“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 NKJV
One of my favorite scriptures is John 15:5. In the scripture, Christ tells his disciples the only thing God wants is for his followers to abide in him, and he promises that if they do so, he will be glorified and they will bear much fruit. This is what the season of Lent is all about.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word “abide” is a verb that means “to wait for, to endure without yielding, to bear patiently, to accept without objection”. Abiding is never easy, especially for those of us living in the 21st Century where everything from preparing food to communicating is instant. It requires active use of the fruit of the spirit—patience and longsuffering —that comes only through relationship with God. You see, abiding is really relationship-building. God wants a relationship with you, one that is both give and take, one where you speak, but where you also listen. During the season of Lent, you develop a close relationship with God so that the communication flows between the two of you. This type of communication only comes through the act of abiding in him.
To wait: Psalm 27: 14 states, “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart.” The message here is simple: God wants you to wait. He wants you to wait to hear from him before you make decisions, before you speak, before you write, text or tweet. He wants to be the Master of your thoughts, your actions and your deeds. This may seem quite odd for many of you, especially if you are not familiar with the ways of the Lord, however, complete surrender is what will bring you sanity and peace of mind to make it through your 40-day fast.
To endure without yielding: Enduring may be difficult, but it stretches your faith. Many people, during their season of fasting, give in to the pressure of enduring, while others press through to the end. The only way to build endurance is through relationship with God. He will give you the reprieve you need when things may become too much to bear, and then picks you back up when it’s time to move again. “With God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26) including strengthening your faith during your fast.
Bearing patiently: 40 days of fasting can sometimes be unbearable. This is why abiding in God is of utmost importance. God expands your ability to bear the season of fasting with patience. Through abiding he helps you to develop a peaceful nature so you are not waiting in anger and bitterness, which can make the process of fasting unbearable. Through abiding, God will help you to, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him” Psalm 37:7.
Accepting without objection: God requires acceptance of his ways. This form of acceptance is two-fold. First, he changes your perspective, which then alters how you respond. Accepting God’s ways creates a new life for you because you have decided to leave your old “wineskins” (Mark2:22) or ways of responding, reacting, speaking and thinking behind to take on his ways of peace, love and non-judgment.
Abiding during your 40-day fast requires a commitment to remain connected to God through all things, even when life becomes difficult, when horrible things happen, when it seems you cannot endure another moment of your fast. It will require you to give your all, and to abandon your ways in order to take on the ways of God. In the end, it will have been worth your time and the effort because you will have gained something so unique and so beautiful that you will want others to be able to have it, too. That unique and beautiful thing is a truly authentic relationship with the Lord.
For a more in-depth study of John 15:5, read Bruce Wilkinson’s book The Secrets of the Vine: Breaking Through to Abundance and its accompanying devotional.