Abiding in Christ in the Age of Covid-19April 9, 2020
In Colossians 4:5 the apostle Paul speaks of “making the best use of the time.” Older translations render it “redeeming the time.” These are wise words for us today, as so many, confined to home, are trying to fill each day with meaningful activities. May I recommend the words of Jesus in John 15 in which he exhorts us to “abide” in him? What better time than now to press into the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, with an undivided and single-minded focus on intensifying our intimacy with him?
But what does it mean to “abide” in Jesus (John 15:4-7)? I immediately think of at least four things, all that begin with the letter ‘R’ (to help you remember them!).
(1) Remain! So what does it mean to remain in Jesus? First of all, it means that you don’t wander away or drift aimlessly in thought or deed. You stay connected in your heart, soul, mind, and body with the person of Jesus. When times get hard and the world, the flesh, and the devil tempt you to wander off and look for other sources of comfort, you say No, I will remain in Jesus. I will remain within the orbit of his loving influence. I will continue to look to him for all I need, both emotionally, spiritually, financially, physically, and in every other sense.
To remain or abide in Jesus means that you exercise control over your thought life. Through the power of the Spirit, you consciously cry out to him to keep your mind in the right place, namely, on who Jesus is and what he has done for us and what he has promised to do throughout eternity. You resist, by the Spirit’s power, any temptation to let your thoughts wander off to some other rival beauty, some other rival god, some other alternative therapy that you are tempted to think can do for you what Jesus can’t.
There is a verse in the book of Jude that means much the same thing. Jude says, “keep yourselves in the love of God” (v. 21). He doesn’t mean do things to make God love you. No. He means, take whatever steps are necessary so that you experience and enjoy and always trust in the reality of a love that God has already given you in Christ. God loves you! Now, take steps to keep that truth alive in your heart. Avoid anything that would undermine your confidence in God’s love for you. Avoid any thought or action that would anesthetize your soul to the joy of being delighted in by God! And one of the primary ways that you keep yourselves in the love of God is by abiding or remaining or staying intimately connected to Jesus in every way.
(2) Rest! Does this mean physical rest or spiritual rest? Yes! But primarily it means spiritual, emotional rest. It is basically synonymous with trusting Jesus. Believe that he is sufficient. Believe that he will provide all you need. Stop striving by conniving! In other words, put an end to all your speculations and fleshly plans and worldly schemes to do for your soul what you think it needs and fear that God either can’t or won’t do for you.
The best way to do this is by reminding yourself of all the many promises in God’s Word. But don’t just remind yourself. Believe them! If you find you doubt them, cry out to God repeatedly in prayer that he would enable you by his Spirit to believe that they are true. Don’t crank it up in your own power but seek God to supply you with the strength and energy you need to rest.
(3) Reflect! This flows directly out of the first two. What I mean by “reflect” is to think deeply and meditate on the truths and promises that you’ve asked God to help you believe are true.
Don’t forget that Jesus didn’t merely talk about us abiding in him in John 15. He also spoke of his abiding in us (“abide in me and I in you”, v. 4). He likewise goes on to say in v. 7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” What does it mean for the words of Jesus to “abide” in us? It means we take them seriously, reflect on them often, obey them when they give us commands, believe them when they come in the form of promises. To have the words of Jesus “abide in us” means we trust the truth of what he says over against anything and everything that anyone at any other time says to us. His words are “abiding” in me when I’m thinking on them, memorizing them, obeying them, soaking my soul in them, and believing them to be true and trustworthy.
(4) Rejoice! I use this word to describe the fourth way to abide because we have to respond to the first three. We have to respond to all that God is for us in Jesus by worshiping him. We have to respond to all that God has promised to be for us now and forever in Jesus by thanking him and celebrating him and adoring him.
You may think it odd that I have included a word of action in describing what many think of as passivity. Many think that abiding means lying down and doing nothing. No! We aren’t talking about emptying our minds and floating through each day, effortlessly. Abiding is an active decision of the will. We choose to remain and to rest and to reflect and then to rejoice in worship and praise and exultation.
In closing, consider that famous passage in Philippians 4:11-13. I think Paul is talking about abiding in Jesus when he said this:
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Most of us have no problem with living in abundance. But if you try to do so without abiding in Jesus, you will end up trusting in your abundance instead of Christ. Even in abundance Paul refused to trust what he owned. His heart was always riveted and fixated on Jesus.
What Paul is saying here is identical with what we read in the Psalms:
“I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you’” (Ps. 16:2).
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Ps. 73:25).
One final word. Abiding and remaining and resting in Jesus do not primarily relate to physical relaxation. Yes, you must rest physically! But you can abide in Jesus while changing diapers or doing the dishes or mowing the lawn or pulling weeds or serving others or paying bills. Abiding is fundamentally a posture of the heart, not the body.
So, here is what Jesus says to you and me during this season of life, indeed during all seasons of life: remain in me, rest in me, reflect on me, rejoice for who I am and what I do for you.