How To Abide In Christ
By Harriet Beecher Stowe
There is such a way of living with, or in Christ, that watchfulness, prayer, devotion, patience, gentleness, meekness, become so many sweet and spontaneous impulses, instead of labored acquisitions, and this is true freedom.
The figure which Christ uses in John 15:4 illustrates this idea: “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in Me.” Now how does a branch bear fruit? Not by incessant effort for sunshine and air; not by vain struggles for those vivifying influences which give beauty to the blossom, and verdure to the leaf – it simply abides in the vine, in silent and undisturbed union; and the fruit and blossoms appear as of spontaneous growth.
How, then, shall a Christian bear fruit? By efforts and struggles to obtain that which is freely given? By meditations on watchfulness, on prayer, on action, on temptation, and on dangers? No: there must be a full consecration of the thought and affections on Christ, a complete surrender of the whole being to Him, a constant looking to Him for grace.
Christians in whom these dispositions are once firmly fixed go on calmly as the sleeping infant borne in the arms of its mother. Christ reminds them of every duty in its time and place, reproves them for every error, counsels them in every difficulty, excites them to every needful activity. In spiritual as in temporal matters they take no thought for the morrow, for they know that Christ will be as accessible tomorrow as today, and that time imposes no barrier on His love. Their hope and trust rest solely on what He is willing and able to do for them, on nothing that they suppose themselves able and willing to do for Him. Their victory for every temptation and sorrow is their oft repeated childlike surrender of their whole being to Him, as the infant in every trouble finds a safe asylum in the bosom of its mother.
Some may say: “Truly this is a very delightful state of feeling, but how shall we obtain it? How shall we begin?”
We answer, just in the same way that a sinner begins the Christian life – by coming to the Savior and making a full, free, and hearty surrender of his body, soul, and spirit, fully resolved in the future to resign the whole to the Redeemer’s direction. And having made this general surrender, make it also in particular in reference to every circumstance of every day.
Let us imagine a day spent on this principle. You awake in the morning, and commend yourself to Christ’s care for the day. The first temptation that besets you may lead you to a waste of time. Say immediately: “Lord, assist me in this particular.” The next may be a temptation to irritation. Cast yourself again on Christ for this. A few hours after, you may be tempted to censorious remarks on some neighbor. Cast yourself upon Jesus. A while after you may perhaps forget yourself and give utterance to some hasty or ill-judged expression. Turn instantly to Christ, confess your fault, and ask further help. If you find yourself beset with uncommon difficulties and temptations, and in danger of forgetting what manner of spirit you are of, steal from your avocations though but for a few moments, and ask help of Jesus.
A direction of great importance to one who would live this life, is this: in your sins, troubles and temptations, make no distinction between great and little things.
Remember that nothing that has the slightest bearing on your improvement and spiritual progress is insignificant in the estimation of Christ. It is a fact that Christians are more impeded in their progress by little things than by great ones, because for great things they seek the strength of Christ and for little ones act on their own.
But if the little accidents of every day’s occurrence, the petty annoyances to which everyone is subjected, be sufficient to ruffle the temper and excite an unchristian spirit, they are to you matters of very serious moment and as such you must regard them. Nor can you fully abide in Christ without attaching to such things that due importance which shall lead you to refer them to Him with the same freedom that you feel in reference to what you commonly call serious affairs.
If you are conscious of peculiar and besetting faults, familiarize your mind to those incidents of the life of Jesus which show a particular bearing on them. If you are irritable, examine all those incidents which show His untiring patience; if you are proud, those which exhibit His humility; if you are worldly, those that show His spirituality; if you are negligent and careless in duty, those which show His incessant zeal and activity. Study them, understand them, keep them in memory, and pray to Him to infuse into you the same spirit.
The remarks that have been made are intended as general hints, but the only teacher of the true life of faith is Christ. Go to Him and ask Him to direct you. Christ is willing to make you just as meek, just as patient, just as lovely as He is. If you desire it earnestly, if you desire it more than everything else, if you are willing to give up all beside for it, He will explain to you practically what is meant by “abiding in Him” and by His coming to make His abode with you.
Then your Christian race will be full of love and joy, more like the free flight of a bird than the struggle of a captive. You will run with patience the race that is set before you, and know by blessed experience that “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).