Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Be Still My Soul"1 (Lyrics)
"Sit!" commands the dog's master. Next comes what is truly impressive: The dog instantly lowers its hind legs and stays put. All the while, its eyes remain fixed on its master. It stays nearby, always sensitive to its master's moves. You've witnessed this fascinating relationship between creature and human. You know that the dog's master can take it anywhere because it's trained to be trustworthy.
You've likely also experienced the unpleasant greeting of unruly dogs. You enter the home, and instantly, the family pet pounces all over you. You may sense that this undisciplined dog reflects the lack of discipline in the entire family.
It's no different for Christians. Apart from God's disciplinary training, they'll bound toward whatever grabs their attention, whatever seems fitting. They'll be wild and undisciplined, insensitive to their heavenly Master's voice, saying,
John 15:4 – 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. (NIV 2011)
Jesus repeats His point, saying,
John 15:5 – I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (NIV 2011)
That's five repetitions of the word "remain"! Jesus knows our nature! You yourself can attest to our tendency: We're far more occupied with "getting going" than "staying put". That's reflected in our preaching, praying, and planning. We tear off, leaving God behind. We'll then view our fervent activity as proof that we're remaining "in the vine". However, like our canine friends, we require our Master's disciplinary work in order to remain in Him and to become truly fruitful.
As I write this, our world is engulfed in an alarming pandemic. Suddenly, our activities are suspended. We're forced to stay put, literally. This may be God's way of "shortening the leash". Confined to our solitary places, His Spirit and Word can prepare us individually. That's a vital process, considering that the challenges facing us, including the church, cannot be overcome through human effort. It must be a work of God. At some point, He'll invite us into the process:
1 Samuel 12:16 – Now then, stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes! (NIV 2011)
Seeing such a "great thing" requires us to stay put, to remain in Christ's presence. We must refuse to write off God or humanity, passively assuming that the end is nigh. That's unbelief! Instead, we rest expectantly in God's promises:
2 Chronicles 20:15b,17b – Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you. (NIV 2011)
Prayer: O Master, help us to value Your disciplinary work, even when it becomes painful and costly. Train us to be trustworthy, fruit-bearing servants, having learned to remain in You as You remain in us. Amen.