Yesterday, my staff team did a group Lectio Divina on John 15:1-17 (for my blog on “Lectio Divina” click here). In these prayerful readings, the Lord met with us and spoke to our hearts about the relationship between “abounding” (fruitfulness in life and accomplishing God’s purposes) and “abiding” (remaining in the presence and heart of Christ as we live out our lives).
For the Christ-follower, “abounding” is a high priority. No one wants to live a wasted life; we all desire lives that are meaningful and productive. And those who have been redeemed and are being transformed by Christ desire to bring glory to God’s name through fruitful lives. Those who are called to “professional” ministry especially feel the pressure to “abound.” In some ways this can harmfully lead to connecting our ability to abound with our concepts of success/failure, our effectiveness, our livelihood, and – most dangerously – our identity.
In this passage where Jesus makes some rather strict boundaries about “abounding.”
1. “Abiding” is what we are to pursue. The focus is always on abiding first; abiding in right relationship with Christ (v. 5), of abiding in His love (v. 9), of Christ abiding in our hearts as Lord and King (v. 4), of abiding in the confidence that comes with obedience to His commands (v. 10) – particularly His law of Love (v. 12).
2. Abounding is a by-product of abiding. We don’t pursue abounding. We don’t pursue being fruitful. We become fruitful when we abide in Christ (v. 5b). Just as a fruit comes to a fruit tree when it simply is what it is, so fruit will come to a Christ-follower if we simply find our life, love, and sustenance from Him.
3. Pruning allows us to abound more (v. 2b). Pruning is part of the abiding process. When we abide, we learn to trust the Father and his love. This means we allow Him to do whatever He feels needs to be done in our lives so that we can bear more fruit. This is one of the hardest parts of abiding, as pruning comes in the form of pain, trials, disappointments, setbacks, and even deaths (of dreams, agendas, beliefs, relationships, etc.)
4. But there is great joy (v. 11) and empowerment (v. 7) to be had when we stick to abiding.
My colleagues and I have felt the pressure to “abound” from others (both within the church and outside), from ourselves, and from our culture. But Christ’s invitation to abide in Him and His love is so freeing. It is an invitation to be a Mary (rather than a Martha) and to allow Him to abound through us, rather than trying to “make things happen.” It does not mean that we are passive or fatalistic. But Christ asks us to wait on Him and move in His rhythm, presence and timing. It truly brings sanity back to ministry for us.
What helps you to abide in Christ?
How have you felt the “rat race” of trying to abound without the proper abiding?