“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
This season is a season of many different things for me. It’s a season of mourning the loss of my mother. It’s also a season of rejoicing: rejoicing that Mom is in heaven and rejoicing and giving thanks for my life, family and friends and embracing the gifts all around me. And, it’s a season of resting in God and relying on Him completely. That last one is what I want to talk a little about today…
For the past couple of months I have been so tired. It’s a tiredness like I’ve never known. It’s a physical and emotional exhaustion. I feel like I’ve just finished the longest race of my life, and I’m worn out. So, I daily fall into the arms of my Father and rest there. He is carrying me through. It is a special gift in this time. And, I feel that my Papa is showing me the way He wants me to live all the time – giving me a delicious taste, a window into something beautiful beyond description.
We found out Mom had stage four pancreatic cancer last August. It had already metastasized at that point. The doctor told us she had 6 months to a year. So, for the next 7-8 months, I was in high gear, trying to be with her as much as possible and do the regular things I had to do as a wife and mother. It was a very intense time. By God’s grace and the many, many heartfelt prayers of others, I was upheld and made it through.
That time was the beginning of learning in a deeper way what it really means to rest in God and be carried by Him. And, it’s a lesson that I continue to learn now – that His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9-10). My weakness and fatigue is a gift that helps me rely on Him more fully and keeps me from doing things in my own strength. I pray that the truth of this will go down into the deepest places – the core of who I am – and change me from the inside out (Heb. 4:12), so that I never try to live apart from God in any part of my life again! I have tasted and seen the beauty of what life can be like even in the darkest, hardest time when I am living the “blessed branch-life”, as Andrew Murray called it in his book: Humility and Absolute Surrender. Here’s a little excerpt from it with his description of what abiding in Christ is like:
What a simple thing it is to be a branch: the branch of a tree, or the branch of a vine! The branch grows out of the vine…and there it lives and grows, and in due time, bears fruit. It has no responsibility except just to receive from the root and stem, sap and nourishment. And if we only by the Holy Spirit knew our relationship to Jesus Christ, our work would be forever changed into the brightest and most heavenly thing upon earth. Instead of soul-weariness or exhaustion, our work would be like a new experience, linking us to Jesus as nothing else can. (pg. 150)
Mr. Murray was sharing out of the passage in John 15 where Jesus explained that He is the Vine and we are the branches. Our part is to abide in Him – to receive His love and let it flow through us. We can only be alive as His life (His Spirit) flows through us. Just as a branch trying to live apart from the vine will die, so will our lives be dead and fruitless if we try to live them apart from Christ and by our own human strength and efforts (Gal. 3:3).
It’s the same “death” that Adam and Eve experienced after eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. It’s not fall-down-on-ground-and-die death, it’s separation from the Father death. It’s what living life apart from fellowship with Him and surrender to and trust in Him is like. We can be deceived because it looks like we’re living, but we’re really not. It’s a cheap imitation and a lie, and it’s what Satan is constantly trying to sell to us and get us to buy into.
Running around doing things in our own strength is exhausting. We become dry and withered and scared. Only as we rest in Jesus, the Vine, allowing Him to be our strength, do we have peace, rest and joy. And, that’s the life He came to give us!
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:9-11
“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10b
Living the branch-life sounds wonderful, so why aren’t we doing it? I think one reason is insecurity. We are believing the lie that we have got to work to earn God’s love. We are not secure in His love and in our identities in Christ. If we are living close to the Vine but not attached, we can’t receive the flow of love. We can believe something but still not live it. We can be doing good things, going to church, reading the Bible, but if we are not staying connected to the Lord and allowing His Spirit to dwell in us and through that, receiving His great love, we don’t know the truth of how loved we are. And, that is where the only real, lasting security comes from: abiding minute by minute in Christ.
If we don’t accept the truth that God loves us, not because of anything we have done but because of who He is, and if we don’t let that love come into our bodies, minds and souls, we are going to keep striving and working so hard to earn it (Eph. 2:4-9).
My background is such that I learned early on this lie: “It’s all up to you.” I learned not to trust anyone and to figure things out myself. I learned to trust myself and to be in control (and NOT give it over to anyone else). I learned to do things in my own strength and wisdom. So, as I started drawing closer to God several years ago, I started to see how wrong this was and how prevalent it was in my life. And, because I was spending time with the Lord, I also started to see how trustworthy, good and faithful He is. I started to know Him better and see that I could give things over to Him, and He would take care of me and give me what I need. And, by His grace, He has been working in me and helping me to walk in trust and surrender – to live in His safe pasture as His sheep. He continues to show me how I am living out of that lie in different areas of my life and to help me give it to Him.
Over and over the Lord says to me:
“Will you give me this now, my daughter? Please let it go. You have seen how I helped you with the last thing. You have seen how I did what you never could. Take off the burdensome, heavy yoke of trying to do it yourself and give it to me. You can trust me. Come and rest in me. I’ll take care of you. My way is so much better. Listen to me. Follow me. Obey me. I will lead you aright.”
We all have different and unique backgrounds. We have different lies we have believed and made foundational stones in our lives. God knows them. He knows us like no one else (Psalm 139). He made us. He has been with us always. As we come to Him, He helps us. He delivers us. He searches and tests our hearts and purifies them. He digs up the faulty foundational stones and replaces them with Jesus, the Cornerstone, the only foundation with will withstand every storm and last forever (1 Cor. 3:11-15, Eph. 2:20).
Some people are believing a lie that is very subtle and hard to discern. It’s the lie of “duty” – the lie that we must do every good thing if we are to be good (to measure up). It’s really the same lie the Pharisees lived out of. It’s the “you’ve got to get it right” mentality…the same thing the rich young ruler struggled with in Luke 18:18-30 (read more about him HERE). It’s living under law instead of under grace. It’s moving out of duty instead of living in the freedom Jesus came to give us. It’s the opposite of living and walking in the Spirit. You can tell you are living in it if you feel a heavy burden that you must do something (instead of that you really want to do something and feel it is what the Lord is calling you and leading you to do). You can tell your living in it if you don’t feel the freedom to say no to things. This heavy yoke can drag you down over time. Jesus came to set us free from this (Matt. 11:28-30, Jn. 8:36)! It is not life-giving. It stifles growth and snuffs out the flame of the Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19).
It may be that you are worried what others will think or that you feel they think you should do a certain thing or act a certain way. And, honestly, they may think you should. Sometimes this chain is made worse by others who are also living under it. You see, when you live believing the lie of “duty”, you try to get others to as well (Matt. 23:4). On the flip side, once you buy into this lie, you will do the same thing. You won’t be able to give others freedom to live the life Jesus wants them to. If we try to live under duty or by pleasing and gaining the approval of others, we can’t be a servant of Christ and please Him (Gal. 1:10). It just won’t work.
It may also be that others you know are doing something or going in a particular direction and you see how fully alive they are as they move along with Christ so you want to get what they have and you try to by imitating them. Our lives are not going to look or be the same! We are different parts of the body of Christ with different functions, gifts and purposes (1 Cor. 12:12-20). We cannot have the full life Jesus came to give each of us (or do what He made us to do, Eph. 2:10) if we try to live life like someone else.
I could go on and on. I long for us all to live the blessed branch-life. I long for us all to receive the lavish love of our Father every minute of every day, so that we are secure in it and covered by it and enabled through it to move forward in freedom – with the easy, light yoke of Jesus. That is where we find rest and peace and joy and life. We really can rest in God and trust Him. We don’t have to work so hard. We are free to be exactly who He made us to be. As we live in the Spirit – with the Spirit living in and guiding us – we will be happier than we can imagine. Our joy will be complete (Jn. 15:11).
So, whatever your struggle, I encourage you (as I am encouraging myself) to give it to the Lord. Trust Him. He will work and bring freedom. As we draw closer to Jesus and become one with Him, living as branches on the Vine, He will supply all we need. It’s amazing (and beyond our comprehension) that in Christ a season of rest is also a season of fruitfulness. As we rest and abide in Him and His love, we will grow and bear much fruit!
“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. 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. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” John 15:4-8
Father, I ask for this for myself and my family and friends…for the whole body of Christ! Teach us how to live the blessed branch-life! Grant us rest IN YOU. Help us to live life in you and let your Spirit flow through us and be our source of strength. Forgive us for trying to live life apart from you, for working so hard to win what you freely give: love and acceptance. Help us to gratefully receive your love and the work you have already done. Free us from expectations, duty, people-pleasing and guilt. There is no condemnation for us once we are in you! Forgive us for trying to live the lives we think we should instead of the ones you have written specifically for each of us. Jesus, be the Author and Perfector of our faith and our lives! Let us live our lives exactly as you have ordained and give others the freedom to do that, too. Remove every chain, so that we are free and the only thing binding us together is your perfect love. Protect us from every lie of the enemy. Show us places we have built on the sand instead of on the Rock: Jesus. Tear down and rebuild! Build us totally on you and in you! Help us to let go of everything but you and to trust in you completely. Only you can do this work. Our job is to stay connected to you and surrender to you and receive it. Many will see your glory, power and love as we trust you to provide and rely on your grace each day. Keep us weak so you can be our strength and your power can be shown in and through our lives! Let us decrease so you can increase! Make us one with you and through that, with one another! Come, Holy Spirit!! Do your good work. Keep us connected to the Vine, so that you can flow through us. Fill us with and compel us by your love. Teach us. Guide us. Unify us. Let this be a season of rest in you and of growth and bearing fruit that will last! Let your will be done and your kingdom come! In Jesus’ name. Amen.