Our sermon this past week was for me. Do you ever have times where a word from God is spoken and it goes right into your heart, opening your ears and burning in your spirit? That’s how it was this Sunday.
This is kind of hard for me to share. Humbling. But even though being honest about my failings is hard, I want to share. I am so imperfectly human. Hopefully someone out there finds encouragement from my failure.
The preacher talked about the fruit of the spirit, and remaining in the vine (God) so that we will produce good fruit.
I have felt less that prosperous lately. I’ve felt dry and dead. Somehow everything I do and everything I aim for feels off. Unpurposeful and yielding nothing.
It is frustrating.
At the end of the sermon, part of Psalm 1 was read…
“He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” Psalm 1:3
My heart felt like it was waking up from a deep, cold sleep and it screamed at me ‘listen!’ The words thudded deep into my spirit. This was the key to the mess my life is in – I knew it. I do NOT feel like that tree right now. I feel as if I will fall over from frailty and be consumed in turmoil.
I cry out to God frequently, what am I doing wrong? Where is the fruit in my life? Why can I not prosper despite all that I try?
“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 NIV
I am fruitless because I am not remaining and abiding in the vine. The vine that sustains my very life. The vine that supplies every good thing I need. The vine that brings me peace and security.
Instead, I have ignored the vine, thinking somehow apart from my roots I can be stable and happy. That I can do good things on my own. Myself, just me, a silly little branch. We all know branches die when they come off of a tree. Why would I think I could be any different apart from my sustain-er of life?
I picture roots deep and healthy on the tree in Psalm 1. Silent strength. Peaceful trusting.
The verse preceding verse 3 gives one of the keys that I am missing in becoming that tree…
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:2
I am not in the place of meditating on God’s word or resting on his promises.
I am also failing at yielding and submitting to the Spirit.
I have always struggled with submission vs. rebellion. I go in cycles of resting in God, and then running like crazy away from him. When I am not grounded in His truth, I fight Him. Becoming ungrounded is a gradual process for me. It happens because I don’t take in His truth nearly enough. I neglect the Bible, I push worship away, I go against his Spirit’s promptings. Little by little, I forget who He is. The devil attacks me with fear. Big time. (Fear is his constant tool against me.) And then I start believing God is harsh, cruel, distant, demanding. In my heart I know he is not, but it feels so true that I run even farther.
And then I am living in the flesh. Out of control, roaming the earth looking for something to satisfy me.
“The acts of the sinful nature (the flesh) are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like.” Galatians 5:19-21 (words in parentheses mine)
On first glance these verses seem pretty extreme. I mean, orgies? Hey, that’s not me, I must be doing pretty good. But on closer inspection of each word I see that I am so so guilty. Witchcraft is simply rebellion. Guilty. Hatred – how many times have I harbored bitterness in my heart recently? Guilty. Idolatry – I put myself and material possessions ahead of God. Guilty. Envy – my heart hurts sometimes because I don’t have the house someone else has. Guilty.
There is probably no need to go on. The point is my life is overrun by flesh right now. I have pushed the Spirit away and ignored him, and now my life is full of rotten fruit.
“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22
I want to be that peaceful tree in Psalm 1 so badly that it brings tears to my eyes.
Returning from rebellion requires repentance. It requires me to be the prodigal son – turning back to God and running to meet him. Giving up my own will, submitting, admitting I can do nothing on my own. I am so so so very thankful He is already running towards me. He has been calling me, leading me, whispering sweet nothings to me in an attempt to bring me to the point of praying this prayer…
“Lord reign in me, reign in your power, over all my dreams, in my darkest hour. You are the Lord of all I am. So won’t you reign in me again.”
(thank you, Ron Radcliff for a wonderful, wonderful sermon. God used your words tremendously!)