“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, NIV)
I have noticed that many grow weary doing the Lord’s work. No matter how hard we try for God, it seems we can never do enough. Whether it be witnessing, producing Christian qualities such as patience, love, joy and perseverance, or being involved in church, our efforts wears us out. Sadly, this weariness can even show up among prayer warriors.
No one realizes that we may have a hole in the Good News Message we have accepted. Too many of us believe that we have to do everything we can to be part of the Kingdom, but this is not what God has planned for us. God never asked us to try harder and harder for Him!
This is where Life comes in, the Life that Jesus promised to each one of us: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.'” (John 14:6, NIV2) We are not the ones who have life.
We complicate things when we take our destiny into our own hands to do whatever we can by our own efforts to make a difference for the Kingdom. Sooner or later, it will become a burden too heavy to endure. Our whole equation falls apart, as we have not incorporated Jesus in our schemes.
But wait! We did it for Jesus!
This is admirable, but it’s not how God works. It’s time we learn from God what it means to serve Him: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30, NIV2)
While our own efforts put us in nightmarish situations, it is only by relying on Jesus that we can become effective and produce fruit for eternity, without ever being burdened whatsoever. Jesus is not only our Life, He is also the One who gives us perfect, complete rest. We don’t need to be burdened any longer.
Jesus put is simply: “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.” (John 15:5, NIV2)
Can a branch of a vine ever grow by itself?
Not at all. It has no life in and of itself. It receives its life only through the vine. It cannot produce fruit on its own. The fruit comes forth only when the branch is connected to the vine. The branch never has to work hard. It only has to stay connected to the vine to produce abundant fruit.
Working hard to produce fruit will lead to discouragement and failure. This is not God’s design for us. We were meant to stay connected with our Creator so that His Life can produce the fruit in our lives.
Jesus, our Savior is our utmost example: “Jesus gave them this answer: ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.'” (John 5:19, NIV2)
What we need is Life. Only through Him can we produce what we were meant to produce: fruit for eternity. Physical life with an empty spirit will never be satisfying. We hunger for far more than physical life. Unawaringly, we long for the Life that can only be found in Jesus.
In this world, we are not used to depending on someone else. More often than not we are left to our own devices, as the story of the Potato Blight, from the pages of Irish history, illustrates:
The Irish found themselves at a disadvantage when the British conquered their island and confiscated their land, and then rented the land back to the same farmers who had once owned it. The rent was steep, and all profits of the harvest went to pay the rent. The only way for them to survive was to cultivate potatoes, which provided them with a rich supply of vitamin C, potassium and carbohydrates.
Then the inevitable happened, an awful disease called “Potato Blight” hit the potatoes of North America. This fungus quickly travelled to Europe, and by September 1845 it had destroyed 40% of the potato crop in Ireland. The following year, nearly all of the crop was lost. This happened the next year and the next, until 1851. The more these Irish worked their land, the less they had to show for it.
Naturally, this didn’t faze the British who had the monopoly of anything else that was produced in Ireland.
The disease remained a mystery to the Irish. It was assumed that the fungus was caused by excess moisture created by the damp weather. No matter how hard these farmers tried to protect their potatoes from that excess moisture, however, it was all for naught, and as a result, Ireland faced devastation. Mass graves were erected for the millions of Irish men, women and children who died of starvation. Prosperous villages were swapped with way too many graveyards.
The Irish who relied on the potato found that the potato could no longer sustain their lives. No matter how hard they tried, they were doomed. How different it would have been if they had been allowed to eat the produce of the lands they were farming. No one would have died. Sadly, what would have been such an easy solution was never implemented by the British.
This is how we often find ourselves in our day and age: spiritually hungry, with nothing to satisfy our hunger. It seems like no one is there to help us. We find ourselves carrying heavy burdens that seem unshakeable. Meanwhile, unlike the British of that time, God provides us with all the means for us to have an abundant crop that will last us for eternity, but unfortunately we don’t see this, and we refuse to trust Him with our hunger. We tend to view God in the same light as those British in Ireland who didn’t come to the aid of the poor. We figure we need to do it all on our own, and thus, we miss the whole point of the Gospel message.
May we wake up from our stupor and discover the vine that wants to sustain us in all things. Those burdens are really unnecessary.
(To access the entire “Alive” devotional series, please click here.)