At least thirty years ago, a group of seven of us were finishing a two-year course in becoming Bible teachers. Our assignment that week seemed overly simple: Pick out a chapter or a portion of one, and prepare to read it aloud at the next session. Before I was home, I had felt in my heart that the passage God wanted me to use was John 15:1-17.
Picture this: Seven of us were sitting in a circle with our instructor. One at a time, we moved to the small lectern and read our bit. We all had input on the reading and the significance of the passage. We came down to the last two readers. I agreed to go last at the request of the other lady. Then she got up and — she read my passage! Well, I was thunderstruck! Okay, it was from a different translation, but still it was my passage. What should I do? A number of ideas flew through my brain, but I cast them all aside.
Somehow, I joined the others in critiquing her reading, and then, it was my turn. I decided that God had a reason for having both of us choose this passage. Perhaps it was the importance of staying connected. To this day, I am drawn to these verses.
In John 15:5, we read, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (RSV)
Just as the branches can bear no fruit if they are cut off from the vine, so, too, we are dead without dwelling in Christ. Like the branches, we must stay connected to our own vine, Christ, if we are to live fully in Him. Living in Him, we are then able to fulfil His commandment "to love one another". (John 15:17 RSV)
John 15:7 says, "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you." (RSV) Note the conditions. We are to abide in Christ and His words. If we are connected to (abiding in) our vine, then we are going to ask for things only according to His will in the first place. Therefore, our prayers are answered — sometimes "yes", sometimes "later", sometimes "no" (rarely).
In the hymn, "Spirit of God, descend upon my heart", George Croly wrote, "Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh … Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer." Our prayers may seem unanswered, but were we connected, or did we miss the answer?
Staying connected is relatively simple:
- Read the Scriptures: "Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (Psalm 119:105 RSV)
- Pray: "Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication." (Ephesians 6:18a RSV)
- Worship: "You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve." (Matthew 4:10b RSV)
- Fellowship: "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another." (1 John 1:7a RSV)
Prayer: Thank You, Lord God, for choosing us and for giving us the gift of Your Son Jesus, our Saviour and Redeemer. Help us to stay connected to Him and to You in love, that in so doing we may be good stewards and bear much fruit. Teach us how to have Your love and patience in us and share it with others. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.