Thursday, November 20, 2014

Striving vs Abiding

I just got back from my annual retreat.  This sounds a lot fancier than it is.  Pretty much what I do is find an inexpensive motel room near-by and spend a day alone praying, listening to God, and reflecting on the past year.

During this time, I usually read through my prayer journal and scripture notes from the past year.  It is great to see some prayer requests that I completely forgot about that God answered months later.  It is also interesting to see what prayer requests have not been answered.  It is even more interesting to see what prayer requests I am glad were not answered.  Reading the journal is a reminder of who I am, who I was, and who I may become.

This year, I was especially convicted by my entry on May 7th.  I was in Berlin, Germany on that day, and my notes came from a seminar given by one of the ReachGlobal Europe Division leaders, Don Reynard.  He was teaching out of John 15:1-17, and he talked about the difference between abiding and striving.

This struck me to the heart because I almost postponed my retreat due to the fact that I was too busy.  I changed my mind because I remembered how Jesus would often back off from ministry to spend time in prayer when He was busiest.  But it is safe to say that my heart went kicking and screaming into that hotel room.  Don's words, spoken to me in May when I was getting ready for our move back to America at a time when I was far busier than I am now, reminded me that God want's me, not my busyness.  He wants me to abide in Him, not strive on my own.

What is the difference between abiding and striving?

When you are striving:

- You are worried about time.
- You focus on results.
- You have a strong desire to prove yourself.
- You are easily distracted.
- Life enjoyment is dependent on circumstances.

When you are abiding:

- Time doesn't matter so much.
- Results come from God.  You are focused on Him.
- Your identity is in Christ.
- You are focused on what matters most.
- Life is enjoyable regardless of circumstances.

America is a great place with lots of wonderful aspects to our culture.  We love independence and place a strong value on the individual.  Yet, one of the flaws this can lead to is the belief that our individual efforts are the most important thing in our lives.  As Christians, this can translate to us thinking that it is our responsibility to bring glory to God, as if God needs us in some way.  Biblically speaking, this is flawed thinking.

Psalm 46:10 reads:  He says, "Be still and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations.  I will be exalted in the earth."

God will glorify Himself.  Be still.

Of course, we do need to press forward in life, but we must not do so with our own energy.  As Colossians 1:29 reads: To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

If we abide in Christ, we will bear much fruit just as the branch bears much fruit because it abides in the vine.  Branches don't strive to produce grapes.  They just do because they are attached to the vine.  In the same way, we as believers don't need to strive to produce results for God.  We need only be attached to Jesus our vine.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;

Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth [Lord of Rest], His name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
-Martin Luther