Have you ever fretted?
It was late one Friday evening in May 2008. I had spent weeks studying for the statistics barrier exam I would have to take the following Monday as part of my doctoral program. However, after weeks of study and memorizing every statistical equation, their use and a host of other things, I was fretting. By fretting I mean my sleep was minimal, my stomach was in knots, and every waking and sleeping thought was filled with betas and probabilities.
I could quote every Bible verse about “Do not worry about your life” and the birds of the air and the lilies of the field and also the verses about “be anxious for nothing but in everything with prayer and petition with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” I knew all these verses in my heart and my head, but I was having difficulty living them.
It was past midnight when I put away my study materials and checked my email one last time. In my inbox I had an email from a very dear friend who was a retired medical doctor and missionary. All these years later I have remembered her words about abiding in Christ:
“How many times have I prayed as I prepared for a major exam! I would remind God that I had told Him I could not, in my power, do what He had called me to do – that I had given myself to obey His call and depended upon Him to take me and do His will when I could not. It is awesome to read in His Word the power that is available to us through the presence of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, and God Himself within us (Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians, chapter 3). And the promise that through this power at work in us, God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. Incredible! I ask Him for all that in you.”
Through this friend’s words of encouragement, the Lord reminded me that I am to rest, or abide, in Him. Apart from Him, I can do nothing.
Abiding indicates an element of trust and belief. As Jesus was walking with His disciples en route to the Garden of Gethsemane, He told them, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, NASB). Jesus had already told His disciples He is the Vine (v. 1) and His Father is the Vinedresser (v. 1) and the disciples were the branches (v. 5).
When one thinks about this, clearly it makes sense. I doubt any of us has seen a branch that has been cut off from a tree continuously budding fruit, flowers and leaves. None of us has. The branch needs a life source to produce the fruit. When the branch is connected to the vine, the vine does all the work – the branch does not. The branch simply rests in the vine for fruit production.
When the branch is connected to the vine, the vine does all the work – the branch does not. The branch simply rests in the vine for fruit production.
Corrie ten Boom was the late Dutch woman who, alongside her family, hid Jews in their home during the height of the Holocaust. She and her family were arrested and thrown into separate concentration camps for their actions. After Corrie was released, she wrote several books, including Don’t Wrestle, Just Nestle.
In this small but powerful book she writes, “Remember when Jesus told the parable of the vine and the branches in John 15? He said the secret to abundant living is in staying attached to the vine. An unattached branch has something to fear. Not only can it not produce fruit, but it will be burned in the fire. But an attached branch has no fears. All it has to do is nestle close to the vine, and the vine does all the work, sending its sap through the branch and producing luscious grapes. It is not the branch that produces the grapes, it is the vine.”
Jesus’ desire for His followers is that we trust Him and we bear fruit that brings Him glory. The production of fruit is not dependent upon us, and it is not to bring us honor. How often we think it is our responsibility to produce fruit and it is all about us!
It is based on this admonishment from the Lord, the True Vine, we derive the theme of the 2019 N.C. Baptist Women’s Retreat: Abide. Today our world and culture tell us to do anything but abide. We live in a do it yourself, you do you, pull up your bootstraps and get ‘er done world. This is the antithesis of what Jesus says when He says, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). I always find it ironic in my own life that I want to accomplish much for the Lord, but I tend to trust my own abilities.
This happens not just with a test, but in so many areas of life. Daily we are faced with situations that leave us with one of two choices: to either abide in Jesus and trust that He is in control or to try to handle situations all on our own. The former choice leads to seeing the Lord at work in our situations and in our lives, while the latter never ends well.
This year’s women’s retreat will help each attendee learn practical principles of abiding in Christ. Through the main teaching sessions and breakout sessions, attendees will learn biblical principles and practical application of making abiding in Christ a daily reality.
As Jesus was speaking the words in John 15 to His disciples, the next three days of His death, burial and resurrection would take place. The same 11 disciples He spoke to would be the first charged to go and proclaim His gospel to the entire world. Certainly not a task or heart change they could do themselves. The power of God had to be at work in them as they followed obediently (John 15:4, 10, 16).
This is still true today. As we rest in Him, He uses us to bear much fruit for His glory (John 15:8).
Are you abiding in the Vine today?