One of my greatest joys is hiking. I love being out in the woods, hearing the crunch of my boots on the leaves fallen on the forest floor, breathing in the earthen smell of trees, and soaking in the beauty of God's creation. Hiking on a mountain trail draws me into God's wonder and power, His creativity and majesty.
God's grace is like the air I breathe. I can't live without it, and I can't take it for granted.
About ten years ago, I learned that I have asthma. I take medicine to prevent it and in recent years have seen a great improvement. In fact, I went a whole year without any flare-ups.
Then last spring, our family went hiking in the North Georgia Mountains. The trail was steep and straight up. I began to feel a burning in my chest, and I labored to breathe. I had to stop frequently along the trail. My husband said, "Did you bring your inhaler?"
"No," I whooshed out as my lungs struggled to take in each breath.
I had gotten so confident in my ability to live without an inhaler that I stopped carrying it with me everywhere. In fact, I couldn't remember when I last filled the prescription. I thought I was fine and could live independent of it. I was wrong.
The Breath of Grace
The same is true in my spiritual life. Often I grow confident in my ability to do life on my own. I may go through a season without any major trials or crises. I start to rely on myself and my own strength. My time in the Word gets sporadic. My prayers are minimal—more like the texts I send my husband reminding him to pick up milk from the grocery store than an actual prayer. I go about my days checking items off my to-do lists and feeling satisfaction in my successes and achievements.
But the truth is, God's grace is like the air I breathe. I can't live without it, and I can't take it for granted. That confidence I feel in my own strength will wear off as soon as I face a challenge or trial. Like that hike I went on, sooner or later I will realize that I can't live life without a constant supply of God's grace.
This is what Jesus said in John 15:
"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:4–6).
We can do nothing apart from Christ. Nothing. The air we breathe, the very life we've been given comes from God's hand (Acts 17:25). It's not only our salvation that comes by grace, but also our sanctification and our perseverance in faith as well. It's God's grace from beginning to end. Like our bodies are dependent on oxygen to breathe, we are completely dependent upon Christ for everything.
Remaining in God's Grace
Because we are dependent, we need to remain or stay connected to Christ to receive that constant supply of grace. This connection is so important that in John 15, Jesus used the word "remain" eleven times. He also used the metaphor of a vine to drive home his point. Just as a branch draws its nutrients from the vine, we draw our strength from Christ. Everything we need to live and thrive as believers comes to us through Him. We can't produce it on our own.
Everything we need to live and thrive as believers comes to us through Him. We can't produce it on our own.
Just as a branch cannot thrive apart from the vine, neither can we grow, thrive, or produce fruit apart from Christ. As we remain in Christ, the Spirit bears fruit in us. He changes us and grows us in holiness. Just as a healthy branch connected to the tree bears fruit, as we remain connected to the vine of Christ, we produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22–23).
So how do we remain in Christ? We keep our eyes focused on Christ. We look to Him, not ourselves, our circumstances, or the challenges around us. We recognize our complete dependence upon Him. Our hearts remain bowed prostrate, in humble submission, yielding to His wisdom and His will. We rely on His word to teach, train, convict, and sanctify us. We submit all our cares to Him in prayer. We participate in our local Body through worship, fellowship, and the breaking of bread. These are all means of grace, like a steady flow of oxygen to our souls.
Since I've had asthma, I've learned not to take breathing for granted. Like oxygen to the lungs, so is the grace of Christ to our souls. May we remain connected to Him, breathing in His grace, growing, thriving, and bearing fruits of righteousness for Him and through Him.
How about you? Have you ever grown confident in doing life on your own, apart from grace? Do you see how important it is to depend on Christ for everything?