We sat in a room in the basement of the church that was typically used by a middle school youth group. Although I had attended several women’s studies at the church, this was the first one that my husband and I chose to do together. I couldn’t tell you the name of the study, or even the reason why we went, but I do remember that it was the very first time I had been in a Bible study where Scripture memorization was not only encouraged, but required and tested each week. Seated in uncomfortable, well-loved furniture in a room of adults I barely knew, I was out of my comfort zone. Unlike many of the people in that room, I didn’t grow up in the church so simply finding the right chapter and verse in my Bible was an accomplishment. Memorizing Scripture was (and still is) challenging.
Today’s reading was the Scripture passage we memorized, and it remains one of the few Bible verses that I can say pretty quickly. Although it wasn’t easy, and I made a lot of mistakes along the way, taking time each week to dig deeper into one specific passage of Scripture helped take the words off the page and into my heart
“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me—and I in him—bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing.” –John 15:5
The first sentence of verse 5 reminds us of our relationship with Christ. In a world that likes to tell us that we can do it all, we’re enough, and we need to be independent women, it can be easy to forget our true position. Jesus does not tell us that we are the vine. No, He is the vine, and we are the branches. That means everything we are, all that we do, is an overflow of the nourishment and life that comes from God.
A branch cut from the vine will wither and die. It can never bear fruit on its own. It needs the connection to the source of life that will create the environment for fruit to grow. Prayer is our connection to Jesus; it’s how we, the branches, stay connected to the vine.
The next part of our reading tells us what happens when we do, and don’t, maintain that connection. When we remain connected to Christ:
- We bear much fruit
- Our prayers are answered
- God is honored
- We show that we are disciples of Jesus
- We can accomplish the work God has given us
When we do not abide with Christ, when we try to do this life on our own, verse 6 says that we become dried-up branches that are tossed into the fire. Not only are we disconnected from God, but we’re also no longer a benefit to those around us.
Prayer is a beautiful gift that gives us, the branches, a way to abide with Jesus, the vine. Through our prayers and communion with Jesus, we learn to live and love and become more like Him, every day. As our hearts become closely entwined with His, all that we dream of and hope to accomplish begins to line up with God’s will for our lives and His kingdom. The closer we remain to Christ, the more like Him we become, and the more His love will overflow to those God has placed in our lives.
Abide with Jesus. Remain close to Him and receive the life-giving nourishment that never runs out. Allow God, the Master Gardner, to prune away anything that is keeping you from growing and bearing fruit for His kingdom—even things that were good, but need to go to make room for something great. Apart from Christ, we can do nothing—but with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).
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