October 18, 2010

To Live is Christ — trust and obey

Depending on where a speaker puts the emphasis, a sentence can have several meanings.
    I love you? can be skepticism, even mockery.
    I love you — emphasizes the feelings of the speaker.
    I love you — makes the other person the center of attention.
This morning as I read the following verses, I wondered what part of verse 7 did the “by this God is glorified” point back to. Is it the two abidings, or is it the part about prayers being answered?
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 15:7–8, NKJV)
Many people think that God is most glorified when our prayers are answered. For instance, when someone is sick and we pray for His will, in the back of our minds we are thinking that instant healing will most glorify God. Sometimes it does. However, a story comes to mind . . .

Two alcoholics attended an evangelistic crusade. Both went forward at the invitation and both were saved. Years later, the person who led them to Christ revisited the same two men. One said that since his salvation, he’d lost all desire for alcohol and had never had another drop. The counselor praised God with him.

The second man had a slightly different testimony. He said that since his salvation he had craved alcohol every day, but God gave him grace to say no and he had never had another drop.

Sometimes God is glorified as much or even more when He does not answer our prayers but gives us grace to live with the problem or issue that we are trying to pray out of our lives.

I looked up these verses from John in another Bible. The English Standard Version aims for accuracy to the author’s intent. The difference is slight, but it clarifies the answer to my question.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:7–8, ESV)
The context of these verses is about bearing fruit by those who are abiding in the Vine. This vivid imagery depicts branches grafted into the grapevine — who is Christ. If we draw our strength from Him as the graft draws from the parent plant, then we will produce spiritual fruit. By producing this spiritual fruit, Jesus Christ is glorified and we give the evidence that we belong to Him.

Sometimes I pray for what I think is the best thing. To me, it seems that my notion of the answer will most honor God. Yet God shows me how little I know. His ways are not my ways. I look for the spectacular and dramatic. Sometimes that works, but more often He responds by showing me more about abiding and fruit-bearing in my own life. To use another image, instead of removing the rocks from the streams of my life, He makes the water deeper.

I’m learning that God is most glorified when His people abide in Him no matter what He does with our prayers. If I keep praying thirty years for someone’s salvation, my steadfastness can glorify Him just as much as a change in the other person’s life. While I’d rather put my own character development in second place, God says that He is glorified by the fruit of patience and persistence.

Abiding in Jesus means giving up all reliance on other things. Whatever I trust besides Him has to be abandoned, including my own way of doing things. I think life would be much easier for me if God would just answer my requests the way that I pray them. Heal Lyle, save Carla, and so on. Instead, He offers a greater challenge. He asks me to be like Jesus, to rely on His sustaining power and continue to believe that He knows what He is doing — even when His answers do not match my requests.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Apples of gold in pictures of silver, Elsie.

Thank you.