December 29, 2011

Abiding in Jesus

With only a few days left in the year, it seems a good idea to reflect on what has happened in the past twelve months. Even with my foggy memory, highlights include two children engaged, several trips to interesting places, a major effort to declutter, and sadly, the death of my mother-in-law.

Last year also meant changes in our church, changes in my own spiritual life, and much answered prayer. I can easily see the hand of God in 2011 and how He has been involved in our lives. He remains faithful to His people now, just as He has been faithful in the past.

As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the LORD thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car. Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer (meaning stone of help); for he said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. (1 Samuel 7:10–13)
“Until now the Lord has helped us,” declared Samuel. He made many mistakes in his life and ministry, but God was faithful and delivered His people from their enemies anyway. This is the same God who takes care of me.

My biggest enemy is not a horde of pagans with spears, but rather the Liar with his flaming darts. He attacks me with suggestions and innuendo, trying to turn my heart from crying out to God and trusting Him. This enemy wants me to believe that God is not at work in the lives of those on my prayer list. He also wants me to believe that I can handle life’s challenges without the help of God. He knows, as God knows, that apart from Christ, all my efforts have no eternal value.

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. (John 15:4)
As I remember the faithfulness of God, I also remember the importance of abiding. While my faith does not force God to answer prayer, any lack of faith can block His answers. Abiding in Him keeps the channels open.
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. As the Father has loved me, so have I 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 be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:7–11)
One of my friends often says, “It is all about obedience.” She is right. Abiding in Christ is trusting Him, but real trust cannot ignore what He says or asks of me. In the past year, as God showed me areas in my life that needed change, areas where I was not abiding, He also granted me repentance and change. As those happened, so also did He bless me with answered prayer and the fullness of joy that Jesus promises. Obedience does not “earn” these things for I cannot obey unless I abide. Rather, obedience keeps the channels open so I do not block the blessings of God with my foolishness.

Lord God, You have helped me this past year. It has been a good year, a growing year for me and filled with blessings for my family. The challenge to abide in You becomes sweeter as the days go by. While the enemy tries to thwart my faith, You are faithful to support and build it. You are working to change my heart, soften and humble me, yet at the same time always helping me see Your great power and mercy. The past year brought trials, and many good things, but the most precious hours have been when Your grace has kept me abiding in Jesus.

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