Over the years, one of the patterns I’ve noticed in my life is that, when summer comes to an end and we transition to the fall, I almost always become overly reflective. I think some of it has to do with the fact that my birthday is in the fall - so that usually makes me pause and think back over the years that have already gone by. But I also think it’s because of the changes that take place in the world itself, as nature gets ready to go dormant for the winter months - and then produce new things in the spring.
The result is that I can often spend the months of September and October looking back at my life, and wondering how I’m doing. And that’s exactly what’s been going on the past few weeks, as I’ve been asking myself questions like: Are you daily growing in your love for others? How about your patience? Or your ability to be content, no matter what? How about your kindness - is that increasing? And even though they’re tough questions to answer - and even though my answers often make me cringe - I still think they’re good to ask, especially if we’re Christians.
Here’s what I mean - one of the realties of the Christian life is that we are called to live our lives in a way that we are always growing in our understanding of God, and in our ability to live how He’s called us to live. The Apostle Peter makes this clear in 1 Peter 3:18, where he tells us: “You must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. As Christians, we are supposed to be moving forward in our faith. Which brings up the question of “How?” How do we make sure that we’re daily growing in our relationship with God, and in the practice of what we’re learning?
Well fortunately, Jesus gives us the simple answer in John 15:4, where He says: “Live in Me, and I will live in you. A branch cannot produce any fruit by itself. It has to stay attached to the vine. In the same way, you cannot produce fruit unless you live in Me.” If we want to know how to be sure we daily grow in our faith, Jesus gives us the clear answer in this passage…we need to stay connected to Him. And He illustrates what that means by using the example of a branch and vine. In the world of plants, a disconnected branch can’t bear fruit. And the same is true for all of us spiritually - when we’re not connected to God on a daily basis, not only will we not produce any fruit, but we will also begin to whither and die.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be more loving. I’d like to be more joyful. I’d like to be more at peace, no matter what’s happening around me. I’d like to be more kind to people who are mean to me. I want to be more faithful. I want to keep all of my promises. I’d like to have more self-control. And I want all of that because it’s how God has called His children to live. But if I want all of that to happen, then I MUST stay connected to God on a daily basis.
And what is true for me, is true for all of us. God makes it very clear throughout the New Testament that we’re not going to have any fruitfulness or any productivity in our lives if we’re out there on our own. We’ve got to be connected to Him. So today, let’s make sure that’s what we’re doing. Let’s look at areas in our lives where we’re not including Him in our decisions or thoughts. Let’s assess how we spend our time, and make sure we’re giving God the time He deserves. And let’s be intentional about talking to Him throughout the day – making sure that our relationship with Him is the most important connection in our lives.