This past Sunday we visited a church up north and on our way home I found myself driving through a gallery of autumnal splendor filled with many trees that looked like this (unfortunately I didn’t bring the camera with me that day so this picture is from last year). As my eyes took in the brilliant display, my mind went back to another kind of vibrancy that I had witnessed that morning: the vibrancy of a man on fire for God. A man who had known Jesus Christ as his personal Savior for 53 years and had served him with his life as an open-air Gospel preacher for the past 50 of those years and is still going strong at 80 years young (I’m going by memory for the numbers here but I think they are close to accurate). As I was once again filled with the desire to live the kind of life God wants me to live and as I thought about the incredible things that were happening through the work of this ministry and how evident it was that God was working through these people, I was amazed at what God will do through us if we let Him. He has the power to do anything in the hearts of men He wants- I was strongly reminded of this through the few stories that the missionary had shared – but does He have the people to work with Him at this? Those who will surrender to His will and let Him be the Lord of their lives, not taking matters into their own hands but sitting back and watching God do His job perfectly as He has always done?
So often it seems as though we believers are at odds with God. I know that personally, a lot of the time I feel like God is not quite happy with me. Not all the time, but a fair part of the time, especially lately (which is probably because my quiet time with Him has been less faithful and focused lately than in the past) I have this feeling that God is distant. I’m pretty sure that part of that is because there’s something I know I should be doing (continually focusing my thoughts on His Word) and I daily fail at it. But part of it also stems from an incorrect perception of God. As I turned over in my mind the things I had heard the missionary say that morning, I was reminded of something: that, as a friend of mine has said several times, God is good all the time. He’s not a cold, stern God who is constantly poking at our imperfections and holding us at arms’ length, unwilling to draw us near. Yes, God is just and He hates sin and we are wrong to not strive to continually become more like Him, but more than we want to live life God’s way, God wants us to live life His way. Why? Because He wants to give us more of Himself. In his brief message, the missionary mentioned John 15, which is a passage that I have been reading a lot lately. That chapter is where Christ is talking about us remaining in Him and He in us. A sentence that the missionary said when he was referring to how life is not about us, but rather about God, and how His power is available to each believer (Eph. 1:19) has stayed on my mind ever since I heard it: “It’s letting Christ think His thoughts in us.” It’s not hard to figure out what would happen if we had the mind of Christ – we’d start acting like Him. And the world around us would be a much different place.
How does this incredible thing happen? By us meditating on God’s word; letting His words remain in us continually.
But what does letting God’s word remain in our hearts and minds have to do with God being good all the time? Because what God wants for us is to have more of Himself. HE is everything; the only One who can give blessing, joy, peace – real, abundant life. He wants the best for us, all the time. All the time, God is good and God loves us with a perfect love – not a love that gives us sunshine, lollipops and rainbows every day because we want them, but a true love that continually has our best interests at its core, even if that means putting difficult things in our lives to drive us closer to Him, because He is what we need. Even when hard things come into our lives, it is possible for the believer to know that God is still good, still in control, and still wants the very best for us and is working His purpose for us.
But we have a responsibility also: we must be sure that we do not become distant from God, because “The Lord disciplines the one He loves”…(Heb. 12:6). There are hard things in life that we bring upon ourselves because of sin. But even still, these things are sent by God because He loves us – because the very best thing for us is to be close to Him and He is trying to prod us back to Himself by these hard things. So even in this, God is still good. He wants to give us Himself. He wants to bless us. He wants to accomplish His purpose through us.
So how do we do our part in making this happen? How do we give God the freedom He wants to work in our lives so that He can do incredible things through us, too? By letting His words flow freely in us. My sister-in-law has had a quote related to John 15 and this principle written in her kitchen for years that has become ingrained in my memory: “Abiding cannot be maintained without giving the words of Christ a reignant (reining) position in the heart.” God and His words must have top priority in our lives so that Christ can “think His thoughts in us” and use us fully and freely to accomplish the huge, amazing, wonderful things He wants to accomplish through us, so that we may life live in a brilliant blaze for Him, fulfilling His ultimate purpose for all things: bringing Him the glory He deserves.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. 2 Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” John 15:1-5