I come to these places in my life when I am a little tired of myself — well a lot tired of myself. I wish I could be done with my pesky sin, my bothersome habits, and my annoying self-absorption. I feel a little like this right now. It can feel like I am in the midst of an ocean of unrelenting waves, and in desperate need of a break. I like the ocean, and the beach, but I need to catch my breath and not take down the gulps of salt water. Then there are times when things are not quite right: I feel a continual tiredness, with restlessness and a discontent. I can’t seem to put my finger on what is going on. I just need relief from the pounding waves (or at least a nice chair for observing from a distance). At times, I have tried to put a “label” on my idols (the things I give way too much attention and focus to that rob me of intimacy with Christ) and find a means to rid myself of them, yet life is patterned with a series of struggles along with short periods of “calm.”
Days like these, I am not always helped by another formula, a catchy phrase or “new way” of looking at the Christian life. Often these are just a repackaging of what Jesus said long ago: like re-gifting something and trying to make it look different or new. Yet, for some reason, we need to say things in a different way, make things more complicated or add on to it it all. We want so desperately to answer,” How can I experience God more deeply and live the life He has for me?”
Sometimes I find myself in these waves of struggle, when I enter a new situation, a new phase of life or face a disappointment. Here I am tempted with turning to other things — lesser things. As I face the test, once again, “Where am I going to turn?” When I feel left out, rejected or undervalued, what am I doing to do? When I feel unloved, insecure, void of purpose, or out of control, what am I going to run to?
What does Jesus say?
In the book of John, the disciples are about to begin life without Jesus right next to them. They are about to walk down a hard path without Jesus physically leading the way. The lights will seem to go out and His voice will appear to be quiet. Jesus knows this. What does He tell them? I think the answer to my pesky sins, bothersome habits and self-absorption, is not to look to a new formula or clever or catchy phrase, but to see what Jesus says. What does Jesus simply tell those He loves dearly, those He is leaving? Soon their life will be turned upside down; and life as they know it will never be the same.
A Formula is just a formula
You may be the type that does like memorable phrases, or a deeper, hidden meaning that seems to have profound implications. Or you might kind of like a formula, or to be told what to do. I sometimes long for a formula. There are times I ask Brian, “Would you just tell me what to do?” I want “the” answer. Or we hope we can read a book or hear something said in a new way that will make sense of our world. We want a plan for how we are going to become more loving, secure or giving. A plan is good, but it only takes us so far. A plan is just a plan. A formula is just a formula. A formula or plan cannot make us more loving, more secure or make us more giving. Sometimes the catchy phrases or formulas, though memorable or helpful, might hide or put a mask over the very simple words Jesus spoke.
Here in John 14 and 15, Jesus tells His disciples how they will face this new life after He dies. I imagine life seemed like it was about to end for all of them. He shares with them the key to maturing, dealing with sin, sharing the good news and loving others. It wasn’t about a repeatable, memorable phrase. It wasn’t about making everything fit in a tight explanation. It came down to something very simple, very humble, and very true. Jesus does not give his disciples a formula or a plan for how to make it through life. However, He does not leave them alone. Jesus summed up the way to live the Christian life in one word, “Abide.” It is one word, yet it is loaded with meaning.
1. Help Needed
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. John 14
Jesus says He will leave the Spirit. He will be with them. He is the Helper. It is funny how many times I cry out for help, and I do need help. I need help with my control, with my pride, my insecurity. This is when I like to run to other things. Yet, Jesus says that the “Helper” will be with me. Whether it is a simple everyday burden or a seemingly “beyond me” kind of a situation– Jesus says to me that I have the Helper. The “Helper,” helps.
2. With Us
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. John 14
I am with You. This does have profound implications! God is with me? It is funny how he uses the word “orphan” to describe how I was. When I think of an orphan, I think of a little child, having no one, and alone in the world. This feels like the most insecure place in the world. Now Jesus says, I am not an orphan. He is with me. I am not alone. Often in my mind, I feel alone or misunderstood and it can cause me to think all sorts of things. But Jesus says He is with me. I can’t tell you how that transforms me, my feelings and thoughts, and the challenges I face.
3. Be At Home
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15
Abide. Or, another way to say it could be, “remain,” “stay in Me,” or “be present in Me.” This is what Jesus says to these disciples whose lives are going to feel battered, changed and crushed by the relenting waves of life; He tells them to abide. I really don’t use this word very often, unless I am talking about “abiding in Christ.” The word abide is close to the word “abode,” a place you dwell.
My home is a place I enjoy being. I like the windows without drapes that let in streams of light. I appreciate the texture and warmth of the hardwood floors. I like the simplicity of my home. I love to sit in my yard and read, play or dream. At home I can rest. When I have been away, it is especially nice to come home. In my home, I feel the most comfortable. Right now, I am reminded of this, for everyone is out and it is quiet.
But sometimes I don’t enjoy the rest my home can bring, because I can be sidetracked and occupied by so many things. My dog, Pepper, knows how to “stay.” She has been trained how to follow this command, but often she gets distracted by noises, by her nose, and by certain crumbs that have somehow fallen all over the house. Yet, if she keeps her eye on me, or if she has eye-contact with me it is much easier for her to “stay.”
Remaining is a little like this for me. I make the Christian life about so many other things, that I forget the source or power to live the Christian life. Like Pepper, I don’t find “remaining” or “abiding” always easy– instead I want to check what is going on “over there.” It seems like my flesh does not want to stay.
Jesus tells the disciples to stay in him, be present in Him. Abide is His answer for living the Christian life. For this is how fruit is produced in the Christian life. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Life in Christ is everything. As I seek Him, remain in Him, focus on Him, allowing my mind to be shaped by His truth– I am finding my home in Him. I am abiding in Him.
Jesus is saying, “Make your home in Me.” “Stay put in me.” He is the source of security, love, peace, correction, and guidance. As I find my home in Him, I find his fruit appearing. Sometimes the apples are small or the bananas are green, but in time, they will grow and mature.
Jesus does not give a formula or another catchy phrase– He says to make your home in Him– Abide. He knows I am plagued by myself. He knows life is broken and that if I make a home in other things– I will be disappointed. So He tells me, the way of life is finding my home (or life) in Him– remaining in Him.