunday at our church here in Antigua, where he explained with great passion just what exactly was the price that Jesus paid for us. I vividly remember a part where he took a massive metal nail and began to slowly hit it with a hammer with such force that the sound rang in my eardrum over and over. Keith explained as he continued to hit the nail that it was God’s love for our that allowed Jesus to be put through such pain; for His hands to be nailed through, and for His body to be marred beyond recognition. I couldn’t even tell that my eyes began to water. Next thing I knew tears were pouring from my eyes and I couldn’t help but to just weep at the sight of it. I wasn’t the only one either. Almost the entire church echoed with the sound of people just wailing and sobbing. How can I ever look at the cross and think nothing of it when I truly understand the price that was paid on it? The cross was an instrument of death, yet Jesus made it the means of our salvation: salvation from the sins that had overtaken us.
That lofty price wasn’t paid just so I could go to church every Sunday and feel like a good christian, and yet do whatever I wanted the other 6 days of the week. Not that I’m implying church is a bad thing. It’s a wonderful gift and opportunity for the body of Christ to come together to worship, edify, and witness to others. But that shouldn’t be the only time we do these things. Church isn’t the dwelling place of the Lord. He doesn’t live within any one building but rather in us, so why do we act as if He doesn’t? I should desire only that my life be used to glorify His name on this earth and that others may know of this powerful message. But why am I still finding myself stressing out about things like teaching kid’s, as if it were some kind of burden? What God is allowing me to take part of is such an amazing gift. I get to show these kid’s the love of Christ and to see them grow into the next generation with it implanted in their hearts. I’m not worthy of such a thing! Looking back, it’s only the Lord who has brought me this far. He is the vine and I am the branch. If I go about these next 4 months assuming the role of the vine, I’m putting all the responsibility and government on my shoulders when it truly belongs to the Lord. It is not my fruit to bear, but His to produce in me. This is all His work. I am simply the branch who’s life comes from the vine itself. I must remember to surrender my rights and let go of my control to allow Him to assume His rightful place as the vine in my life. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (vs.5) Without Him I can do nothing, I can’t produce any fruit of my own- it’s His to bear. I’m not just talking about teaching kid’s and being apart of their lives. I’m talking about even the mundane stuff, like up keeping the property and cleaning… cleaning… and more cleaning. It’s easy to get a bad attitude when sometimes all I feel like I’m doing is cleaning all day long. It’s easy to get frustrated when kid’s aren’t listening, or when things aren’t going my way. But I can rest and trust that the Lord is working even when my eyes can’t see it.”By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (vs. 8) It’s not just on the mountaintop that God is glorified and much fruit produced in the lives of Christians. A lot of times its in the valley, where life is at it’s most dull and difficult that He is glorified through our constant faith and obedience.