What does it mean to abide? That’s a question I’ve been chewing on for months. One of my favorite Bible verses inspired the name of my blog. Abiding is a concept that pervades the Bible. A couple posts ago, I picked apart the word favor. Digging into the meaning of the word helped me realize the meaning of God’s favor. So the other day I decided to probe the word abide, and it’s been a revealing…comforting experience.
God wants us to abide with him. What does that mean?
In ye olde collegiate dictionary from 1940, abide has a meaty definition. My first thought upon reading it was that I made a good choice. It’s a good word.
Six-point definition. Ready?
1. To stay; to continue in a place; to dwell; sojourn.
Stay, continue, and dwell with God. That’s simple enough. But to sojourn with him…that’s a little deeper. That makes me think about the word sojourn in a new way. The definition of sojourn reads: To dwell in a place as a temporary resident or as a stranger. A temporary stay.
My life is a sojourn on Earth, and I’m taking this sojourn with Him. Even though I’m only here temporarily, and in many ways I’m a stranger, I’m not alone.
2. To remain stable or fixed in some state; to continue.
Remain stable and fixed with God. Continue with Him. Abiding with Him is a state of security.
3. To wait for; to await expectantly.
Wait for God. Await Him expectantly…with expectation that he will always be there.
4. To face or submit to without shrinking.
Face and submit to God without shrinking. This one is hard. Don’t hide yourself, your sins, your flaws. He knows them anyway. Don’t shrink because you feel you deserve his wrath. He’s already taken care of that. Shrinking just leads to separation and self-loathing. And it’s cowardly. Face God courageously. Submit to Him without shrinking. Obey without presuming failure. Obey because God asked you to. It’s kind of an ultimate, fair version of “because I said so.” Because love.
5. To bear patiently; submit to; tolerate.
Bear patiently with God. Bear everything in your life with God. Not alone. Submit to God…we covered that one. Tolerate with God…like the first one I believe. Bear/tolerate whatever’s going on, knowing that you can because God is with you.
6. To stand the consequences of; to suffer for.
Stand the consequences of…God? I suppose the consequences could be suffering – so suffer for God. This concept is so far removed from my life sometimes. I never have to really suffer for God. But in all the small ways that I may feel it, I must continue standing consequences and suffering in small ways for God. And if that big suffering ever comes, I must stand the consequences…abiding in Him.
The dictionary also gives the variation abide by, and defines that as:
- To keep faithful to; to adhere to.
- To accept as valid and take the consequences of.
Pretty self-explanatory, right?
So then I decided to go to the back of my Bible, to the Concordance (which is like the index), and look up the instances of the word abide throughout the Bible. And I discovered some wonderful passages. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is John 15:1-17. I know it’s long, but here it is:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
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. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
Now…I’m all about metaphors. That’s just something that I have fun with, and I like that words can be used in a lot of ways and that one concept can be used to illustrate something completely different, but that the whole device creates a deeper meaning. Anyway…this passage is so compelling and lovely. We are already clean. What we must do now is abide in the one who seeks to produce fruit in us, our vinedresser. Jesus tells the disciples to abide in His love. That’s something to think about. If we do that, our joy will be full. How true. The more I pray and think about the love of God, the more joyful I become. The more I realize I’m already clean, the easier it gets to abide in the love that is mine.
A person’s living environment is so important. I have always been blessed to live in places where I feel love from my co-inhabitants. My parents. Various roommates. Never have I felt an atmosphere of animosity, or anything less than a desire to create a loving space to share. But if I lived instead with a contentious group of people that lacked kindness…it would be easy to become selfish and unhappy. As it is, I want to continue a pattern of loving behavior and strive toward selfless thinking – helping and caring for those around me as best I can.
If we abide with God – stay, live, power through everything with Him – that inner atmosphere will begin to surround us and flow out into our lives and relationships. He commands us to obey and abide so that we may love each other. Not just so that we can grow in our relationship with Him, but so that we can be His love.
I’m not done with this topic, but in the interest of making this a readable length, and giving myself some more time to spend with the other passages, I’ll save the rest. I still have some chewing to do, and I still have to confess how hard this is to wrap my mind around, but I want to savor the word for a little while longer.