“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” – John 15:5-7 (ESV)
I love a good campfire. And I love toasted marshmallows. There is just something about a sticky lump of processed sugar stuck on a dirty stick and burnt to a black crisp (on the outside) over a smoky, open flame that just makes my mouth water. That’s great for me. And, really, I would think the ultimate destiny for a marshmallow – outside of its usefulness as a yam topping – would be to find fulfillment as a child’s campfire snack, only bettered if used as the essential binding element of a Smore.
But, the stick…. that poor stick…. This wasn’t what he had in mind. The stick used to be a branch. It used to support life, hold leaves, maybe fruit. It was once part of something greater. Now, its kindling. It’ll end up broken and burnt, sticky with marshmallow resin. In the morning, it will be ash.
We can do nothing apart from Christ. For some, that is an easy truth to accept. But for many – I would argue most – the truth of that statement can be difficult to take. After all, we’re only human. We want achievement. We want accolades. We want to be somebody. Isn’t that what we were taught as kids? “You can be anything you want if you just work hard enough and succeed!”
The problem is simple: we put the responsibility for results on ourselves. The outcome, in our minds, is entirely dependent upon our performance. If we succeed, we feel pride, elation, a sense of inner well-being. But. when we fail…
I was listening to a sermon by James MacDonald last night and he commented that a branch removed from its vine is a stick. And John 15:7 tells us what happens to sticks. They become tinder. They are kindling for the fire. It strikes me that this is exactly what happens when we are success-driven. We push and push and push, shoving our agenda ahead, making goals, working hard, plugging forward.
Then comes the inevitable burnout. We become self-reliant and blinded by ambition and drive. And we drive ourselves right into the ditch. We get sidelined by something we never even saw coming. We took our eyes off Christ (if they were ever really there) and start drowning. We fall off the vine and end up a marshmallow stick.
Today, as we start a new week, I want to encourage you: don’t be a marshmallow stick. Don’t end up roasted and tossed in the fire. Abide in Christ and trust Him with the results in your life. Abiding is simply following, staying connected. So abide in Christ and stay connected to The Vine. This is where true success and life are found.