Today’s FAITH WORKOUT was written by local Chapter, FAITH RXD Denver’s Chaplain, Addison Howard.
Think of the movies that you never get tired of. Whenever this movie comes on TV on the weekend, you’re going to sit down and try to watch the whole thing. I probably have way too many: Forrest Gump, Gladiator, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The 1989 Oscar-winner and Keanu Reeves classic Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure…
Well one of these movies for me as a kid was The Sandlot. If you haven’t seen it, you are missing one of the joys of life, but it’s a movie about kids playing baseball during the summer. So one time when I was in middle school, there was a week where one of our teachers was out, and we had a substitute teacher who on the first day of class asked a room full of seventh graders “So what does your teacher normally have you do?” As a student, you know that the answer to this question is of upmost importance. So we successfully convinced our teacher that we were going to watch The Sandlot every single day for five days straight, and we never got tired of it. The girls in our class never got tired of it because they thought the boys in the movie were cute. And I never got tired of it because it was a sports movie, and because of Wendy Peffercorn. A lot of you guys know exactly what I mean. So we watched the movie every single day, and it never got old.
For many of us, this goes beyond movies: Watching the sunset over the mountains- never gets old. Seeing deer or moose or elk on your drive to work- never gets old. Seeing your kids make a great play at their game or do well in school – never gets old. Watching the Broncos win a bunch of games and then lose early in the playoffs: actually, that gets kind of old.
This is about something in our faith that we can often overlook because we think it kinda “gets old” or we’ve “moved past it” – when in fact, the more we work on it, the better we become.
After the Crossfit Games, the most elite athletes don’t go back to their gyms and start obstacle course handstand walks, or rowing marathons each day. No – they go back to the basics. And while doing back squats, and pullups and running may not be “sexy” in the scheme of things, it’s never something you grow beyond. Today I want to look at something that seems really simple, yet if we don’t do it right, it’s not really useful. And that’s this idea of rest. But I don’t mean physical rest, not like “take the sabbath” but “a deep, spiritual rest in your soul”
Specifically, I want to take a look at a passage in John 15. Jesus is wrapping up his time on earth, right before he went to the cross. He gives what’s called the Farewell Discourse and in that he gives one final warning in simple terms for the disciples, and us, to understand…that’s where we pick up in John 15.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” John 15: 1-7
Now there’s a lot to unpack in this passage – and we could spend weeks on this, but instead I want to focus on a single item: What does it mean to abide?
The Greek word here is “Ay-luh-chih-full-ay’ – say it with me… “ay-luh-chih-full-ay” means… nothing. I made it up. I just made all of you say “I love chick-fil-a.”
Just kidding. The word “abide” here in Greek is ME NO. This word ME NO means to remain, to not depart – to continue to be present. This word has a connotation of marinating or dwelling in something. To stand firm, to be content in the moment, to have a comfortable foundation – to rest securely. Abide is where we get the word “abode” when we talk about where we live – where we dwell – where we’re present. Take a moment and imagine the feeling your home gives you when you get back after a long trip or a hard workout. That’s what it means to abide.
To put it more simply, to abide is to find rest. Now how many people could use some more rest? How many of us just have a tired soul? Maybe some more peace? More Contentment? Satisfaction? How many of maybe just feel restless?
In this passage, Jesus says multiple times: Abide in me. Remain in me. Rest in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He’s saying find your contentment in me. Find security in me. Put your foundation in me.
In fact, throughout this passage Jesus presents us with only two, stark options: Try to do life on your own terms and wither, or abide in me and experience the fullness of life.
I’d guess that the majority of us, when presented with those two options, would choose what’s behind door number 2: to abide and rest. When we choose to abide in Christ, our contentment and standing before God is found in him – we’re simply saying that Jesus is sufficient for us. Otherwise we’re actually insulting God. With our life, we’re saying that what Jesus did on the cross isn’t enough.
Anyone else plan on having a “rest day” from the gym, and end up doing so many errands and tasks we end up working harder than we would had we just gone to the gym? Or maybe you start to get a bit restless or itching to move and you end up working out anyway? I know there have been plenty of times where I have a scheduling thing for the week and I end up going to the gym 5, 6 days in a row. And for me, that’s too much. So then I’ll take a “rest day” but that time of rest isn’t as helpful because I end up running errands and doing things around the house, and going to bed really late and waking up early, and the entire next week is thrown off because of it. That’s the same type of thing that happens when we think we don’t need to focus on putting our rest in Jesus. If we don’t intentionally focus on resting and carving out time to rest, we’ll crash both physically and spiritually. The best “rest” comes when we actively pursue rest. When we actively look at our own souls and say “Where are you finding your peace and identity? What gives you stillness? Joy? Confidence?”
He says we can place the entirety of our hope and trust and faith and identity in Him, resting in what he’s done for us, and we’ll experience the fullness of joy and life – or we can try it on our own and labor and toil and strive and try to figure it out for ourselves in despair.
This warning that Jesus gives us is real. Our hearts default to a routine of finding our satisfaction in something other than him. But Jesus is calling us out of that rut and into falling in love with the gospel all over again. Jesus is calling us back to basics. Not on a one time basis to start from. Not like weird relative that we have the obligation to visit. We have a naturally developing blind spot that leads to this restlessness, discontent, going through the motions, a begrudging obedience.
Jesus is essentially saying: The greatest danger to the health of your soul is finding rest, your identity, in something other than Me.
All of us have thought stuff like this before…meaning, all of us have lived as if the Gospel was more of a starting point than a life-long truth. It’s terribly easy to think “Yeah, but these are the basics, I don’t need this.” Or to end up resting in something else. But this good news, resting in the work Jesus has already done, is meaningful for us only to the extent that we realize and acknowledge that we are still sinful… that like every breath we take we still need Jesus.
We don’t grow past the gospel, we grow deeper in our understanding of the gospel.
We don’t grow past our need for Jesus, we grow deeper in our understanding of what he has done for us. To benefit from the gospel every day, then, we must acknowledge that we are still sinners. We acknowledge that God doesn’t love a future version of us we need to work for, he loves us right now in the middle of our deformities and ugliness. We can experience the joy of knowing that our sins are forgiven, and that no matter how much we’ve stumbled and fallen today, God does not count our sins against us.
Maybe you’re realizing that you’ve never believed in the good news of Jesus as a real truth. There’s no special magic words or certain way you have to say something – just talk to God and tell him “God, I believe in the work Jesus has done in my life. I know it will change me and I’m ready to be changed.” Or maybe tonight you’ve been a Christian for awhile and you just have an unrest in your soul. Ask God to help remind you of that truth every single day.
- What’s a movie that never grows old for you? What fitness movement never grows old for you?
- Is it hard for you to make time for rest? Physically? Spiritually?
- How can you focus on the basics of the gospel this week?