Have you ever taken the time to observe a vine that has grown over a fence, shrub or tree? Depending on the vine species, the vine can grow quite vigorously. Some vines are so strong, people can even swing from them. But what if someone were to cut the vine, then what? Within hours, the entire branch that was cut off would wither and die.
In the same way, when people get cut off from the main part of the Vine – God – they begin to wither and no longer produce the life giving fruit they were intended to bear. The Bible says, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot bear fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NLT). Jesus is likening his people to branches that need to stay attached to the Vine – himself. If they stop being vitally connected to the vine, they will stop producing good fruit; they will no longer fulfill all the good things God has in store for them.
Sadly, it is far too easy to get complacent or stagnant in our walk with God, especially for those that serve in ministry. Many can even begin to assume that “doing” for God is the same as spending alone time with God. The story of Mary and Martha is a great example of this. Martha was too busy doing for Jesus that she neglected the most important thing – Jesus himself! “Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42 NLT). Mary discovered the key to living the Christian life was in spending time with Jesus — growing in strength, understanding his nature, hearing his voice and gaining clear direction — not in doing for him!
When we, as Christians, get away to a quiet place and hear our Master’s voice and learn his ways through prayer and the reading of scripture, we will have everything we need to accomplish the tasks he has directed us to. But how can we expect to carry those out if we do not know what they are? We cannot! Yet for many of us, we continue to go about striving and trying and doing for God, but is it really God asking us to do all this stuff? More than likely, it is nothing but the flesh striving to produce what we can only do by staying intimately connected to the Vine!
Jesus ministered to multitudes on a regular basis. He was pressed in on every side by the demands of needy people. So where did he get his strength and energy for each day? When he retreated to a quiet place in the mountains to spend quality time with his Heavenly Father (Luke 5:16). As his people, even more so for those in ministry, we should never get so busy that we neglect our time fellowshipping with God; he should be our top priority!
I live in Thailand and work for an incredible ministry that frees children from sexual slavery. The need is great worldwide and the workers are few. And because this problem is global in scale, our efforts sometimes seem minuscule; like we have not done much, even though we work long hours, many times to the point of extreme exhaustion. In the process, I can justify that I need to do one more thing for these kids or for the team, but if I am burnt out and spent to the max, I will have nothing left to give. I will be more irritable, less tolerant of others, and less others centered. In the end, I will have nothing left to offer the kids or my team. Is this really helping anyone?
Here is a great story from the Bible that illustrates my point. One day, several of Jesus’ disciples had been fishing all night. They caught nothing even though they were expert fishermen. Jesus yelled from the shore, “Cast your nets on the other side of the boat.” In obedience, they did and they caught more fish than they could have imagined (John 21)!
What is the point? Listening to the Master’s voice will produce way better results than if a person exerted tons of energy in his own strength.
My question to you is this: How can you hear from God if you are too busy to spend time with him on a regular basis? It is impossible. God can open doors for you and fill your nets full of incredible results, but you and I need to spend time with him. These results are a byproduct of walking closely with God, not the other way around.
Make time for God today! Do not just do for God, but spend time with him! Your ability to live out a meaningful, rewarding and adventurous life is a decision a way. Choose wisely.