Ab(r)ide—A devotional inspired by John 15 and Psalm 91
For some reason the word “abide” has always had a definition that I found rather hard to completely grasp. It is a great word isn’t it though? I feel like it really summarizes the action of dwelling, remaining and/or conforming perfectly. Not only is the word “abide” often on the ‘shelf in usage’ but also in its verbal-sense. The American culture that we live in screams the antonyms of abide: leave, differentiate yourself and be ambiguous with religion. What does the Bible say about this word? Let’s turn our eyes to the book of John, chapter 15 to get a better idea:
I Am the True Vine
1"I am the(A) true vine, and my Father is(B) the vinedresser. 2(C) Every branch in me that does not bear fruit(D) he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes,(E) that it may bear more fruit. 3Already(F) you are clean(G) because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4(H) Abide(I) 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. 5I am the vine;(J) you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that(K) bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in me(L) he is thrown away like a branch and withers;(M) and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If(N) you abide in me, and my words abide in you,(O) ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8(P) By this my Father is glorified, that you(Q) bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9(R) As the Father has loved me,(S) so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10(T) If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as(U) I have kept(V) my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11These things I have spoken to you,(W) that my joy may be in you, and that(X) your joy may be full.
(ESV) citations found at www.biblegateway.com
I love this piece of scripture because do you notice how Jesus is so good at personifying a hard concept to his disciples? I also like his personal touch of “I Am” within the very first verse---emphasizes his relationship with God. In verse 2 he is stating the simply known fact that if a branch isn’t producing some fruit on a vine, it serves no purpose and should be cut off so that other branches receive the support from the vine. And if you are producing fruit, you may get pruned a bit because it allows for more fruit to flourish. Jesus transitions in verse 3 explaining the disciples are clean---in cross referencing the phrase “you are clean” to John 17:17 and Ephesians 5:26 we discover that this means having been sanctified by the Truth or the washing of the word. In verse 4, Christ commands the act of abiding in him. The branches of the vine he introduced earlier in the passage require the attachment to the main vine in order for fruit to be produced. How many branches do you see laying on the ground after a strong storm producing a piece of fruit ? Similarly, we cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit on our own. This “fruit” is referring to several passages throughout all of scripture with the most notable being found Galatians 5. The verses following the command explain what happens to those branches that do not abide in the main vine: thrown away. See in verse 7 that although you maybe conforming to the vine, that there is a sense of freedom when Christ says “ask whatever you wish and it will be done to you.” Abide in love: dwell in love, conform in the love of Christ. How does one do that you may ask: by “keeping his commands.” And in verse 11 it says that not only do we get the blessing of simply abiding and obeying our Lord but with that comes the fruit of JOY---complete joy!
I was running the other day praying this scripture over and over in my head. I have a hard time conforming to the Lord’s will sometimes. I always attempt to do things my way—even after prayer, I will often find myself going “behind God’s back” (not possible—but I feel like it). And so as I was running I just kept repeating the word “Abide, abide, abide” and this beautiful imagery came to mind: a bride. Just like ab(r)ide conforms to a husband and becomes one, so are we as Christ-followers. This imagery is not anything new is it? We are the bride of Christ are we not? Well, use that analogy for this scripture and it sheds a little different light does it not? We in America may not have the best examples of a wife conforming to her husband but picture a “Wife of Noble Character” simply dwelling with her husband and showing her love through the way she honors him. I say honor because everyone freaks out when we say “obeys her husband,” but in reality everyone---that’s what a woman is to do correct? Now you have to remember that in the analogy we are married to Christ: you cannot find a better husband than that amen? In the same way a husband has to be like Christ to his wife---so don’t get all upset at me for making those earlier statements, I’m a woman too you know . But do you see the picture created by simply adding an “r” into the word abide? Obviously Christ used the perfect analogy with the vine so I will not even attempt to “top” that, but I did think it was neat how when I was meditating on this word, that the image of a bride came to mind and opened up the verse a little more.
One final example of this word in scripture is found in Psalm 91. At K2 Kanakuk Kamp last summer we memorized this Psalm as a staff because we were in need of some defense in what appeared to be a physical battle with H1N1 in our Kampers. It was pretty frustrating when you finally see a child broken and willing to change and then have to go home because of a fever. I was revisiting that scripture this morning and lo and behold the first two verses say this:
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
You have to realize that we are pretty helpless without our God amen? Sure, we may be able to muster up strength to endure some of life’s arrows thrown at us but when trials such as sickness, brokenness and fear are thrown at us, we got nothing! We are as helpless as that branch just thrown down on the ground by the latest storm. But Scripture says that if we “dwell in the shelter of the Most High” and “abide in the shadow of the Almighty” He will become our fortress, our safe-place and our refuge. What a husband! He is protecting us as a husband protects his family! If all we have to do (I know, easier said than done) is to obey his commands while He saves us from deadly pestilence, snare of the fowler, terror of night, arrows that fly by day, pestilence that stalks in darkness and destruction that wastes at noonday—I would say we have a pretty good deal going here. Ha, seriously how silly we are to be ambiguous and attempt to do things our own way. God not only offers his security but he often helps us learn how to trust in Him. Our God provides EVERYTHING for us—we simply need to abide in Him. And if you have issues being abride of Christ—do what any wife would do, talk to her husband! Cry out to the Lord and ask for help: that may come in the sense of peace and the ability to trust Him more or else He may even lead you to scripture or a memory of His faithfulness in the past. He will reveal that we have one wonderful husband leading us and one we cannot help but trust!