I am doing my best to keep faith lately with all that’s going on. How can I encourage others to keep faith when I struggle myself?
In my own life, I find that when times are tough and I start to waver it’s nearly always because I am not remaining in Jesus, as laid out in John 15. This is, in my estimation, one of the most profound passages in the Bible as Jesus teaches his disciples how to remain in him – and on the very night of his betrayal. “Remain in me” are not words we use in normal conversation, but I would go as far as to say they are at the very heart of our relationship with our Savior (the word “remain” is used 8 times in the first 10 verses of John 15). And if we don’t really know how to remain, we will struggle when the hard times come. This has certainly been my experience.
So what does the word remain mean in this context? Take a few minutes to ponder this expanded definition:
- To stand fast, hold your line, as in battle
- To stay at home, stay away from danger, reside
- To stay, to linger, to wait
- To endure
- To be content where one is, to stay where one is, to keep (remain in) a promise
- To hold firm to a belief or conviction
- To wait expectantly1
I love #2 above: to stay at home. Could this be more appropriate to our times? God says to us, don’t feel like you have to look here, there, and everywhere for answers. Just stay at home with me. We’ll sit on the couch together and talk about what’s bothering you and I will give you the peace that passes understanding. And #1 — “stand fast” -– we just need to stand firm, close to Jesus. No breaking rank, just staying close and trusting him to lead us through whatever we face.
Let’s put this all together. In John 15, Jesus uses the analogy of a vineyard. He is the true vine and his Father is the gardener. We are the branches that shoot off the vine, and the expectation is that we will bear fruit (Galatians 5:22). How does that happen? The branches on the vine don’t will themselves to produce fruit. They soak in the sunshine and drink in the water and feed on the nutrients in the soil — and then they bear fruit. And when they don’t, they are pruned, so they can get a clean start on the process once again.
God the Father, as the gardener, and Jesus, as the vine, collaborate to grow branches (us) that will bear fruit. This, in short, is what it looks like for us to remain: God provides everything we need to grow and bear fruit. Our job is to receive the nutrients he offers, endure the pruning (trials that lead us back to Him), and freely allow him to work in us to accomplish the purposes he created us for. When we do, we will bear fruit (love, joy, peace, etc.).
This is the first step of remaining in Christ. The second is to show our love for Jesus by obeying his commands. It’s not enough to read the Bible, we must do what it says.
I’m praying that you will find rest in remaining in Jesus. Start the day with Jesus. Spend the day with Jesus. End the day with Jesus.
Remain 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. –John 15:4 (NIV)
1Liddell, H. G. (1996). A Lexicon: Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon (p. 498). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.