The Struggle

Daily Reading Plan: Matthew 26:36-39
 
Today is Thursday of Holy Week. This is the day our Lord washed the feet of His disciples, the day He instituted the communion that we observe today, the day He gave a new command for us to love each other as He has loved us -- and the day He fell facedown and prayed in a place called Gethsemane: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” We are in a season that we too wish would pass from us. Yet today let us pray for God’s will to be accomplished in our lives and in our world – and for His Name to be magnified all over the globe. 

 
THE STRUGGLE

This week we are discussing how Jesus is the True Vine.

I am a sports fan and am struggling a little with the lack of sports to watch or follow lately. I’m an SEC football fan but am thinking about watching the previous Big Ten football season. I have no recollection of who won any of the games so they would be all new to me. Please know that I’m aware how trivial my lack of sports entertainment is during a global pandemic, but I do want to use sports as a lead-in today. Let me ask you a sports question. Imagine a successful athlete being interviewed. Which of these quotes seems more realistic?

“I got where I am today because Coach always pushed me to my limits -- and sometimes beyond.”

“I got where I am today because Coach took it SO easy on me compared to my teammates.”

That second quote is ridiculous, right? No elite athlete has ever praised their coach for being easy on them. A great coach may be an empathetic, caring person, sure, but not a “softie” during practice or games. Excellence rarely comes easy.

This week we’re talking about Jesus being the True Vine, and how we should remain as part of that Vine. In her book, Chasing Vines, Christian author and teacher Beth Moore quotes plant biologist Jamie Goode as follows:

Making the vines struggle generally results in better quality grapes. It’s a bit like people. Place someone in a near-perfect environment, giving them every comfort and all that they could ever want to satisfy their physical needs, and it could have rather disastrous consequences for their personality and physique. If you take a grapevine and make its physical requirements for water and nutrients easily accessible, then (somewhat counter-intuitively) it will give you poor grapes.

My observation is that among athletes of similar skill levels, those who work the hardest perform the best. And from my newfound knowledge of grapevines, the ones placed in challenging environments produce better grapes than those in “easy” environments.

What does this mean to us as branches of the True Vine? Should we wear uncomfortable shoes when reading the Bible so that the lessons will have more impact? I don’t think so. Contrived discomfort for discomfort’s sake is pointless. Here’s what I think this lesson is telling me.

My growth as a follower of Jesus is more likely to come from the areas of my life where I’m struggling than from those where I’m comfortable.

“Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me” (John 15:4 HCSB).
 
Are you going through a struggle? Remain in Him; and don’t simply go through it, grow through it.
 
By Mark Stuart

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