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Author: Abigail Atkins
Have you ever wanted something so badly that there was nothing else that could satisfy? I have wanted my own business for a very long time. I want so badly to be able to be my own boss and make my own hours. I long to be able to be there when my kids need me without the guilt of feeling like I will let my boss and coworkers down if I need to take off work to be with my kids when they’re sick or when school closes early. I hate living in fear that I’m going to lose my job if I have to take a vacation day to be there for my kid’s important awards ceremony. And, I completely loathe having to miss those important moments in my kid’s lives to be at work. I have come to find myself so discontented with what I do, because all I can think about is what I would rather be doing. So what do you do when you want something so badly that it hurts?
Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
I’ll admit, it’s kind of exciting when you see the last part of that passage, “He will give you the desires of your heart”. Score! You mean I can have anything I want!? Heck yeah! There’s the magic ticket I’ve been searching for. But, there’s a stipulation to earning this prize, “Take delight in the Lord”. The more I seek God, the more that first part doesn’t sound so bad. He is making me confident, he is making me strong, he really cares for me, and I will delight in him, even if he doesn’t give me everything I want on a silver platter.
Let’s take that a little deeper. John 15:7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
Again we see that we can ask God for anything and he will gladly give us the desires of our hearts. But, there’s that catch again…this time quoted, “IF you abide in me, and my words abide in you”.
I’ve had this word in my spirit for several months now, the word “abide”. When I read John 15:7, to me, the word abide means, to stay with, or to stay near, to dwell in. It means you need to be familiar with your Bible. Take the time to read and study God’s word. But, when I Googled the definition of the word abide, I got something a little different:
Lucky for us, the entire book of 1 John is filled with examples of what it means to abide in him.
What does it mean to abide in him?
- 1 John 2:5-6, “whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
- 1 John 2:9-10, “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.”
- 1 John 2:15 and 17, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him…And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
- 1 John 2:24-29, “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him aides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.”
- 1 John 3:6, “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.”
- 1 John 3:23-24, “And this is his commandment that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”
- 1 John 4:8 and 12-13 and 16, “ Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love….If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit…God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
- 1 John 4:15, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”
We can sum all of that up into 4 basic principles:
- Believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ. Confess that Jesus is the Son of God.
- Love one another
- Keep his commandments. Keep his word. Walk in the way he walked.
- Don’t keep on sinning. Do not love the world or the things in the world.
Now, why is it important to abide in him? Well, aside from that being the key to having whatever you ask for or wish, it is also the key to keeping things you have so that you don’t lose them…let’s go back to John chapter 15 for some more answers.
John 15:1-2, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
John 15:5-6, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers…”
I’m going to take those passages and combine them together to form two important statements:
- Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. Every branch that DOES bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.
- Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers.
Looking at those two options, it definitely seems that option #1 is the winning choice. If you abide in Christ, you will not only produce fruit, but you will be pruned so that you can produce even MORE fruit. But, to not abide in him means to be cut away completely. It got me thinking, “what are some things in my life or in me that are not producing fruit?” Every branch that does not bear fruit he takes away, so think about it…is my marriage producing fruit? Is my career producing fruit? Is the way I live my life producing fruit? Am I abiding in him with my whole life? With my relationships? With my actions?
Back up even more…what does it even mean to produce fruit anyway???
Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Success in Christianity is not measured by the size of someone’s bank account. I know I’m not the only one that has ever been guilty of looking at someone else with their immaculate home, their manicured nails, their closet full of the latest fashions, and thought to myself, “It must be nice…and what am I doing wrong? I must not be as good of a Christian as they are. I must be failing in some area.”
Success in Christianity is bearing the fruit of the spirit. Ask yourself these questions:
Is my marriage producing faithfulness, love, and joy?
Is my career creating peace and goodness?
Am I showing kindness, gentleness, and self-control with my life?
If the answer to these questions is no, then you may be up for some pruning, or worse, loss of a limb. I think back to my first marriage. There was a lack of faithfulness on some level, and that cycle kept repeating itself. I wasn’t able to be fully gentle and loving and kind and good to him, because of my hurts and lack of trust. This branch stopped producing fruit, and unfortunately, it was cut off. I think about a past relationship I had. He was not kind and good to me, he was emotionally abusive. There was no peace being produced in this relationship, and thankfully, that branch was cut off. After a few failures, I learned that I didn’t want to be joined with someone who could not produce a fruitful relationship with me. I learned that God is love, and if I was dating someone that didn’t know who God was, I couldn’t expect them to know how to love me. If they don’t know God, they don’t really know what love is. Go back to John 15:5, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” If Christ isn’t in it, it’s not going to work. Apart from him, we can do nothing. No relationship will work without him in it.
These fruits of the Spirit are the fruits that God wants to see us producing in our lives. And maybe you’re producing some of these fruits, but God wants to see you produce more. There have been times when I’ve had to go through some pruning in my own life. I went through some things that were hard, some things that changed me. I developed anxiety. I was so nervous being around people. I didn’t want to be around people at all. I am naturally a little shy sometimes, but this was different. This was complete negative thinking and fear. Because of this anxiety, I was not producing love, kindness, gentleness, goodness. I was not able to love God’s people as I should. I had to be pruned. I had to spend a lot of time in God’s word. It was not comfortable. I cried, I prayed, I felt like I was losing my mind. I had to spend a lot of time in prayer. I had to do a lot of abiding in him. I’m not perfect, I still have a lot of pruning to go through, but I can see how much I have improved. I feel more confident. But, I had to go through some pruning to get there.
I’ve gone through some pruning in my marriage. I’m not always the bubbly joy filled wife that my husband would just be bursting to come home to. There have been times when I expected him to come home and set the tone. And, after seeing how he enters the room, I would then adjust myself accordingly, if he came home in a bad mood, I would withdraw, “give him space”. It was as if I expected him to come in, swoop me up in a big hug and kiss, and then, and only then, would I gush with love and joy. I felt as though it were HIS job as the man to do that. But, one night, I heard Steven Furtick and his wife on television. The wife said, it is MY job, as the wife to set the tone. That was mind-blowing to me. All this time, I was mad at my husband for not setting the tone that I wanted him to set in our home, and come to find out that it was ME that was failing at MY job!? Wow… I decided to give it a whirl. I did a trial run of setting the tone in my home, and it was incredible how things changed.
I’ve got a lot more to discuss on this topic. If you want to learn how to produce fruit, how to find success at everything, you’re going to need to live a Christ-centered life. I hope you will come back often as we learn together how to abide in Christ.