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“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
If I were to ask you what the common bond was between pastors, politicians, and physicians, what would your answer be? The connection is that all of these professions deal intimately with human beings. Pastors deal with humans in the midst of personal tragedy; politicians and advocates with those who have been unjustly impacted by the societal and constitutional system; and, finally, physicians see people in the middle of bouts with physical ailments. Why do I bring this up? Because dealing with humanity takes a huge toll on us emotionally, mentally, physically, and even spiritually. In fact, if we are not careful we will often experience burnout and cease to be as effective as we can be.
Burnout is something that I have been faced with recently, especially due to my advocacy work. Lately, it seems like every interaction I have had has left me bereft of peace, joy, and even rest. I am a spiritual leader, a political consultant, an advocate, and just a human who interacts with other humans on a daily basis. I have come to understand that it takes strength to deal with human pain and suffering. The more we deal with these environments, the more we draw on our reserves of strength. Yet something is wrong if we always find ourselves on empty, and then further run on E to continue “the good work of healing”. When I read the Scriptures, I now know that this lifestyle is not the way of Christ, nor his intended goal when he calls us to serve one another. The truth is that while we deplete our strength through service to humanity, we must also eagerly replenish what was lost. This can only come through the process of abiding.
In John 15 Jesus indicates the proper way that service should be carried out, and gives us a worldview to live by. The world view is called abiding. “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15: 4 NIV). Jesus talks about bearing fruit and being productive… yet he does it by making the process of remaining the priority. Essentially Jesus offers the truth that if we can’t learn to abide, we will never tap into the true effectiveness that God designed us to experience.
Abiding means choosing to remain close and near to God. Making his presence our abode is how we gain strength to restore our coffers. When we look at the life of Jesus, his life was a journey that was characterized by moving from mountain top experiences to mountaintop experiences with valleys in between. Christ’s mountain top experiences were of value because they were close, intimate moments with his Father, and it was in these moments when he derived his strength to do ministry and bear fruit. Jesus put a premium on these times, and treated everything else as secondary. When the woman with the issue of blood experienced her miracle, it was a direct result of Jesus abiding in God. Out of his lifestyle, ministry occurred. This is how it should be with us as leaders. We were not created to minister solely out of our strength deficits, but mostly out of our excess. Our fellowship with God should be so abundant and overflowing that it contagiously spills out on those with whom we come in contact with. In these moments, we will not lose strength because our vitality is derived from our union with God rather than our own works and volition.
You were meant to be a leader with longevity, vibrancy, and efficiency. The only way you can do that is by making your fellowship with God your top priority. When your ability to abide is in order, everything else in your life falls in line. Make the choice today to embrace the strength that comes from abiding in God.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How well do I abide in God?
How do I process the pain of others that I encounter in healthy and Godly ways?
Do I lead out of excess or emptiness?
What are steps that I can take to make abiding my priority?
God, the work of ministry and leadership can often be draining and tiring. Our world needs you, our communities need you, and we as vessels need you. Teach us how to value our union with you, and use that as the stage for the miraculous. Teach us how to minister and lead out of the excess of our union with you instead of the emptiness of our man-made solutions. We are open to your Holy Spirit, and we are ready for your renewed strength in our lives. Our heart’s desire is to know you, and then be used by you. Grant us this desire. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: I am the Vine and You are the Branches (John 15)
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