I have known the Lord all my life, and I have grown up in church all my life. My great grandfather was a pastor, and my parents were pastors - which meant I practically lived at church. I had a wonderful upbringing filled not only with all the things church, but also wonderful preaching and teaching of God’s Word, for which I will be forever grateful.
I asked Jesus into my heart when I was just a 4 year-old little girl, so I have belonged to Him for as long as I can remember. I have loved Him and served Him. I have read Scriptures, gone to Sunday school and vacation Bible school, attended Bible studies and conferences, and sang on worship teams and in choirs. You name it, I’ve probably been a part of it.
But there was always a deep nagging that something was still missing in my life.
I have always had a longing to do more for Jesus, to be important to Him, and to accomplish His will for my life. I recall sitting through church camp prayer services just begging Him for some sort of awakening or real knowing of what my true purpose was supposed to be. I remember asking Him to show me why I’m here, how to fulfill my calling, and what I was meant to do in order to be “in the center of His will.”
I’m sitting here writing this as a 41 year-old woman, and I can tell you that this longing has never gone away. But, there is something that has changed. I’ve had an awakening, if you will, a revelation to my lingering question. As it turned out, the answer was as simple as this:
Abide in Him.
My purpose, the way I can know I am in the center of God’s will for my life, is simply to abide in Him.
The word abide, according to dictionary.com, means this:
“to remain; continue; stay; to have one's abode; dwell; reside; to act in accord with, to submit to; agree to; to remain steadfast or faithful to.”
Let's take a look at what The Bible says about abiding in Christ:
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.5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 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. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:4-17, ESV)
If we abide in Christ (continue with Christ, reside with Christ, act in accord with Christ, submit to Christ, remain faithful to Christ) we will bear much fruit, God will be glorified, and our joy will be made full. He tells us here that He chose us and appointed us to go and bear fruit.
He's asking us to seek Him, to rest in Him, and to be filled by Him so that as we become more and more like Him others will see Him in us and be drawn to Him. Lives will be saved, changed, restored, refreshed, and renewed; and, as a result, His kingdom will continue to multiply!
And our joy will be made full.
Our calling is simply to abide in Christ. Then, as a result, we will bear fruit and our joy will be made full!
Again, I've known these Scriptures. I've read and studied them, and I’ve STRIVED to be more like Christ. Even though I would get glimpses and tastes of His presence, I would find myself still missing something, still looking for answers, still falling into the same pitfalls, still grasping for someone to notice me. I still desired to accomplish something worth recognizing, something that would have an impact on someone. This left me always exhausted, always running on empty, and always striving for something more.
And at the core of it all, I just wanted to please Jesus. I wanted Him to be proud of me.
You see, that’s where I had had it all wrong. Along with my revelation that abiding in Christ was my calling, that everything else started there, I realized He already was pleased with me. I realized I don’t have to do anything to please Him.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV)
The lightbulb happened to go off in the middle of a Bible Study, and suddenly something just clicked. I realized all of my sins were already taken care of on the cross. My salvation had been paid in full, and God created me to worship Him and to bring glory to His name just by getting to know who Jesus really is! I realized I needed to stop striving and begin abiding. The judgement of sin had been broken and freedom in Christ was mine to have if I would make a choice to fully surrender my whole heart to Him. If I would admit my weaknesses, invite His strength in, and allow Him to invade my life in such a way that I would relinquish full control.
There, at that crossroads, I realized that freedom and accomplishment were not to come from my own strength, but rather my willingness to fully surrender every single part of me over to Jesus.
I had an image in my head of a motorcycle. The picture I saw was Jesus sitting over in the side car. I felt the Lord speak to my heart and say that so many of us go through life like this, carrying along a “just in case” Jesus. Instead, as Christ-abiders we should never be in the driver’s seat at all! He should always be at the wheel of our life. We should be hanging on the back, arms wide open, breeze flowing through our hair, sun on our face, enjoying the ride. With
Christ in the driver’s seat, He goes before us - dodging the potholes, jumping obstacles, moving mountains, parting the seas, and making the way!
I was sitting in church a few weeks ago when another revelation rose up in my spirit. I truly feel one of the biggest lies the enemy deceives us with is telling us that giving up full control and handing it all over to Jesus will somehow cause us to miss out or be held back from something we desire.
The truth is that fully surrendering ALL to Jesus is the ONLY place we will find real rest, perfect peace, complete joy, and true freedom. It finally made sense.
Surrender is not a punishment. Surrender is an incredible gift!
Now, when I feel the pressures of life staring me in the face, I recognize that they are not mine to carry. I now make a conscious decision to give them over to God. I often stop right where I am and verbally release it to the Lord by saying something like, “Lord, I am feeling overwhelmed. I know this is not from You and that You have not asked me to walk in worry or anxiousness. I lay this at your feet and invite you to carry it for me.”
He is so faithful. Even though the reality of my situation might not immediately change, speaking His truth and promises instantly allows peace and rest to flood my soul. Even in the midst of complete chaos. (1 Peter 5:7, Psalm 58:6)
Surrendering my details to God settles my spirit and allows clarity to fill my mind as I then seek Him for wisdom and direction throughout my days. It helps slow me down so I can see Him in the details of my life and frees me so I can see others and extend His love and peace to them.
When we focus on our problems, all we can see is our weaknesses and inadequacies and our own needs. When we fix our eyes on Jesus and His Truth, we see His strength and His limitless abilities to do the impossible, not only in our life but in the lives around us.
If you are reading this and you are tired, worn out, and feeling like you still need to prove something to be something, then I urge you to invite Jesus in. Accept His true gift of surrender. Let Him jump in that driver’s seat permanently! Let go. Let the wind blow through your hair and the Son shine on your face, as you find true rest for your soul in His sweet unforced rhythms of grace, allowing Him to go before you setting your crooked places straight (Matt 11:28-31, Isaiah 45:2-3).
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30, MSG)