“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser . . . Abide in me, and I in you.” – Jesus (John 15:1,4)
I can’t tell you how many theologicalish books I have started and never finished (almost every one I own—don’t judge). Recently, though, I got my hands on one I couldn’t put down. Andrew Murray’s Abide in Christ is a treasure chest full of spiritually-revitalizing wisdom. If you are someone who knows you should abide in Jesus and wants to abide in Jesus but are kind of lost as to what it actually means and looks like to abide in Jesus, go order Abide in Christ today.
Every bit of teaching in this book benefited my soul in tremendous measure. But there was one wisdom principle that, to me, stood out boldly among the rest. Murray knew he would have innumerable readers who would be overwhelmed by the idea of living in continuous communion with Jesus. He knew they would feel like such a feat was too high for their feeble capabilities. Desiring to light a fire of hope in their doubtful hearts, he repeatedly emphasized a simple yet profound truth: abiding in Christ is a moment-by-moment, day-by-day endeavor.
I definitely fall into this fretful camp of readers that Murray anticipated. When I consider the energy and discipline required to really abide in Christ—to continuously cling to and commune with him—the thought of this being my perpetual, lifelong duty feels overwhelming. I understand that abiding in Christ is a passive activity. We don’t climb to him; he graciously descends to us. We simply incline our minds and widen our hearts so that his presence, power, and love can flow into our lives through the channels of our faith. But when you are (and I am) a dual-natured person in a fallen world who is ceaselessly harassed by indwelling sin and other God-opposing forces, merely making yourself available to Christ is an exceedingly difficult task.
Positioning myself to passively receive the spiritual nourishment of The Vine requires focus, energy, and discipline. Letting go of the things that hinder my fellowship with him—sin, needless distractions, and an overactive mind that is consumed with everything but Jesus—is hard work. Every Christian knows this. What happens when you open the Bible? You are bombarded with thoughts about everything but what you’re reading. What happens when you pray? Your mind drifts toward thoughts about everything but God. What happens when you seriously resolve to mortify fleshly hindrances in your life? Temptation soars. Paul describes it perfectly:
“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.” – Romans 7:21
And this—turning from sin, the world, and self and inclining ourselves to Christ—is what God commands us to do for the rest of our earthly lives. I sometimes wonder if I can really keep this up long-term. When it takes all that I have to just barely cling to Jesus today, I fear that I’ll be depleted of energy and discipline to do it tomorrow—much less next week, next month, or next year. I know that it is God who supplies the strength I need to abide in Jesus. But based on how little of that grace-wrought strength I presently feel, I question whether there will always be a sufficient supply.
Andrew Murray’s answer to my doubtful questioning is simple yet profoundly encouraging: God gives enabling grace moment-by-moment, day-by-day. There is good reason that I don’t presently sense within myself ample strength to abide in Jesus in the hours, days, weeks, months, and years to come. I do not yet possess that strength. In this hour, I have every spiritual resource I need for this hour—no more. My duty is not to be concerned with what I will need to abide in Christ this afternoon or tomorrow. My duty is simply to presently abide in Christ by the power God is presently granting me. When this afternoon arrives or tomorrow comes, he will provide fresh grace and new strength for that time.
At first glance, this may seem too elementary to truly revolutionize our spiritual lives. But think about it for a minute. How often do we give into temptation because we feel like we won’t have the strength to continue resisting? In that very moment, we sense our ability to deny the flesh—but then we start to wonder: what if the temptation persists for the rest of the day or the rest of the week? Feeling like we won’t be able to resist sin’s allure for such a stretch of time, we faithlessly bow to its demands. We sin. Though we felt the strength to resist in the moment, we sinned anyway because we doubted God would enable us to endure the full duration of the temptation. And how lacking or inconsistent is our Bible reading and prayer life for the same reason? As we open our Bibles or bow our heads, we find it difficult to set our hearts and minds on the Lord—but we also sense that there is just enough strength within us to do so in that moment. Though we have the ability to quiet our souls and look to Jesus in that moment, we become overwhelmed by the thought of doing so for the next twenty or thirty minutes. So we quit. We close our Bibles or raise our heads in full surrender to the flesh.
But what if, instead of fretting about the next moment, hour, or day, we were to simply abide in Jesus in this moment? What if, instead of worrying about the strength we will need this afternoon, we utilized the little yet sufficient strength we possess right now? What if, instead of doubting our ability to abide in Christ tomorrow, we were to simply abide in him today?
God’s enabling grace will be there in five minutes. It will be there this evening; it will be there tomorrow; it will be there next month; it will be there next year. The Vine Dresser who grafted us into The Vine is faithful to give us all that we need, moment-by-moment, to keep us tightly fastened. We don’t need to feel this afternoon’s strength this morning. We don’t need to sense tomorrow’s strength today. God will meet us in our weakness moment-by-moment, day-by-day, and he will supply us with every bit of enabling grace we need.