Have you ever become disillusioned with the Christian life?
Maybe you started your faith journey with great enthusiasm for Christ and His gracious salvation. But with the passage of time, you began to wonder why you were still struggling with the same old sins, why serving the Lord had become a burden rather than a joy, and why you weren’t experiencing the peace Christ promised.
That’s the way I felt at one point in my life.
Despite having been a pastor for some time and seeing people respond to the gospel when I preached, I was dissatisfied with my own spiritual walk.
Something was missing, and I didn’t know what it was.
I studied Scripture more, prayed frequently, fasted for three days, worked harder, and preached longer, yet I still felt defeated and lacked the fruit of the Spirit in my life—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).
I was exhausted, and my striving had not led me to spiritual victory.
When I was at my lowest point, I picked up a book about Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission. Despite his love for Christ and his desire to serve Jesus faithfully, he described himself as a burdened Christian overwhelmed by his responsibilities, defeated by sin, and having no rest for his soul.
That was exactly how I felt.
One of Taylor’s friends wrote and reminded him to let the Savior work in him by abiding, not striving—trusting Christ for the power to overcome wrongful ways, resting in His unfailing love, and being ever conscious of the joy of complete salvation from all sin.
Hudson Taylor took this advice to heart and was transformed into a victorious and happy Christian. His workload was still great, but the weight and strain were gone.
Suddenly, I had hope. The answer was abiding, not striving.
In John 15:1-11, Jesus used the illustration of a vine and its branches to explain the relationship believers have with Him. He is the vine, and we are the branches. It’s His life flowing through us that produces fruit, not our self-empowered efforts.
But what does it mean to abide?
It’s a word we don’t often use today. In Scripture, it means to stay in a condition or relationship, to dwell, to rest, or to remain in a particular place.
First John 3:24 says, “The one who keeps His commandments remains [abides] in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He remains [abides] in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”
John is saying that an abiding relationship is the union with Christ that happens at salvation, and the proof is the indwelling Holy Spirit.
As believers, our position is one of abiding in Christ, and that can never change, but sometimes we don’t practice abiding.
We’re like branches waving up and down, striving to pump out some spiritual fruit. Basically, we’re trying to live the Christian life in our own strength, and that’s impossible.
We can’t truly flourish unless we’re abiding in Christ. He’s the one who transforms our character, overcomes sin, and empowers our service.
But this doesn’t mean that we can sit back and do nothing.
What is our responsibility in abiding?
“By this we know that we are in Him [Christ]: the one who says that he remains [abides] in Him ought, himself also, walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:5-6).
Jesus wasn’t passive. On the contrary, He was very active, but He didn’t work out of human energy. He was the perfect demonstration of a Spirit-filled life (Luke 4:1).
The omnipotent, sovereign Son of God depended on the Spirit and placed Himself in subjection to the Father. He said, “I do not speak on My own, but the Father, as He remains [abides] in Me, does His works” (John 14:10).
So to actively abide in Christ, we must walk as He did—not in our own strength and wisdom, but in dependence on the Holy Spirit and in submission and obedience to the Father and His Word.
What are the benefits of abiding in Christ?
As humans, we like to be in control, so the abiding life may seem costly, but the benefits far outweigh any perceived losses.
In fact, all you have to lose is striving, defeat, exhaustion, and discouragement. Instead, you’ll find rest for your soul, fruitful service and character, answered prayer, confidence in God’s love for you, and fullness of joy (John 15:5-11).
In essence, that’s the description of a flourishing, victorious Christian life that glorifies God and proves you’re a disciple of Christ (John 15:8).
If you’re going through a difficult, dry, barren season, and you’ve blown it a thousand times, there is hope: You don’t have to stay there. Each day is an opportunity to practice abiding in Christ.
Whenever I find myself feeling weary, anxious, and defeated, I get on my knees and confess that I’m relying on myself instead of Him.
As I release my hold and surrender all my concerns to the Lord, His peace fills my soul. Then as I rely on Him, He energizes me to handle whatever I’m facing.
And He will do the same for you.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. I know that life can be difficult at times. That’s why I hope you’ve been encouraged by In Touch Ministries. It’s easy to feel disillusioned by our failures, but there’s hope in knowing that becoming a victorious, fruitful Christian is a lifelong process. God never gives up or stops working in us. He’ll be faithful to complete what He’s begun in your life.