In Eat this Book, Eugene Peterson teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and put it to use in practical ways. Our Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. In this passage, Jesus reminds us that we can do significant work for him if we recognize that he is the vine and we are the branches.
JOHN 15: 5 (MSG) – DO SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT
“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing.
Recently, I came across notes I had taken long ago in a class on the book Experiencing God – Knowing and Doing the Will of God, by Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King. I chased down the workbook I had completed years ago and looked through it. On the first page I found this summary: “The Master never consults the servant as to what he is to do. The Master takes the initiative. He sets the pace and lets you know what he is doing so you can join in.” This is a different perspective than the one we often have when we think about God’s will. The model many of us has been taught about doing God’s will is:
- God tells me what I am supposed to do.
- God sends me off to do it.
- I try to do it.
- I call on God when I need him.
This view of God’s will puts us in the position of trying to discern and then obey the exact path God is putting before us. An extreme version of this is a story I heard from a friend about a college student she knew. This student was, for all intents and purposes, paralyzed by trying to figure out if God was calling her to be a missionary in China or in India. She desperately did not want to make the wrong choice and make God angry for not doing his will – so she chose to do neither. She didn’t see that the idea of becoming a missionary was enough direction for her to follow. If we follow the model above, following God’s will is all about us.
Blackaby’s version of finding the will of God is much different. He says:
- God reveals a vision of what he is about do in the world to me.
- I grow into the plan through prayer and discernment.
- I step out in faith before I even understand the details or the end goal.
- God and I create a synergy of creative ideas and actions which enables God’s plan come to fruition.
This view of God’s will is all about God. He is creatively at work in his people and his people respond by participating in his plan.
All the heroes of Scripture were ordinary people. It was their relationship with God that made them extraordinarily effective. We, too, were created to do something significant with God. In order to find that something, we just need to concentrate on our relationship with the Trinity – God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. John 15 identifies our relationships with God and Jesus through this metaphor: God is the Vine Grower; Jesus is the Vine; we are the branches. (Perhaps the Holy Spirit is the rain, the sunlight, and the soil.) When we are joined in an “intimate and organic” relationship with God, manifesting his will in our world, the harvest will surely be “abundant.”
♥ Think about your Biblical heroes – perhaps Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Jeremiah, Ruth, Mary, Peter, Paul. Which model of discerning God’s will did they follow? How do their stories influence you?
♥ Do you want to do something significant for God? It is likely that God sharing a vision of what he wants to do in your family, your neighborhood, your church, your town. Open your mind and your heart during times of silence and reflection. Listen to God’s ideas. Step out in faith and then stay connected to the Vine.
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
We bear fruit not by squeezing it out of ourselves but because we are extensions of the vine, pruned by the gardener-God who wants us to be fruitful and to be drawn into the unity of the Father and Son. God’s love, presence, and pruning are gifts. But we do choose the abiding place of our soul. If we want to bear Jesus’ fruit, then we choose to abide in him, which we will learn in John 15:9 means to abide in his love (by Meda Stamper, (Working Preacher Website, May 3, 2015).