Transitions in life are often the times when we think most about the will of God.
- What is God’s will for my life?
- What does God want me to do with my life?
- Where does He want me to go?
- What does He want me to do?
- Where does He want me to live?
- What job should I do?
- What educational programs should I explore?
- Does God want me to be married?
- If so, to whom? And when? And how will I know?!?
When our circumstances in life change – like when we move to a new town or a new job or a new school, or our best friend moves away, or there is a tragedy or bad medical prognosis for a loved one, or some other big change comes into our lives – often the first thing we question is the will of God: What does God want me to do now? What is God’s will for my life?
Christians can get so hung up on God’s will, as if it is some big, indiscernible mystery. Like God keeps it hidden from us, just beyond our reach, so we’re never really certain whether or not we are “in” or “out” of God’s will. Many Christians spend their whole lives worrying about whether they are “in” or “out” of God’s will.
Can I set you free today? Can I offer you freedom from this worry, this fear, that you’ll never know what God’s will is? God’s will is a lot less mysterious than we think. It’s not a big, indiscernible riddle. It’s not something God hides from you. In fact, Jesus made it quite plain in John 15.
Here’s a hint: it has nothing to do with where you live, what job you have, what college you attend, or what person you marry. God cares about those things – certainly!, and He wants us to make the best and wisest choices about where we live and what we do and who we marry. Certainly these things matter to Him, because they are major aspects of our lives, and He cares about us.
But if you are genuinely seeking the Lord, and you choose, for instance, the educational program that you think fits best within how you feel God is leading you, then, you can’t choose wrong. If you are truly seeking the Lord and listening to Him in your decision-making process, then you can’t make the wrong decision!
Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Psalm 143:10 is a prayer that we can all pray when we’re making a major life decision in the midst of a big change. It says, “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; may Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.”
God’s will for you is not primarily where you live, what you study, what job you do, or who you marry. It is this: ABIDE IN THE VINE.
In John 15, Jesus is teaching His disciples about what He ultimately wants from them. He’s teaching them about His will for His disciples’ lives, and this is what He says,
1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the Gardener. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
Let’s quickly review these verses:
- Who does this passage say is the GARDNER? (God)
- Who is the Vine? (Jesus)
Now, I didn’t grow up around vineyards with large, thick vines, so this imagery can be hard for me to visualize. But I did grow up around big bushes and trees with thick trunks that supported all the limbs. The point is that the Vine, or the trunk, is the main supporting structure of this plant, through which the life of the plant flows.
- Okay, now we, as Christians, what are we? (branches)
- And what are we, the branches, supposed to do – what is our job? (abide in the Vine)
Now if you ask most Christians what their job is according to the Bible, the most common answer is “bear fruit”, but according to John 15, that’s not right. If a branch is fruitless, does it do any good for the gardener to demand that it produce fruit? Or if you are a branch, does it do any good for you to make up your mind that you will make fruit today? No, of course not! A BRANCH CANNOT MAKE FRUIT.
A branch alone cannot make fruit happen on its own. This dead branch will never bear any fruit. No matter how nicely I talk to it, or how many incentives I offer it. No matter whether I insult it or threaten it with discipline, it will never bear any fruit. WHY? Because it’s not good enough? Or because it isn’t trying hard enough? NO. No, it will never bear fruit because it is detached from the Vine.
Branches can only bear fruit if they are connected to the Vine, where the life of the Vine can flow through them. According to John 15, Jesus is the Vine, and we are the branches. We cannot make fruit happen by ourselves. That’s why nowhere in these verses does Jesus tell us to go out and bear fruit.
Yes, Jesus wants our lives to bear fruit. Yes, He is pleased and praised when our lives bear fruit. But He does not command us to bear fruit in John 15. In the same way I cannot command this dead branch to bear fruit. The branch’s job is not to bear fruit.
So… what is the branch’s job again? (To abide in the Vine.) Yes. Look in John 15 – Jesus couldn’t have been any more clear:
- John 15:4 ——–“abide in Me”
- verse 4, again—“abide in Me”
- verse 5 ————“If any abide in Me and I abide in them, they will produce much fruit”
- verse 6 ———–“abide in Me”
- verse 7 ———–“abide in Me”
- verse 9 ———–“abide in My love”
- verse 10 ———“abide in My love”
So. That’s our task. That’s our assignment and commandment from Jesus: stay attached to the Vine, so that His life can flow through us and produce fruit in and through our lives. If a branch is separated from the Vine, it can’t do anything. It produces nothing.
Now here’s the question – it’s not a trick: Can you abide in the Vine in any city? In any location that God plants you? In any job? With any spouse? In any educational program? YES! You can abide in the Vine in any and every life situation! That is why these things are not primarily God’s will. Abiding in the Vine is.
Remember: the reality that I can choose my occupation and what I will study and where I will live – these are relatively new developments in human history. Our education, our occupation, our place of residence – we’ve only been able to make choices about these things in the last few hundred years.
For most of human history, very few people have had any choice about where they would live, what job they would have, and what they would study – and even if they would be able to study anything at all! And most marriages throughout history were not the outcomes of choice, but of arrangements.
So let me ask: for most of human history then, could God’s will be accomplished in people’s lives in any location, doing any job, pursuing any educational advancement, married to any spouse? Yes, yes, yes, YES!
Yes, because those things are not the pinnacle of God’s will. Abiding in the Vine is the pinnacle of God’s will. Do all of these different variables matter to God? Of course they do. But can God’s will be accomplished in ANY life-circumstance you may encounter? Yes, it can.
Life is change. But God – God is constant. He is faithful through change. And you can choose to abide in Him through any and every transition in life. So no matter where you live, where you go to school, what job you have – you can still abide in the Vine, and let His life flow through you to produce abundant fruit for His glory.
On this teaching about the will of God being our abidance in Him, I am indebted to Dee Dee Stephens and Teen Advisors. Thank you, Mrs. Dee Dee, for showing me and thousands of Columbus-area teenagers for decades what it means to be in and live in God’s will!
Excellent – (and freeing) – thank you!
This is so good Nick!