By Megan Evans
"Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me"(John 15:4 CSB).
Remain. What a passive word, right?
When I think of bearing fruit I think of going, doing, or working, words that require an action out of me. But Jesus tells us that in order to produce fruit, we must first remain in him. But what does this mean?
Webster’s definition of the word "remain" is “to stay in the same place or with the same person or group; especially: to stay behind.” Jesus himself shows us an example of what it means to stay behind in his ministry on earth, often staying behind to be in prayer with his Father (Matthew 14:13, Luke 6:12). One example that has particularly stood out to me recently is when Jesus stays behind when Lazarus was dying:
So when [Jesus] heard that [Lazarus] was sick, he stayed two more days in the place where he was (John 11:6 CSB).
We don’t expect this from Jesus. We don’t expect that when we are hurting, suffering, and mourning, that Jesus wants us to just remain. But he does it himself and commands us to do it “…so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4 CSB). But what exactly does remaining in Christ look like?
Remain in God
After Jesus tells us to remain in him, he tells us to remain in his love by keeping his commands (John 9:9). But in the midst of suffering or even in the midst of great joy it can be hard to keep his commands.
In suffering, we often don’t trust that God is good unless he takes our pain away, making us say, “Why should I listen to you when it hurts so much?” In a good season, we often don’t want our time of comfort to end, making us say, “What do you have for me that is better than this?” Following God’s commands looks like trusting that His promises will never fail us, even when the world is telling us that we should never suffer and that our happiness depends what we can do for ourselves.
Jerry Bridges, in Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts says:
“Trust is not a passive state of mind. It is a vigorous act of the soul by which we choose to lay hold on the promises of God and cling to them despite the adversity that at times seeks to overwhelms us.”
Remaining in God looks like trusting that what he has in store for us is for our good, depending on him instead of the world’s quick fixes. It is remaining with a Savior that has promised to hold us in his arms when we can’t hold ourselves up on our own. It is praying and crying out to him daily that we would trust that his commands may not end our suffering or bring us comfortable lives, but that they will bring him ultimate glory and splendor.
Remain in the Church
It is hard to remain on our own. Our first instincts are to flee or to handle things in our own way. But when our brains are clouded with fear and when our thoughts are filled with anger at a God that seems silent, we need outside wisdom reminding us of his promises and what he has already done for us.
This outside wisdom of a friend is yet another way Jesus tells us to remain. John 15:12 (CSB) says, “This is my command. Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.”
We need the love of our fellow brothers and sisters in the church. We need people reminding us the God sent his Son for us to cover our guilt, shame, fear, and hurts for us on the cross, that we are a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We need people telling us truth when we want to give up, that God is “making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). We need to lay our lives down for our friends, meeting physical and spiritual needs: bringing a meal to a hospital, holding a friend’s hand while they cry, reminding each other of Scripture when times are good and bad.
It is then when we see Jesus incarnate, the church body being the hands and feet of Jesus. It is the love of a friend that helps us persevere through any trail or circumstance and say “I know the Lord is with me. I don’t have to run. I can remain.”
It is then that we bear fruit, wearing the signs of a redeemed child of God. A child that has trusted in their good Father. A child that has been held up by a friend. A child that has endured, waited, and remained so that God can be glorified.