This is a picture of the plant that I inherited when I took over my position at work and moved into a new office. I'm pretty sure it was accidentally left behind because the previous tenant knew very well that my history for keeping plants alive is not a good track record. I do not have a green thumb, not even the least bit. But somehow we're getting close to a year together and surprisingly this thing is still alive.
There are some weeks when I consistently attend to it, but then there are some that I have to strain myself to remember when the last time I watered it was.
I went on vacation a while back and was gone for an entire week plus a few days. Wellllll I forgot to ask someone to water it while I was gone. When I came back, its' leaves were super pale and looked very malnourished. This was by far the longest I had gone without watering it, but sadly not the only time I had neglected its' care.
As I looked at it in its' pale state, I was reminded of God's word about the gardener and the vine.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. John 15:1-8
I want to start by focusing on verse 5 where it says "those who remain in me, and I in them will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing." Looking at my plant in its' very sad condition, I wondered how long it took to become noticeably deprived. I know I've gone days without watering it and seen visibly little change, but after a little over a week there was clear deprivation. I thought about this in conjunction with the scripture and my own walk with God.
In my personal history, I have been fairly inconsistent and have lacked discipline in many areas through the years. During the times when I have not been actively seeking the nourishment of God's word, I can look back and see the difference it's made. Sure, at the time, I didn't notice it at all. But looking back, I definitely can see the outcome. The sad thing is, it always starts off small with minimal changes. Like say, "I haven't devoted much time to prayer". One thing that may seem small at first, but leads to "now I haven't really been spending much time reading my Bible".
Wow where has all my time gone I wonder? I look around and realize I have been filling my time with the things that seem harmless like a movie here or there or even just wanting to rest. But then all of a sudden a few weeks go by and I realize I can't remember the last time I sat down and really prayed (not just the thank you for this day or this food type prayer) or when have I really devoted time to meditate on His word (vs reading that verse of the day that pops up every morning on my app). Those things are great in passing but they aren't meant to nourish our souls, and they definitely do not look the same as "abiding in Him" or "His words remaining in you."
Webster says that the meaning of abide is to remain stable or fixed in a state or to endure without yielding. So if we are to abide in the lord and His word is to abide in us, we must stay close to him, fixed in a state ready to endure without giving up. When we do that, we will produce much fruit. Without doing that we can't really do anything.
I think it's important to remember the honor being bestowed to us as chosen children of God. He chose to adopt us into His kingdom and if we truly understood what that means for us maybe our lives would look differently.
Ephesians 2:11-13 reminds us of what it looked like before He made that exception for us.
"Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ."
As mentioned before, remaining close to God has not always been something that has been easy for me. In fact it's something that has required a lot of self discipline. When I first gave my life to God, it was a little easier. It was like any new relationship. The newness of it was fresh and interesting and I couldn't get enough of it. I devoted all my time to church and serving. But when I got married and became a mom overnight, my time became divided. I understand why Paul recommended singleness because as a single person you can just dedicate your life to the work of God (1 Cor 7:32-35). That was great at the beginning for me but as time went on and the novelty of Christianity wore off and it became about obedience things that once were a strong desire became less appealing in some ways. This is where my my husband became my greatest asset, He keeps me accountable and reminds me of the goal and the things that maybe detour me from God's presence.
One of my down falls in life (other than mornings) is that I'm a "hobby hopper". I'll try anything once and everything sounds fun to me. Because of that, I'm notorious at over committing to things that sound great at the time, but in the end just spread me too thin. I've had to learn that not every good thing is necessarily a God thing, even if it is a "God thing" it might not be God's thing for me (or you). I have had to learn the difference between busying myself with things of God and actually spending time with Him. There is a difference.
There are times when I have been so busy (often ministry related) that my own well runs dry. One time I was at a Bible study and the leader said something that I didn't agree with at the time. She said that she didn't believe that you could get burnt out on God. At that particular moment I was in the middle of a very busy season and was feeling completely burnt out. I didn't understand how she could feel that way. Afterwards I asked her privately about that statement. She said that when we turn to God, He gives us rest and He will give us the energy sufficient to do what He wills us to do. She then said I would challenge you if you're feeling that way to look at your prayer life and your devotional time and see if you are relying on Him to refill you and if you're being obedient in participating in the things that He wants for you.
I realized that though I was doing a lot of "God things" my prayer life was nearly non existent and I really hadn't been devoting a lot of alone time to hear His word personally. I didn't like what she said, but she was right.
I think that's exactly what Jesus was talking about when He spoke to the women at the well in John 7:37-39 He wants to be the one to quench our thirst. When we are feeling depleted we need to turn to Him and He will give us the rest we need (Matt 11:28).
“Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” John 4:13-14
Like any good gardener, He takes care of us. He doesn't want us to wither away, He wants us to remain close to Him. When we do that, we receive all the nourishment we need along with the blessings! He wants to see you bare fruit! He came to give us life and life abundantly (John 10:10).
But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.
When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. John 15:10