The challenge of walking with the God who knows me
Names changed throughout except in some cases where the person involved has been or is in ministry.
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If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Cor 5:17
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing”
Mild panic had set in among the student workers. No one had become a Christian in half a year throughout the southern ministries. I was later to discover that it was not just among the Navigators but also in the Christian Unions linked with UCCF. What was going on? As we met we analysed and discussed. Some said that we were not being pointed enough. Not bringing people to the point of decision, others were saying that the low-key approach to the secular was at fault. These thoughts may well have been right. For no apparent reason, the second half of the year brought many people becoming Christians. In the end it would appear as a blip in the statistics.
In my heart however, there was quite a different effect. It hit home that all of our responses were focused on what we were doing and none seemed to be focused on what God was doing. I was struck by this passage above. It seemed to me that we were praying and studying the Bible, was that not remaining in Jesus? As I thought, it occurred to me that what I was doing was focusing on some methods. The wheel illustration which had been key to my Spiritual life till now, had four spokes connecting Jesus in the centre with our outer lives of obedience. These were: Prayer, Evangelism, Fellowship and the Word. I had always taken it that to be involved in each of these would be basically the same as ‘to remain’ in Christ. Really however, the focal point had been on these methods and Jesus had been rather left behind.
When I looked at our ministry in these terms I noticed that what we were doing was being busy making fruit. Fruitfulness for God was what was necessary and we were going to produce. As things became difficult we would pray. Yet this prayer was not the prayer of meeting with Jesus for his sake, because I loved him, rather it was the prayer of one who is short on resources for production crying out for more resources. Yet the verse does not say you must ‘bare fruit’! The verse says, ‘remain in me’. I was so busy making fruit that all my attention was on the fruit and I was ignoring the one in whom I was supposed to be remaining.
The issue then turned from what should I do in order to bring people to Christ, to going back to Jesus. Seeking him with all of my heart, not in order that there should be more converts, but rather in order to fill a hole that was obviously present in my life – The hole being a true union with Jesus, as against doing the activities. In the first instance it meant changing from having a twenty minute time of prayer each day to two hours.
This was the start of a process that was to have a profound effect on my spiritual life. Not just that it was deepened, but that whole areas of life were radically overhauled, as the next pages will show. Interestingly, there was not a great wave of conversions as I had hoped, in fact the opposite was true, fewer people became Christians. This was a fact that was a continual frustration. There was however a much deeper love of Jesus, and I think as a result more fruit. Fruit, in the way Jesus would measure it rather than in the statistics.