Your stomach is demanding food but there aren’t many options around so you walk up to a vending machine, dollar bill in hand. After pursuing the options you make your selection and insert the bill. The machine sucks in it and then spits it out. So you drag it across the corner of the machine a few times hoping to smooth it out, and try again. PETUY! Out it comes. You try putting it in upside-down, backwards, anything. But over and over again the machine rejects your money.
In your frustration you dig for some change—amazed you could come up with enough. You slam the coins into the slot, daring the machine to reject those too. When the display illuminates the proper amount, you punch in your selection with more force than necessary. At a snail’s pace the machine groans to life and slowly drops your selection into the receptacle area. Impatiently you snatch your food and turn to storm away.
As you start walking, a friend comes in and asks to borrow a dollar. You tell him your challenges with the only one you have, but offer it to him anyway. You watch as he inserts the money—silently anticipating his failure. The machine sucks it in—and the display illuminates! He makes his selection and it pops into the receptacle a second later. He grabs his food, shrugs, and says thanks as he walks past smiling and snacking.
What are you feeling right now? Are you laughing at the situation, happy for your friend, and go on your way? Or are you wishing you got what he got? Or are you filled with Disbelief? Anger? Shock? Jealousy? Annoyance?
Are you thinking or saying unholy words at the vending machine or your friend’s back? Are you wondering why it rejected the dollar in your hand, but in your friend’s hand, it was acceptable?
Are you asking: Why didn’t the machine give me what I wanted when I wanted it with the way I wanted to get it? Why did it make me go through the extra effort to get what I wanted? Is bitterness starting to invade you heart and mind?
Beloved, the sad truth is, we often treat God like He’s a vending machine. Somehow we get it in our mind that His sole purpose is to give us what we want, when we want it, and how we want it.
I’ve talked with several heartbroken and disillusioned people over the years who were angry at God because He didn’t deliver what they thought He should. What they thought He promised. Through tears, they paraphrase verses like John 15:7: Ask and you shall receive! “Cheyenne, I did ask. I did. I prayed earnestly over and over again; I went to church; I even read my Bible! And nothing. I got nothing! Yet everyone around me is getting what I want! I don’t understand.”
Oh how this hurts my heart. I can almost hear the coins dropping, can’t you? I prayed—plink; I went to church—plink; I read my Bible—plink. Now to make the selection and wait for it to drop. Please understand, I’m not making fun, nor am I trivializing their pain. The truth is, I’ve been in their shoes.
What breaks my heart is these precious people missed it, as did I. We missed what it really means to follow Jesus and what faith is all about. Some of us simply missed the whole verse: We either grasped onto the part that satisfied our desire and ignored the rest or we had never learned the whole verse in the first place. For me, it was a combination of both.
Here is John 15:7 in its entirety:
“But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!” (NLT, Emphasis mine)
Beloved, before we ask for anything, we first must remain in Christ! But what does that mean?
‘Remain’ is translated from the Greek word used ‘menō,’ but I believe a better translation is the word ‘abide.’ Abide has a more powerful meaning because it conjures up the ideas of permanence, remaining in a fixed state, continuing, staying put, and enduring. In a culture that’s constantly shifting and moving about, there’s not much that endures anymore, is there? Yet, we as humans crave permanence. We yearn for something that endures.
With that in mind, read John 15:7 in its original context.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” John 15:1-11 NLT
What do you think it means to abide in Christ? And how does that affect how we ask for anything we want?
Tomorrow, in Part 2, I will provide some answers those questions as I show you how to abide in Christ. Then in part 3, I will talk about the necessity of pruning and the beauty of grafting in relation to our faith as I share when this portion of Scripture became Vibrantly Relevant to me and changed my life forever. Finally in part 4, I will share how this Scripture influenced how I asked for a few things from God—some He gave, other He didn’t—in hopes to encourage you as you ask for things you want in accordance with His will, no matter what the answer is.
If I haven’t told you lately, I love that you’re here!