The phrase “fruitless and fret filled” describes too many of us.
We don’t want it to. We long to follow Paul’s admonition:
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. — Philipians 4:8 NLT
With a grimace and fresh resolve, we determine, Today I will think only true, honorable, and right thoughts… even if it kills me.
Paul’s call to peace can become a list of requirements: every thought must be true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise.
Gulp. Who can do this?
Confession: I find the list difficult to keep. Heaven knows, I’ve tried. A random idea will pop into my head, and I’ll pass it through the passage. Was it true, honorable, pure… What’s next? I have trouble remembering the eight virtues, much less remembering to filter my thoughts through them. Maybe the list works for you. If so, skip this chapter. If not, there is a simpler way.
Make it your aim to cling to Christ. Abide in him.
Is He not true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise? Is this not the invitation of His message in the vineyard?
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. — John 15:4-10 NASB
Jesus’ allegory is simple. God is like a vine keeper. He lives and loves to coax the best out of his vines. He pampers, prunes, blesses, and cuts. His aim is singular: “What can I do to prompt produce?” God is a capable orchardist who carefully superintends the vineyard.
And Jesus plays the role of the vine. We nongardeners might confuse the vine and the branch. To see the vine, lower your gaze from the stringy, winding branches to the thick base below. The vine is the root and trunk of the plant. It cables nutrients from the soil to the branches. Jesus makes the stunning claim, “I am the real root of life.” If anything good comes into our lives, He is the conduit.
And who are we? We are the branches. We bear fruit:
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. — Gal. 5:22 NASB
We meditate on what is “true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable… excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8 NLT). Our gentleness is evident to all. We bask in the “peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7 NIV).
And as we cling to Christ, God is honored.
My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. — John 15:8 NASB
The Father tends. Jesus nourishes. We receive, and grapes appear. Passersby, stunned at the overflowing baskets of love, grace, and peace, can’t help but ask, “Who runs this vineyard?” And God is honored. For this reason fruit bearing matters to God.
And it matters to you! You grow weary of unrest. You’re ready to be done with sleepless nights. You long to be “anxious for nothing.” You long for the fruit of the Spirit. But how do you bear this fruit? Try harder? No, hang tighter. Our assignment is not fruitfulness but faithfulness.
The secret to fruit bearing and anxiety-free living is less about doing and more about abiding.
Lest we miss this point, Jesus employs the word abide(s) ten times in seven verses:
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me… he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit… If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up… If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you… abide in My love . . . abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:4-10 NASB)
“Come, live in Me!” Jesus invites. “Make My home your home.” Odds are that you know what it means to be at home somewhere.
To be at home is to feel safe. The residence is a place of refuge and security.
To be at home is to be comfortable. You can pad around wearing slippers and a robe.
To be at home is to be familiar. When you enter the door, you needn’t consult the blueprint to find the kitchen.
Our aim — our only aim — is to be at home in Christ. He is not a roadside park or hotel room. He is our permanent mailing address. Christ is our home. He is our place of refuge and security. We are comfortable in His presence, free to be our authentic selves. We know our way around in Him. We know His heart and His ways.
We rest in Him, find our nourishment in Him. His roof of grace protects us from storms of guilt. His walls of providence secure us from destructive winds. His fireplace warms us during the lonely winters of life. We linger in the abode of Christ and never leave.
The branch never releases the vine. Ever! Does a branch show up on Sundays for its once-a-week meal? Only at the risk of death. The healthy branch never releases the vine, because there it receives nutrients twenty-four hours a day.
If branches had seminars, the topic would be “Secrets of Vine Grabbing.” But branches don’t have seminars, because to attend them they would have to release the vine — something they refuse to do. The dominant duty of the branch is to cling to the vine.
The dominant duty of the disciple is the same.
We Christians tend to miss this. We banter about pledges to “change the world,” “make a difference for Christ,” “lead people to the Lord.” Yet these are by-products of the Christ-focused life. Our goal is not to bear fruit. Our goal is to stay attached.
Maybe this image will help. When a father leads his four-year-old son down a crowded street, he takes him by the hand and says, “Hold on to me.” He doesn’t say, “Memorize the map” or “Take your chances dodging the traffic” or “Let’s see if you can find your way home.” The good father gives the child one responsibility: “Hold on to my hand.”
God does the same with us. Don’t load yourself down with lists. Don’t enhance your anxiety with the fear of not fulfilling them. Your goal is not to know every detail of the future. Your goal is to hold the hand of the One who does and never, ever let go.
Jesus taught us to do the same. He tells us, rather bluntly,
Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. — Matthew 6:25
He then gives two commands: “look” and “consider.” He tells us to
look at the birds of the air. — Matthew 6:26
When we do, we notice how happy they seem to be. They aren’t frowning, cranky, or grumpy. They don’t appear sleep deprived or lonely. They sing, whistle, and soar. Yet
they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns. — Matthew 6:26
They don’t drive tractors or harvest wheat, yet Jesus asks us, do they appear well cared for?
He then turns our attention to the flowers of the field.
Consider the lilies. — Matthew 6:28
By the same token, they don’t do anything. Even though their life span is short, God dresses them up for red-carpet appearances. Even Solomon, the richest king in history, “was not arrayed like one of these” (v. 29).
How do we disarm anxiety? Stockpile our minds with God thoughts. Draw the logical implication: if birds and flowers fall under the category of God’s care, won’t He care for us as well? Saturate your heart with the goodness of God.
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. — Colossians 3:2
How might you do this? A friend recently described to me her daily ninety-minute commute. “Ninety minutes!” I commiserated. “Don’t feel sorry for me.” She smiled. “I use the trip to think about God.” She went on to describe how she fills the hour and a half with worship and sermons. She listens to entire books of the Bible. She recites prayers. By the time she reaches her place of employment, she is ready for the day. “I turn my commute into my chapel.”
Do something similar. Is there a block of time you can claim for God? Perhaps you could turn off the network news and open your Bible. Set the alarm fifteen minutes earlier. Or rather than watch the TV comedian as you fall asleep, listen to an audio version of a Christian book.
If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. — John 8:31-32 ESV
Free from fear. Free from dread. And, yes, free from anxiety.
Excerpted with permission from Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.
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What do you think about? Is your mind stuck on the betrayal of a friend, insecurity, fears about finances, worries about health or loved ones? What would happen in your soul if you turned your eyes and mind to Jesus instead? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily