#187 "Let's Try Again"
February 15, 2011
"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." (John 15: 4)
How many times have you asked God for a second chance? A third? A one-hundredth chance? Come on now, I can't be the only one! On this eve of my 54th birthday, I found myself doing just that. Asking God for another chance. Either because God calls me home or because His return is imminent, the bulk of my years on planet Earth are behind me. It's time to get serious. Seriously serious.
"Here I am. Again, Lord. How many times have I broken your heart? How many times have I disappointed you, quenched your Spirit? Worse than that...grieved your Spirit? How many times have you been displeased with my words, my actions, my thoughts? Here I am again, Lord. Today's the day. This is the hour. Now is the time. I want to start fresh, from this day forward, for better or worse, again." Oh, how many times I've said those words. What about you?
We are so hard on ourselves aren't we? Because of things in my past, I'm really hard on myself. I have a great fear that without constant tending, I'm like the tree that Jesus saw in the distance as He was leaving Bethany one day. He saw the tree filled with leaves. It was a good looking tree, but when He got closer He found no fruit on its branches. Jesus cursed the tree and it never bore fruit again. (See Mark 11: 12-14 and 20-21) I wonder sometimes if I just look good, act like a good Christian, and put on a good face, but that I am bearing no fruit at all.
When I think this through, I believe that we have to keep starting over and over again because we are trying to bear fruit and live for Jesus all in our own strength. We know the things that we're supposed to do and we strive and struggle and try, try, try to do it all right. And what about our service to God? We try so hard to make things happen so that we can bear fruit for His Kingdom. We run ahead of God. We come up with plans that we ask God to bless, instead of waiting for His already blessed plans to unfold before our eyes. Control freaks. That's what they call us.
My illustration works much better when I'm preaching, but I'll try to explain it on the page as best as I can. Think of a fruit tree. Apple, pear, any ole fruit tree you want to visualize in your mind. When you pass by that particular tree, do you hear anything? Do you see anything? Is that tree groaning and grunting and bearing down hard to push a piece of fruit out of its branch? Unless you're one of those apple trees in the haunted forest of Oz, I think not. Fruit bearing is effortless, and the dynamics of it are pretty much invisible to our eyes. The roots of that tree are buried deep in the soil. It receives its nutrients for growth and fruit bearing from the roots up. Outwardly its branches blow carefree in the breeze and one day, fruit appears. Beautiful, shiny, juicy fruit. Pleasing to the eye and delicious on our tongues.
Like the fruit tree, girlfriend and guy friend, we need to stop trying so darn hard. Jesus told us that we can't do it without Him. We cannot bear one piece of fruit apart from our connection with Him. No amount of making up our mind, straining to remember the rules, let alone keep them, or groaning and grunting our way through life trying to be good enough and do enough good will ever bear fruit.
We need to take a lesson from the fruit trees. We need to get our roots deep down in the soil where we can daily be nourished with prayer and the Word of God. Ephesians 3: 17 tells us to be rooted and established in the love of God. What better thing to sink our roots deep into than the width, the length, the height and the depth of the Father's love for us? We need to acknowledge that God is God and that He has a plan for our lives that will unfold with His blessing, in His time, in His own way. When we yield to Him and feed on His Word, and bask in the sunshine of His love, our branches will sway gently with the breeze of the Holy Spirit's breath. Before we know it, without straining, and groaning, and grunting, and trying, we will bear beautiful, delicious fruit for His Kingdom. There is such amazing freedom in that kind of living, precious one.
On the eve of my 54th year on planet Earth, I'm going to relax. I'm going to dig my roots deep. The pressure is off. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Fruit will be borne. That's what He chose me for. "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last." (John 15: 16)
Living the Word along with you,
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