There’s been a bizarre magnetic field around my Bible of late, mostly around John 15. Every day, I feel like I should read some other chapters, but John 15 gets me every time. It has to.
I say that because we are entrenched in ministry. We serve in our home, in our church, in schools, and in the community. We serve children, teenagers, homeless guys. Most of the time, we are busy. Sometimes we are tired. I’m sure you know how that goes. These aren’t our full time jobs.
We’ve been doing this thing for years, so we’re kind of good at it. I mean, we’ve got our glaring faults, but we make it work. Even if we still don’t know what we’re doing, we look like we do. And that’s the problem. Sometimes we rely too much on our own strength. We do work for God, but not in God.
Where we reside, it’s freezing right now. There’s snow, ice, cutting wind, and air so cold that your nostril hairs turn into icicles. (My apologies for the full disclosure.) The trees look so barren, as though there is no sign of life. But there is. The trees are dormant, but they are alive. We’ll see the formation of buds again in the spring and the green leaves will shout that God is making all things new.
The same cannot be said for all of the trees’ branches, however. The wintry conditions have laid waste to many an unfortunate branch. When the snow finally melts, I’ll go out and collect all of the branches and toss them away. They’re no good for anything, apart from the tree.
I guess that’s what brings me back to John 15. Maybe it’s me, but Jesus seems a little redundant in this chapter. Like, He keeps telling us that He is the vine and we are the branches. He reiterates that no branch can bear fruit by itself. The branches that forget this principle are as good as dead. The branches that remember to stay intimately connected to the vine bear much fruit. They also give glory to God.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand the thought of my ministry being as good as dead (or me, for that matter). Thrown into the fire and burned? All of this work for nothing? Yet truth be told, sometimes I operate apart from God – apart from prayer, the leading of the Holy Spirit, even apart from the Sabbath rest that He says we need. I don’t have to live in this place.
There’s a different tree that is so vibrant that produce is falling off everywhere. (It clearly isn’t in rural Pennsylvania in the winter, but you get the idea.) The roots are strong, the branches alive with color, and all kinds of people are carrying home bushels of the best fruit around.
Everyone is talking about this tree because it seems rather ordinary, you know. It looks a little awkward, but the fruit is incredible. And it is giving life. And sustaining life. It has to be a God thing.
I’m not sure what kind of New Year’s resolutions you are making this year. Though I’m not a fan of such lofty goals that get ditched eleven days into January, I will have to say that John 15 is going to be my 2010 sidekick.
I need these words to penetrate those dead places in me, the branches of pride and self-reliance. I need to become a woman devoted to prayer. And in God’s strength, I will. My ministry lives or dies on this. I think it’s probably a good idea to choose life.
What about you? How will you approach ministry in the upcoming year? Will it look any different? What resolutions or goals are you making? We would love for you to share.