Well friends, another week and another guest blogger that I’m so thrilled to introduce you all to as we discuss how to abide in Christ. Ali Gentry is a world-changer. She’s a passionate and gifted communicator of God’s Word. She’s a devoted friend. She’s a champion of others. She’s a writer, a teacher, a dreamer, a founder, and I’m so excited to share her words with you today about “Remaining in Christ” as we study through the fruit of the spirit I know you’ll be so blessed by what she has to share with you.
Abiding in Christ
Instagram. Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Email. We live in a world full of connections.
It seems we are constantly measuring our lives in some part to how connected we are and to how many people we know. This world is now designed to have connection at our fingertips. And truthfully, we are dependent (if not addicted) to it in some way or another.
At its core, social networking, emails, texts, and smartphones are not inherently bad. It is what we do with it that dictates the effect it has on us. But my point is not the addiction or need itself. What I want us to see is that we all have a deep need to connect.
Isn’t it interesting that as humans, connection with other people on a spiritual, mental, and/or emotional level is extremely important, if not most important? We desire to feel understood and known. We want to feel needed, cared for, and looked after.
I believe this deep seated desire to connect is God-designed. It is a desire that God left in each of us so that we would have that pull to be connected to Him as our source of life, of purpose. A place where we would feel valued, cared for, and looked after.
In John 15, Jesus paints a beautiful word picture set in a vineyard. In this passage, God the Father is the Gardener, Jesus is the Vine, and the Holy Spirit is the fruit produced from the vine. But there is one other key player in this story: YOU!
Jesus explains, “Remain in me and I in you. Just as a branch is unable produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the Vine, you are the branches” (John 15:4-5).
To remain connected to the Vine is the only way we can produce fruit. We cannot do it on our own. We have to stay connected to the source of life, the water, that provides growth. And I can promise you, when you are connected to Jesus, you will see blessing and fruit being produced in your life.
But that is not the only thing that occurs when we are connected to the Vine. John 15:2 tells us that “[God] prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit.”
Producing, I can handle that. But pruning? Now that hurts.
There is a process that Jesus wants us to see. When we are connected to Him, we will produce, and we will be pruned. Producing occurs the moment we give our lives to the Lord because we then have the Spirit in us. Then the Holy Spirit (not us) produces His fruit in and through us. Then the Gardener, the Father, prunes us to prosper others.
Produce. Prune. Repeat.
Producing can feel like a mountain top. These are the times when we can see how hard work has paid off—when we have an overwhelming sense of joy and peace in our lives. We can see God’s blessings throughout each day.
Pruning is like being in a valley. It is tough. It hurts. It can be hard to see the light at such depths. Pruning can be things we know we need to give up: unhealthy relationships, bad habits, places we go, or shows we watch.
Other times pruning is not up to us. We move. We get rejected. We get diagnosed. We cry out to God and feel like He is not there. Sometimes, the Gardener is working on something deep within our character. God can use any situation to reveal something in us that He wants to remove from our lives. Control. Pride. Envy. Anger. Lies—anything that is opposite of the fruit of the Spirit.
But thankfully God does it in process. Produce. Prune. Produce. Prune. This is the process of transformation, and that is what we are called to in this Christian walk but we cannot do it if we do not remain in Him.
Seasons of Life
This last season of my life, I had to put the discipline of staying connected to Jesus into practice in a way that I didn’t see coming.
After a year of an outpouring of blessing, I almost forgot what the pruning process felt like. The year before I had growth upon growth in my spiritual life, release from relationships, and God started bringing opportunities that I had once dreamed about.
Then, the pruning came. And it hurt. Badly.
I started a new ministry that I knew He had called me to do, but I had a paralyzing fear of rejection that reared its head over and over. Relationships from the past came to the forefront and once again, rejection surfaced from past wounds I thought I had dealt with. I was exhausted trying to keep everything afloat and constantly feeling like I was letting everyone down around me (some actually told me I was so). I felt like I was failing at work, with friends, with family, and in ministry. Most of all, I felt like I was failing God with what He had entrusted to me.
I recoiled. Cut off connection with people around me. And although I was in the Word every day, I felt nothing. I was questioning if I was in the right place, doing the right thing, going the right way.
And that is exactly what the enemy wanted me to think, and he wants you to think that too—anything to get you to want to pull away or to disconnect from your life source and the Only One who can water your dry soul.
So the one thing I knew I had to do was to abide, remain, and stay connected.
Abide in Christ
I had to stay in the Word even when I did not feel the burning in my heart and mind like I used to when studying. Remain in prayer even when it felt like God was not hearing me or speaking to me. Continue in community even when being around people highlighted my fear of rejection and inadequacy. Keep walking out the assignment God had entrusted me with even in the midst of uncertainty.
I had to get to the end of myself where I knew that no other connection could fill the void or pain I was feeling except for Jesus alone.
He needed me cling to Him so He could prune my deep fears of rejection and inadequacy. I needed to process the pain to produce the fruit that He wants for this coming season. He wanted me to be so dependent on Him that I knew I only got through it because of His strength and His right hand uplifting me. What was produced was confidence, steadfastness, and faith in me that I had never known before. I am so thankful for it.
You see, our only “job” as the branch is to remain connected to the Vine, the source of Life, so that the Holy Spirit can produce the fruit in our lives while the Father prunes and produces His best in and through us.
I cannot stress enough the importance of going to Jesus daily. His Word is a gift to us to know His heart. Pray consistently. Be involved in Christ-like community that will encourage you to remain connected to Him even in the darkest times.
Remain in Christ
This isn’t legalism, friends, this is freedom! Our only job is to stay connected to the One who will provide, produce, prune and prosper our lives. So stay.
Stay when it is the best of seasons.
Stay when it seems like the worst.
Stay when you’re on the mountain tops and the valley lows.
Stay during the high points and the heartbreak.
Because He remains the same. And He will stay with you.
He is the only constant connection we will ever find in this world. The only one who will give us the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that we need to exemplify Him and His grace in this life.
Lean in. Remain. Abide. Stay connected to the Vine.
Ali Gentry is an author, speaker, and founder of Arise PHX. Follow @arisephx and @ali-gentry on Instagram.
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