“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
When Jesus said nothing, he meant NOTHING! And when we refuse to abide in His ways, we are destined to produce rotten apples. How do I know? I am a poster child for self-driven fruit production. Most days, you might find me swinging from His vine, barely holding on, instead of letting the vine wrap around me with a tight grip.
For example, a few days ago, I find myself on my knees, begging the Lord to help me become more obedient with my eating habits. I’m a notorious yo-yo dieter, and with my years of training, I’m a shoo-in for the yo-yo diet Olympic team if they decide to form one.
As I’m begging the Lord and seeking His strength in this area, I hear in my spirit to spend several hours in silence. My response is, “Say what? How is silence going to help my stay away from ice cream?”
Naturally, as a self-reliant expert, I blow off the message and go on with my day. A few days later, I feel more frustrated and restless, and the “several hours in silence” comes to the forefront again. I ponder maybe I should be obedient to God and see what happens. (Ya think?)
It’s difficult for me to spend several minutes in silence, so spending several hours seemed to be the most daunting part. Naturally, I bargain with myself, “God didn’t say several hours in a row. I’ll start with one and see how it goes.”
With pen and paper in hand, I start off on a nature walk around the lakeside. This will get me away from the house and its tempting distractions. As I walk on the crunchy leaves and mossy carpet covering some large boulders, I spot a flat rock just the right size for resting. It’s perfectly positioned in front of the clear water among a few fallen trees.
The next thing I notice is the cutest lake turtle that I’ve ever seen. He (I’m sure it was a male turtle) swam up close to the bank, pokes his head up as if he’s saying, “look at me.” My heart leaps a bit because I am a nut job for turtles. I love, LOVE turtles. Elated, I sit quietly, watching the happy turtle perform water acrobats showing off the artwork on his shell until something startles him away and out of sight. Later on, three turtles show up playing in the water and sunbathe on the fallen trees. It’s a glorious sight.
Overjoyed, I thank the Lord out loud. I am overwhelmed with gratitude that God prompted me out of my daily routine and into the great outdoors for a few hours of silence and turtle performances. Inspired, I start listing things down for which I am grateful.
I’m grateful for my God.
I’m grateful for my Husband.
I’m grateful for my lake.
I’m grateful for my home.
I’m grateful for my trees.
I’m grateful for my birds…..
Wait, wait, wait. MY birds? MY trees? MY lake? MY home? What am I saying? None of this belongs to ME. I live on borrowed time in a borrowed body in a borrowed house near a borrowed lake surrounded by birds and trees. It ALL belongs to GOD. He created it ALL. As a gracious host, He allows me to partake in all of His creation.
Looking down and ashamed at my list, I scratch out the word “my” and transformed the phrases with appropriate credit and honor.
I’m grateful to be a child of the Lord of the Universe.
I’m grateful for the Husband that God selected for me.
I’m grateful for the waters that God established.
I’m grateful for the home that God provisioned.
I’m grateful for the incredible earth that God created.
I’m grateful for the melodies from the birds that God orchestrated.
Instantly, I understand why God led me to the turtles and reminded me of one of my favorite scriptures.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart”– Psalm 37:4
When I decided to obey God’s instruction to sit in silence for several hours, he first delighted my heart with His creations of nature and my love for turtles.
Secondly, through my obedience, I found His strength by seeing my self-reliance getting in His way. I literally saw my selfish heart listed on paper. By rewriting the words on paper, I dismantled myself as the primary and put God back in proper alignment. This is how we stay connected to the vine.
Like most people, I’m not walking around in conscious thought about being selfish and self-reliant. That’s the danger of not spending time with the Lord. Our conscious minds need renewal according to the teachings of Apostle Paul.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”– Romans 12:2
Surrendering our selfish ways and renewal are frequent and sequential. I know first-hand that it’s not a one and done exercise. To remain in the vine of Christ requires regular renewal through quiet time with the Lord. He knows this because He created us just as He knows that our body needs sleep and food to survive.
Speaking of food, I find it ironic that the living Word is our daily bread, yet we neglect it. Starving our souls from the rich nourishment of God’s knowledge. For it is there that we discover the true nature of God.
Here’s what I know from this experience. Answering my prayer, God led me away from my daily distractions into yet another wake-up call about my self-reliance. He reminded me, once again, that I produce rotten apples without abiding in His strength. In my human will and self-discipline, I offer nothing of value. If I align every day with the Lord, all things are possible in His strength.
And looking at them, Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”– Matthew 19:26
Moreover, needing a daily renewal with the Lord does not make me weak or a failure. Quite the opposite. I used to believe that I should arrive at a place that doesn’t require His reminders of my selfishness and independence. The more time I spend with God learning His Word and who He is, the more I understand how much I need Him.
And about that yo-yo dieting. I do well on the days I pray and seek His strength and not so well when I don’t.
Like all of life’s choices, the best outcomes rest on the vine and how we choose to feed the body, mind, and spirit.
Do you find it difficult to be obedient to God? What are your challenges? Please share in the comment.
Here to help – Teresa
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