The goal of abiding is to know God and make Him known, not do a work for God. When we say things like “I’m doing this for God,” or “I’m doing this ministry for God,” we are thinking that God is outside of us and we are going to do something for Him, to hand something to Him. Believer, there is nothing you can do that is pure enough for God to want from you. He wants nothing that originates from us. Our righteousness is filthy rags to God. He only accepts His work through us. This is why abiding is essential to the Christian life. I might take it even farther and say that abiding is the Christian life.
We cannot work for God, but we can work with God, knowing that it’s His doing through us that is acceptable to Him. Most religious people want to work for God, not know God. Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they might know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” In knowing God, we love God. In loving God, we obey God, knowing His will is the only will that matters.
Someone once said, “Love God and do whatever you want.” What do you think this phrase means for a person abiding in Christ?
This question can best be answered by the vantage point of your identity. If you truly love God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, you will want only what He wants. This is why Jesus says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” What do you want? The answer depends upon who you are.
Who are you? If you are a new creation in Christ, a righteous being, you want what He wants. You have His desires. You delight in His law. You have His mind, the mind of Christ. You hunger for Him and His righteousness. This is who you are.
You are made to love Him and abide in Him. You want to listen to Him, spend time with Him, and bring Him pleasure. This is who you are. You delight to do what He says because you want to know Him, and you know that He always knows what is best for you. So you trust Him and depend upon Him, even when He brings you through difficult times that hurt or challenge you, forcing you to grow. God often uncovers areas within your soul that are clinging to lies, and He challenges those areas, inflicting “pain” on your soul to reveal the lie. As He reveals the lie, He leads you to truth and, as you believe the truth in that situation, you are set free from the lie that held you captive to do its will.
Emotions are a part of life. They often indicate whether we are abiding or not. We look to our goal to help us see what we really desire: Do we want God glorified, or self? When we feel unrighteous anger, it comes from having one of our goals blocked. People who abide are not known as angry people, because they don’t have goals that really can be blocked. Their goal is to honour God. This goal cannot be accomplished by the anger of man, but by the love of God through man. The anger of man does not fulfill the righteousness of God.
We see that Jesus always abided with the Father, yet He become angry, four times. What if the person who is abiding has a right to anger? Each time we see Jesus’ anger, it is when people do not want the Father glorified. They want self-glorification. Jesus exposes that heart and deals with the issues until His Father becomes glorified, as we see when He cleaned out the temple with a whip and when He mended a man’s crippled hand.
People who abide accomplish a lot effortlessly. Others see it and wonder, “How do you get so much done?” It’s much like wheat falling to the ground. When the wheat dies, with the seed breaking apart in the soil, it produces life, some 30, 60, 100-fold. God decides how effective we will be. As we abide in Him, we are pleased with whatever that is. We are not trying to become rich or famous or powerful, though we may become rich or famous or powerful. Our motive is obedience, love, joy, building up the body of Christ with no thought of return.
Abiders are powerful people, but not forceful. They are powerful because they are resting in the finished work of Christ, fully confident that He will perfect the good work in and through them. The power is from God, working through His people according to His perfect will. God sets the agenda and the schedule, and it fluctuates one day to the next. One day it will seem like abiders are not doing very much. The next day they will get a year’s work done. Consider the story of the man who had an employee with his feet up on the desk. The other employees came and told the boss that the man was slacking at his work. The boss said, “The last time Joe put his feet on the desk he saved a million and a half dollars. Joe can keep his feet up for as long as he wants.” That’s an abiding person.
The hardest work of person is thinking, not doing. So abiders think. “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Abiders think and meditate on words, thoughts, and ideas — without action. They seek the mind of Christ to show them what true Reality is, from God’s vantage point, not the earth’s. This is how abiders live. Then an opportunity is presented to them by faith, and the abider is ready. He or she says the right words and does the right things effortlessly and may not even know the impact their words and actions are having on others. People will say, “The Lord has spoken through you.” Or “The Lord really helped me through you.”
People will talk about the abider, without him or her even knowing the impact they have had, because it’s not really about the abider, it’s about the Lord working through the abider to bring glory to Himself and His Name. Jesus said, “They will see your good works and glorify the Father.” God uses the lives of those who wait on the Lord, rest on the Lord, fully abandon any thought but the Lord’s; He uses those who think the thoughts of God, those who have no agenda but glorification of God. “They will mount up with wings like eagles.” They will do things that take a great effort, without seeming to give much effort. They soar. They run and do not get weary. They walk on water, for this is where God walks. This is normal Christianity. Abiding is supernatural, not natural. Flesh is natural, not supernatural. Maturity is growing up into the supernatural, being the supernatural being you are in Christ.
If Christianity is too hard for you, you are trying to do too much — trying to be a Christian, trying to behave right, trying to do the will of God. Stop. Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
The hardest thing to teach people is to abide, because we want to be human doings rather than human beings. People want to produce with their hands instead of their hearts. They want to see the production instead of knowing the production has been dealt with by God. They want the praise and rewards. Jesus said that if people praise you on earth, you have received your reward. If your Father praises you, even for work unseen by others, you have a reward that remains in heaven, because you allowed the Father to work through you as a vessel of His glory and grace.
Remember, God did not save you for you. He is not transforming you for you. He is not fixing your life for you. He is working out His will on earth and you get to be a part of that. Don’t try to do. Just love and you will do greater things than you ever imagined, and you will know it is not your doing, but His in and through you. You will not touch His glory, but you will give Him all praise and all glory, pointing to Him alone as the author of your faith and your salvation.
The experience of abiding is found when we abide in the Word of God, reading the Scriptures, but not for the sake of being wise or to do something, but really just to enjoy God and know Him. Sadly, intimacy with God can seem too slow for us. We want God to do something instead of be Someone. So our prayers become prayers to do. An abider’s prayers becomes the prayers of a child to a Father — prayer to enjoy, to honour, to experience life with, to work with, not to give orders to a great God or make God a servant of man.
This is the main difference between non-abiders and abiders. Non-abiders want God to be the servant, while the abiders are happy with God being God and themselves being servants. As a matter of fact, abiders can see it no other way. They are repulsed at any other conclusion. They desire the God of love, mercy, and kindness. They desire Him to be their counsellor, teacher, lover and friend, and they don’t rise up saying they are those things. They willingly yield all of their life, knowing that God is at the top and they dependent upon Him. And they love it this dependence.