Stories can impact us in very powerful ways .
When we lived in Tanzania, we would often share Bible stories, translated into the local language, spoken simply. Sometimes after the story, I would see a deer-in-the-headlights look - you know, the one where someone is looking at you with a totally blank stare, entirely unsure of what to do; an inability to understand the story. Perhaps it was how I told the story, maybe it was too much all packed into one, or maybe the words I used weren’t exactly right. That blank response reminded me, that I am unable to take away that blinder, unless the Holy Spirit opens their eyes. The contrast would be seen when that same story, told to a new believer, resonated, blessed and encouraged her.
We put pressure on ourselves as parents, teachers and in ministry, to make spiritual growth happen; to help influence others to a life sold out for Christ. It’s our wonderful privilege and opportunity to stand in the gap with others in order to guide & encourage them on this path, but the danger in feeling that pressure, is that we can begin to believe it is our own work that will make the change happen.
Our “work” in helping others to change, grow, or believe, rests in our obedience to abide in Jesus. John 15:4 says “Abide 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.” There can be no lasting effects of our faith on others, if we do not spend time lavishly with Jesus. This is the work that belongs to us, our faithfulness in loving God with all our hearts, souls and minds. This means that the results are up to Him, freeing us from the pressure (and pride) of what happens in the lives of those we walk alongside. It also means that obedience to God’s command to abide, will require something of us, it doesn’t happen on it’s own.
How do we abide?
In prayer. Jesus took time away to spend time with the Father, escaping the crowds of people, in order to discern the opportunities before Him. He acknowledged that He could only do what He sees the Father doing. How can we see what the Father is doing in our lives, and in those around us, other than by spending time in prayer with Him!
In the Word. Studying God’s Word is our way to know more about God, who He is and what His will is for our life. Jen Wilkin writes in her book, Women of the Word, that “the heart cannot love what the mind does not know”. We pick up the scriptures to be taught by Him in order for us to love Him more, and become more like Him. This simply can’t happen unless we invest our time and energy in understanding what it says.
In fellowship. The body of Christ, His people, are diverse, unique and transforming. Our passions, gifts and abilities are different, as are our perspectives and life experience. This is what brings beauty to the church. It is also a source of much struggle, when we don’t see eye to eye; yet this can teach us to grow in grace as we serve each other in love. This blessed fellowship sharpens us, teaches us and brings us to our knees - for each other and for our relationships with each other.
With Bible apps, journaling bibles, there are many resources available to help engage us in our time with the Lord. We can take the bits of time we get, while babies are napping, or during a coffee-break at work, to press into Jesus and grow in Him, but it takes our time and our desire.
Our faithfulness to God will allow divine opportunities to become fruit-bearing activities, by the hand of God, not our own works. The promise is, that our faithfulness in our walk with Jesus, our own obedience to study the scriptures, pray and fellowship, will bear the fruit of disciples for His kingdom. We can never assume that it will only happen because of someone else's gifts, passions or abilities. Rather, it can happen in our own pursuit of knowing Jesus more, and taking the time to abide in Him. We respond with obedience, and He will make Himself known.
Are there people in your life that you are trusting God for? What will you do today to abide in Jesus?