“I am the vine, you are the branches:
He that abides in me, and I in him,
the same brings forth much fruit:
for without me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5 KJ 2000 Bible
Very soon after New Year’s Day I get busy with the task of taking down all the Christmas decorations. I love putting up the decorations but loath taking them down! This year I think that I will try something new. As I put away the decorations I am going to try to focus on the year ahead. This New Year I want my mind to be filled with hope. I want to raise the bar in my life in many ways, especially in my spiritual life.
The fact is Christmas is over. My daughter and son-in-law have loaded the car with suitcases, unwrapped gifts, and my grandchildren, and have headed back to
. My son has boarded an airplane
that is bound for Maryland .
Sadness is creeping its way into my emotions. Even though I have just experienced a wonderful Christmas holiday;
it is hard for me to shake off the heaviness that is slithering into my heart.
I am now faced with the gray of winter, boxes to be filled and carried to the
attic, and a house to be restored to normal. This type of melancholy is natural
but I must NOT remain here! I must be on guard because my spiritual progress could be hindered by
my emotional state of mind. California
As I begin removing decorations from our Christmas tree, I notice that there is one lonely, unfamiliar gift that has been shoved to the back of the tree. It had previously been hidden from view but now a corner of this lonely gift peaks out from under the folds of the red and green fabric that has skirted the base of our tree. I’m a bit curious but I decide to retrieve the gift later.
I begin winding up the shinny red and gold garland as I remove it from the tree branches. As I wind the garland, my mind pleasantly begins to remember the wonderful memories that our family made this past Christmas. But in an unsuspecting moment my mind skips from positive thoughts to negative thoughts as I wonder what the future holds. I am reminded that life has a way of changing on a dime. Numerous people I know are experiencing heavy emotional burdens that have been brought into their life because of unwanted life change. Many of these changes have left them reeling and grieving for what has been. Fear grips my heart as I realize – I’m not exempt!
Then in a split second, the Holy Spirit whispers in my mind’s ear, “Abundant life can be yours.” I am a little taken back because I’m already a believer and have been for many years. Then a quiet whisper of truth came to me, “Yes, salvation comes as a free gift from Jesus Christ, but abundant life comes from abiding in Jesus Christ. Abiding is the essential key.”
That thought has given me a little bit more to chew on than a leftover Christmas cookie. What is the Holy Spirit trying to teach me? I started to reflect on what it would mean if I raised the bar in my spiritual life by seeking to abide in Jesus Christ every day of the coming year. First, I realized that simple prayer is a must. Perhaps more prayer for my spiritual needs and less focus on my material and physical needs. Then, of course, reading God’s Word. Maybe I should endeavor to read God’s Word looking for more personal application. I think that seeking to know the mind of Christ would also be a benefit. I must learn to consider how God observes my attitudes, how he sees this world, how Jesus views my overwhelming life changes, my concerns, and my fears. I become conscious of the fact that I must form the habit of listening intentionally for the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit.
My thoughts are racing as I continue to carefully remove each Christmas ornament and loveingly wrap it in tissue paper for safe keeping. I begin to reminisce over the significance of each ornament and I become uniquely aware of a spiritual application that parallels my life. For forty-two years we have collected ornaments for our tree. There are ornaments that signify marriage, birth, faith, and ornaments from special friends who have been people of influence in our life. I treasure the handmade ornaments that were made by our children in elementary school. There are also ornaments that remind me of special vacations and ornaments that denote hobbies and interests of each family member. I even have ornaments from my own childhood. Our Christmas tree is a “timeline” of love!
This discovery reminds me that my life also has a “spiritual timeline”. If I were to draw it on paper I would have to begin with my birth and my first memory of God. I would have to include the influence of my godly parents and my siblings. I would note God’s blessings of marriage to my wonderful husband, the birth of my two children, the addition of a son-in-law, and last but never least, the blessings of my two grandchildren. On this spiritual timeline I would have to place the names of many people who have influenced me for Jesus. I would also include one very special lady who mentored me with amazing love and wisdom. I would also mark on this timeline the darkest days of my life and then the times when God pulled me up and out of my despair. I would make special notes regarding the people God sent into my life to help me through those dark days. I would mark the churches I have attended and the heavenly messages I learned in each place. There would be stones of remembrance placed all over this spiritual timeline reminding me of God’s provision and protection for me and for those I love. My personal spiritual timeline serves as a visible reminder to me of God’s faithfulness. All of my days have been ordered by him, even before a single day came to be!
Today I am considering the very real possibility that God has allowed all of these things to come into my life for a reason. I am shocked to realize that life altering change has proven over and over again to be my very best teacher. My entire life God has been changing me, experience by experience. The person that I am becoming in Christ Jesus is being shaped by the continual divine touch of God’s creative hand in my life. God is a master of using both the good and the bad circumstances of my life to refine me for his eternal purposes. God is in the process of changing me from glory into glory. He is preparing me to meet him face to face.
Nevertheless, I am a master at taking each change in my life and immediately gift wrapping it in my own expectations. I know what I want, what I do not want. I know when I want God to show up and what I want him to bring with him. I know exactly how I want things to end. It is always the same; I want things to end well! No matter how good my intentions are or how right my desires may be, I am learning that I cannot experience God’s peace unless I am willing to give up “when” I think things should happen and “how” they should end. When I am finally able to hand Jesus my gift wrapped package of control and expectations, he then unwraps the package and rewraps it the beautiful pure white paper of his grace and ties it with a gorgeous gold bow of his faithfulness. This box holds the contents of my broken heart, but little by little God will fuse the pieces of my brokenness back into place as he perfectly repairs and prepares my heart for eternity.
No matter what may come my way I will always be tempted to question God. However, past experiences has taught me that the acceptance of God’s will for my life will be the only thing that will bring me peace of mind. Most likely I will never be free of the memory of what happened to cause me so much sorrow. But it must remain, only a memory. Not an open wound to be relived daily. When I am able to surrender the future to God, the difficult circumstance of my life may still remain the same but by some mysterious work of God’s divine grace, my outlook regarding my pain always changes for the better.
I am beginning to see that I must seek to see the unwanted life change from the eyes of Jesus. I am very well aware that I see negative life change as painful, but how does Jesus see this change? I believe that first of all he weeps with me. I then believe that Jesus sees the pain in my life as an opportunity and if I will allow it, he than begins to use that circumstance to develop my character. God desires that I become a believer that is better not bitter. This is not easy when every thread of my being screams out, “No God. Not this!” Still I must remember that some day all tears will be wiped away forever, but until that day there will be pain and sadness because we live in a fallen world. I remember that God’s Word tells me that I am never alone. Jesus will never leave me or forsake me! That is his promise to me and to you.
It has now been a few hours since I began putting away decorations and thinking on things above. My curiosity has gotten the better of me so I crawl under the Christmas tree that is now looking quite naked, to retrieve the lost gift. Sitting cross legged on the floor, I look closely and see that to my surprise it has MY name on the tag. Now my hands are shaking in anticipation of what is inside. I carefully begin removing the wrapping paper. The lost gift is amazing! Nestled inside soft tissue paper is a beautiful crystal heart-shaped paper weight. Engraved on the crystal is one simple word, “HOPE”. I open the card that is attached to the gift and slowly I read His words, “Abide in me, surrender to me, and hope in me. My precious daughter, this is abundant life! Love, Jesus”
This lost gift is a treasure! This crystal heart and this beautiful note is going to be placed on the center of my desk as a daily reminder that all of my problems must at some point leave my heart and end up under the paperweight of Jesus Christ, who is my hope of glory. Jesus, I want your abundant life today and everyday as I abide in you and place my hope in your capable hands of love!
- Does the New Year make you anxious?
- Is there a life changing burden deep within your heart?
- How long have you carried this burden?
- Do you see the need to surrender your control and expectations to Jesus?
- What are the benefits of abiding in Jesus every day?
- This week draw your own spiritual timeline and save it as a tool to remind you of God’s faithfulness to you in the past. It will give you hope for the future!
If you are a new believer, you too should consider starting your own personal “spiritual timeline”. It may go back only a few days, months, or years but it will move forward your entire life. Over the years this timeline will prove to be a precious document of God’s faithfulness to you.
I confess that it is so difficult to trust you with life change. I am afraid to trust you because I do not know the future outcome. I so desperately want my way! Jesus, is it so wrong to want things to turn out well? I am reminded that you too wanted things to turn out well. You desperately wanted to avoid the pain and suffering of the cross. Yet, through the eyes of your Father you were able to see the eternal good in an outcome that was not personally good for you this side of heaven. Jesus, I know that I must abide in you so that I will be strengthened. Father I want to raise the bar in my life so that I will abide in you moment by moment and day by day. Jesus I am profoundly thankful that you do not expect me to be thankful for the pain in my life. I know that you understand my pain and weep with me. So today Lord, I am not thankful for the pain or the loss in my life or for the suffering, but I am thankful for the knowledge that by some mystery that I cannot understand you are going to take all of the stinking, miserable circumstances that come into my life and use them for my eternal good. For this truth I am thankful. So today Jesus, I pray for your grace to enable me to trust you and to surrender the outcome of every difficult situation to you. Help me to trust in your unfailing kindness because I know that you alone are sovereign. Father, help me to abide in your love and treasure the hope I have in you.
It is in your name I pray. Amen.