“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:3 NASB)
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NIV)
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 ESV)
TODAY, GOD TOLD ME TO LET HIS SON OUT OF MY WAGON.
I’m serious. I was deep in thought, walking some pain out of my back, when the Holy Spirit painted a very clear picture for me.
Here I was, laboring along, feel stressed under the load of “Kingdom work,” when the image suddenly flashed before me that I was laboring under my own power for, probably, my own glory, while I was straining to pull a wagon, you know, the kind little kids ride in, and there sitting in the wagon was Jesus Christ!
The Second Person of the Trinity was right there with me, as He said He would be, but somehow, I had managed to shift Him from a leadership role into a support position, and the strain of it all was harming me.
THE SHIFT IN HIS POSITION was odd, for sure, because I am one of those fairly new Christians who grabbed ahold of Jesus when He told us: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)
So, what happened?
How come I was now pulling the wagon, and He was riding in it?
Let’s get to that in a minute. Here’s what God told me to do: He said to let His Son out of the wagon where I had put Him and let Him lead me, encourage me, and prop me up.
You see, Jesus should be walking in front of me, leading me as a light along the straight path (Proverbs 3:5-7; Psalm 119:105). He should be walking alongside of me, to encourage me (1 Thessalonians 5:11). He should be walking behind me to pick me up when I stumble (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
Yes, He can be in all four positions — in front of me, flanking me, and behind me — at once. He just can’t be in the wagon, riding along as I drag Him, my back hurting from the strain, my legs buckling, my heart pounding.
Kingdom work is serving Jesus fueled by the power of Jesus; it is not about getting ahead of Jesus and doing the job as we see it on our own.
BACK TO OUR QUESTION: WHAT HAPPENED?
Simply this: human pride, my own arrogance, my own desire to control and to make the world around me conform to my image. It’s safer that way, really. Didn’t the Christian singer/songwriter Matthew West recognize that fact in his song, “My Own Little World,” with these words, “population — me”?
This resistance to Divine authority is nothing new to mankind. It started in the Garden of Eden when the original man and woman, Adam and Eve, decided it would be okay to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil — even though God specifically told Adam it would not be okay to eat from that tree.
In fact, God told Adam, eating from that tree would cause death.
Still, even with that threat hanging over their heads, our forefather and foremother thought they knew better. So, they disobeyed. God was true to His Word. He banished them from the Garden; their work, once glorified, now became a burden; and they were under a death sentence.
Many of us who follow Jesus recognize too often we lay our burdens down at the foot of the Cross, where every book in the New Testament tells us to take them, and then we … kind of … hold on to them … or, if we let go, we mark the spot and then … rush back to pick up our burdens … and carry them off as though we have stolen plunder.
JESUS TOLD US HE CAME TO GIVE US LIFE.
In John 10:10 ESV, He said “The thief [Satan or the devil] comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Then Jesus contrasted that reality with the new reality that He offers: “I came that they [us, mankind, you and me] may have life and have it abundantly.”
That looks more like the deal I wanted when I heard the Master implore me to “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 ESV).
So, I know that His promises are true. I believe every word He says. Why, then, do I act as though I haven’t heart a word He says, a promise He makes, an offer I can’t refuse.
Back in Deuteronomy 30:19 NIV, our Heavenly Father speaks to the Israelites through Moses, where He issues the famous commandment to “choose life!”
“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”
Yet, we read time and again, the Jews in the Old Testament and then the Christians in the New Testament, failed to keep that Commandment.
The same failure that befell Adam and Eve.
The same failure that I make, and — maybe — even you make?
THE BEAUTY OF GOD’S GRACE is that He knew in advance when He made us and gave us independent wills we would misuse the privilege and rebel against His authority. Yet with love so supreme, He sent His Son to bear our punishment, so that, believing in Him, we would become right with God again.
Now, about that back pain.
He has that one covered, too.
See, in Proverbs 3:8 NIV, right after that verse that tells us to lean on God and not on our own understanding is another one of those grace notes, another promise God offers, if we’ll only listen and obey Him.
“This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”
It’s time for me to stop pulling the wagon so I can let God’s Son hop out and take His rightful places — all four of them — in front of me, alongside me, and behind me.
Thank you, Lord!
PRAYER: Our Heavenly Father, Abba, Daddy, we are so blessed to be so loved by You. Thank You for Your promises, and thank You for your admonishments when we disobey. Thank You for Your love and mercy. We praise You, we thank You, we love You. In Jesus’ Holy and Precious Name. Amen