Spring has sprung!
And most of us have endured (or are enduring) the allergy flare up to prove it!
As spring blooms with new life, we have a great opportunity to reflect on the source of this new life and how we can cultivate our life with God in this new season.
While we’re focusing on the new life in spring today, we can easily wither in the heat of the summer. New life can become burnout.
Bruce Wilkinson describes his own struggle with burnout in his book, Secrets of the Vine. Wilkinson realized he needed to make big changes. In trying to identify the shift that needed to happen in this do-over, he realized an important truth. “God doesn’t want you to do more for Him; God wants you to be more with Him.”
A couple years ago, I picked Wilkerson’s book off my shelf, read that quote, and was undone. I was feeling the fatigue of doing more for God, trying to live out God’s calling in my own power.
I think a lot of our relationships with God look like Bruce’s. We're doing a lot for God. and we’re more tired than we realize. When we think about the crazy month of May and the upcoming summer, we see lots of opportunities to “do more for God.”
We end up totally missing the point! It's not about doing more for God; He wants us to be more with him. God wants us to be present, aware of, and connected with Him.
Wilkinson’s book, Secrets of the Vine, is an exploration of Jesus’ teaching in John 15:1-8, where He encourages the disciples to remain connected to Him like branches connect with a grape vine.
In John 15:4-5, Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
When Jesus talks about abiding in him, he’s calling His disciples to connect to Him, depend on Him, and continue with Him. He’s inviting His disciples to “bloom” or bear fruit because of the work He’s doing in them and His power moving through them.
However, let me share the inside scoop on this subject.
Abiding isn’t easy.
One might assume that "abiding in Jesus” is easy. But, abiding takes effort. Abiding takes constant attention and focus. It takes tremendous effort to remain connected in a world of many distractions. When it comes to staying aware of God's presence all day long, I struggle with just a couple minutes on some days!
While abiding isn’t easy, it’s the pursuit of abiding which transforms us.
I learned a really interesting lesson a few years ago when my wife and I were touring a vineyard in Northern California. While we rode our tram around the large vineyard, listening to our tour guide, I noticed the irrigation lines. As someone who has lived his entire life in the desert southwest, I asked what seemed like an innocuous question. “How often do you use the irrigation lines to water the vines?”
Our tour guide responded with a statement that radically changed how I looked at John 15. He said, “we water them as little as possible.” Um huh?! I asked him to elaborate. “We make our vines chase the water with their roots.”
He went to describe the difference between table grapes & wine grapes. Table grapes - like the ones we buy from the grocery store - are juicy and fat with weak skins. “This comes from overwatering,” he said. But, when it comes to wine grapes, you want a small, tougher grape that is the product of chasing moisture in the ground, not man-made from an irrigation system.
Walking back to our car that day, I began reflecting on the insights from the vineyard worker. The way he describes their work with the vines, I think that's how God works with us. I think that’s the context around John 15. Jesus works in our adverse life circumstances. The longer we follow Him, we are invited to pursue him, even when life seems dry. In the pursuit of Jesus - in seeking to abide with Jesus, we're changed.
Within the John 15 framework, Jesus is the vine, the Father is vinedresser and we are the branches. As branches, we aren't responsible for rain coming down nor the ground being nourished. We aren't responsible for identifying the harvest date or what our fruit will be used for after the harvest. We have one duty - remain connected to the vine.
We cannot go too long without being connected. Avoid abiding and it will catch up with us. Stop remaining and we’ll feel it. We have one priority that trumps all others - being with God. If we miss that one thing - it's all for nothing.
If we want to bear fruit and bloom where we're planted, we must stay connected to the source of life.
At the top of our spring to-do list, we need to add one item - Be with God!
Scott Savage is a pastor and a writer. He leads Cornerstone Church in Prescott, Arizona. Scott is married to Dani, and they are the parents of three “little savages.” He is the creator of the , and you can read more of his writing at .