Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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How to A-B-I-D-E in Christ

Dannah Gresh: According to Gretchen Saffles, even the most ordinary tasks can become moments of worship.

Gretchen Saffles: We can delight in Him when we’re taking care of our kids and scrubbing dirty dishes. We can delight in Him when we’re filling up the gas tank or making our grocery list. This is the difference of the Christian life.

Dannah: This is the Revive Our Hearts podcast with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of The Quiet Place, for April 7, 2021. I’m Dannah Gresh. 

Hey, Nancy, did I mention that gardening is up forty percent since 2019? People have taken it up as a pandemic hobby!

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: I want to know how I missed that! But I’m not surprised that they have.

Dannah: Yes, people are pumped about planting! Now, here’s the thing that I read the other day: “One of the trends last year was planting ‘A Joy Garden’ or ‘A Quiet Garden.’”

Nancy: Because people felt the need for both, right? 

Dannah: Yes, they did. And there’s nothing wrong with plants. I actually have a little window I look out to see kind of like a quiet space. But here’s the thing, people were planting flowers and plants thinking that would create the sense of joy and quiet that would compensate for all the chaos in the world.

Nancy: And if you don’t have joy and quiet in your heart, there is no garden—no matter how beautiful it is—that is going to do that for you.

Dannah: Yes, right. It reminds me that yesterday we were talking with Gretchen Saffles, who is back with us today. Hello, Gretchen!!

Gretchen: Hey, Dannah!

Dannah: She’s the author of The Well-Watered Woman. Gretchen, we ended yesterday talking about even if you’re not headed way off in the wrong direction, running from Jesus, sometimes you can have this feeling that “Jesus plus A Quiet Garden, Jesus plus a Joy Garden, Jesus plus new curtains,” will make you feel happy.

Nancy: “Jesus plus a great meal . . .”

Dannah: Exactly, all that stuff. “Jesus plus a few likes on my social media page.” 

Today we want to talk about how do we avoid that mentality? How do we stay in a place where we remain well watered and we don’t slowly wander away from our precious Lord and Savior? What do you think the secret is to not wandering away from the Living Water?

Gretchen: The secret is remaining attached to Christ, who is the True Vine, through abiding in Him every day. 

Dannah: Okay, that sounds like “Christian-ese” to me, so we’re going to have to unpack that.

Gretchen: Yep, it definitely is.

Dannah: Where did that come from? When did your heart first find that?

Gretchen: So this actually came up when I was a new mom and yet again, I was exhausted. I wanted to live a flourishing life, but I felt like a desert! I didn’t feel like a fruitful woman . . . in the Word or in the Lord.

I picked up a little book about “abiding,” and it took me to John chapter 15. I started to read that every day and ask the Lord, “What does it really mean to ‘abide’?” 

Nancy: And this passage Gretchen has just mentioned is one of the most important chapters for a child of God in all of the Scripture. We’re not going to read the whole passage today, though as you’re listening to this, it would be worth you picking up your Bible later today and reading the whole chapter. 

But, Gretchen, would you just read maybe the first five verses to us, and then let’s talk about what it means.

Gretchen: Absolutely! John 15:1–5 (Jesus is speaking): 

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.

Nancy: Now, I’ve got to say, that’s a beautiful passage, it’s a lot of beautiful spiritual words, but we need help knowing what that means. This whole thing of “abiding,” that’s not a word we use every day. Most of us don’t live in an agrarian society, where we’re used to seeing vineyards and plants and vines and pruning.

The Lord began opening this passage to you. Just give us some understanding of what it’s saying and what it means.

Gretchen: Yes, as I was reading this passage and asking the Lord, “What does it look like to abide when I’m taking care of my kids or standing in line at the grocery store?” I saw five different things that Jesus said it specifically means to abide in Him. So I jotted down in my journal an acrostic that would help me remember what it means to abide and it actually goes with the word abide.

It’s:
A – Accept Pruning
B – Believe His Word
I – Identify False Vines
D – Delight in Jesus
E – Endure with Joy

Dannah: Okay, I’m excited! Let’s break it down. Let’s start with “Accept pruning,” except I don’t really want to talk about that, but I think we probably should because you’re right. 

Gretchen: I know! And this is what Jesus opens up the passage with. In the very second verse He says that every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes. Why? So that it will bear more fruit. Now, the more I’ve gardened, the more I’ve realized that pruning is essential for a plant to grow.

We have a rosebush outside of our house that, if it is not pruned, it will not grow. Every year during winter we prune it back. We cut it way far down, to the point where I think, “Is this plant really going to survive? Is it really going to thrive?” But, come springtime, it grows! And the amount of flowers that it produces is amazing!

But the first year that we moved into our house. We didn’t know we were supposed to prune it, and that year it barely produced any roses. It was kind of scraggly looking, and I really thought, Maybe this plant is not healthy, and we need to just take it away.

But a wise gardener came in and told me, “It’s because you never pruned the plant!” And the more we prune it, the more flowers it produces!

Dannah: Nancy, I don’t think the Lord has a pair of pruning shears up there for Dannah Gresh, so what does that look like in our Christian walk? What does pruning look like?

Nancy: I’m thinking about that as Gretchen is sharing: What is that in our lives? It can be God taking away things that we think are important to us or that we think make us beautiful or make us attractive. I mean, that whole pruning process actually makes something look kind of rundown and ugly and weak.

It may be pain; it may be suffering; it may be a year of health issues. I think the pandemic over the last year or so has been a pruning for a lot of us. Things we thought we needed, things we thought we couldn’t live without, things we thought we couldn’t do without have been taken from us. I mean, what do you do without restaurants to go to (in many of our states)?

What do you do without being able to send your kids to school? That was true for many people, still is for some. What do you do when the things you think you do so well, you find that you’re weak or you don’t have the same kind of strength or the same kinds of abilities or they’re just not good enough? 

What about when God shows us sins or material values or temporal values? It could be anything that keeps us from being more fruitful. God is going to, at times, prune back. Sometimes He’s done this with our ministry.

We were growing, and people all around the world were wanting more. Then I remember a time when in our ministry we were really facing a hard financial time. We had to make some super-hard decisions to cut back on some outreaches in places that we thought were very effective. It was heartbreaking to me!

But one of our wise board members said, “God prunes us, and He prunes our ministries, and He prunes our families. He prunes us for greater growth . . . not because He’s mad at us, but because He wants us to be even more fruitful.”

Dannah: Yes, my husband calls it “a pruning obedience training.” He says that almost always when the Lord takes something, when the Lord makes us make hard decisions, it’s just Him training. He’s training us. And that’s really what you do when you prune a plant: you’re training it how you want it to act, behave, look. You’re expecting it to do something.

I just cut back my lilac bush. It’s not going to look good for a good year or so, and then it’s going to be prolific with refreshing, fragrant blooms! So, Accept Pruning. 

Number Two: Believe His Word. What’s that?

Gretchen: Believing His Word is different than just knowing His Word, because we can know a lot of God’s Word. We can actually know a lot of facts, just in things in the world. For instance, I read a lot of books to my boys, and I read about pigs that can fly in books. But I don’t believe I’m going to walk outside or look outside my window right now and see a pig flying by.

No, believing His Word is implementing it. It is allowing it to become our very heartbeat. When trials come our way, suffering, when anxiety comes, instead of responding with our flesh, we respond with God’s Word that never changes. It always changes us!

In this passage, Christ calls us to believe what He says. He says later in John chapter 15, verse 7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

So Christ is saying that when His Word abides in us and we are believing that Word, it’s going to transform our actions. It’s going to transform our thoughts and our feelings and everything about who we are! But, believing is the next step.

Believing is living a life of faith, not just living a life of head knowledge, but that head knowledge moving down to our heart and becoming our actions in everyday life.

Dannah: And I think that’s a battle! I think for me to believe His Word, sometimes, I have to remind myself that His capital “T” Truth trumps the little “t” truth or facts that are happening in my world around me.

I’ve had to really remind myself of that since March of 2020, when all the little facts seem so overwhelming and scary. I have to go to God’s Word and transform my mind with His Truth and sometimes say it out loud: “Okay, this is the little fact that is happening in my world, but God is still in control! This is the little fact, but His grace is sufficient. This is the little fact, but I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me!” 

I guess I want to say it’s not easy to believe His Word all the time. Sometimes you have to preach to yourself.

Gretchen: Absolutely! And that capital “T” Truth is what sustains us, just like a plant. It abides, it has to stay right where it’s rooted and it receives water, it receives sunlight. This is a receiving that a plant has to do in order to flourish. 

As believers, we receive His Word; we read His Word; we listen to His Word. Like you said Dannah, we preach God’s Word to our hearts—especially in those moments where maybe those little “t” truths or those facts seem so much louder. Ultimately, it’s God’s capital “T” Truth that we build our lives upon.

Nancy: I think it’s important to remember that this isn’t just positive self-talk. We’re not just trying to make ourselves feel better about ourselves or about our circumstances. This is God’s divine truth from outside of us, objective truth, coming into us. It’s the truth about the gospel, the truth about the character of God, the truth about how time is short and eternity is long, the truth about the grace and mercy and forgiveness of God. 

It’s taking that Truth, bringing it into our minds and our souls, and letting it overcome and overwhelm and transform everything that in the core of our being shouts against it.

So, the Truth changes us, it renews our mind until we’re thinking differently. So it’s not just, “Oh, yeah, you need to think happy thoughts” . . . about your Quiet Garden. 

I don’t mean to make fun of positive thinking. I’m just saying we need God’s thinking, His Word, to change the way we think about everything if we’re going to abide in Christ and if we’re going to be fruitful and well-watered women. 

Dannah: Well spoken! Okay: A – Accept Pruning; B – Believe His Word; I – Identify False Vines? Tell us about that one.

Gretchen: Yes, this is right in the beginning of John chapter 15. The very first words that Jesus says are, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.” Jesus was very intentional with every word that He spoke, and He specifically says, “I am the true vine.”

When Jesus said this to His disciples who were listening to Him, they would have understood the significance. Jesus was referring back to Isaiah chapter 5 where the prophet Isaiah was describing Israel as a vineyard.

And this vineyard God had planted with choice vines, expecting it to yield grapes, but it only yielded wild grapes. Ultimately, Israel chose not to abide in the True Vine. Jesus comes and He says that, “I am the True Vine—not Israel, not any other thing in this world. I am the One who will provide you with sufficiency and with all that you need in this life.”

And in order to receive the benefits of the True Vine, we have to remain attached to Him. There are so many false vines in this world that are vying for our attention, that are saying, “If you just attach to me—if you just have more money in your bank account—then you’re going to live a flourishing life.”

But for that person who gets more money in their bank account, they know very quickly that it’s not enough! They just want more and more. Maybe it’s more followers or a better job or better (fill-in-the-blank).

Dannah: More power, more success. 

Gretchen: Yes! And then you get that “more,” and there’s a next step and a next step.

Dannah: Never enough . . .

Gretchen: There’s always the want for “more!” But in Christ, He is enough! And you know what’s really cool about this? Numbers are limitless. I feel like we often idolize numbers. Maybe it’s your weight or your bank account or a following. They are limitless! We think that that “more” could satisfy us, and it never does, because ultimately they’re pointing to God, who is limitless. 

He is the One who satisfies. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. He is the One who owns all. He is the Maker of the world. And He is ultimately the True Vine that brings us joy!

Nancy: And that really brings us to the “D” of Abide” Accept Pruning, Believe His Word, Identify False Vines and then “D”: Delight in Jesus. This is taking us to joy, isn’t it?

Gretchen: It is! I realized in my walk with the Lord about a year ago that I would come to God’s Word and think, Okay, I’m going to read His Word. I want to go live for God, I want to be faithful, but I was lacking joy.

I was thinking about my relationship with my husband and how I enjoy spending time with him. Just last night we got the kids to bed and we wanted to spend some time together, and it was refreshing to my soul.

I thought about Jesus. Do I delight in Him? Do I delight in my Savior? Jesus says in John 15:9, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” He says specifically that He spoke all of these things to the disciples and to us that their joy would be full and overflowing. (see v. 11) This is His will for us. Do we delight in Him? Do we enjoy reading His Word? 

I started a practice where sometimes at night when I’m going to bed, I’ll read, I’ll embroider. I’ve got lots of different things I’ll do before bed. But sometimes I’ll just pull out my Bible and read it for fun! I mean, not to dive in deep, but I’ll open it and I’ll go, “I’m just going to read this because I delight in my Savior, and I want to know Him!”

Often those are some of the sweetest times when I’m reading the Word. But, we can delight in Him when we’re taking care of our kids and scrubbing dirty dishes. We can delight in Him when we’re filling up the gas tank or making our grocery list. This is the difference of the Christian life. Those mundane tasks are no longer just menial, boring, like, “Gotta get through them to the good stuff.” They can become the good stuff when we’re delighting in our God who is with us, and who’s providing for us right in that moment.

Nancy: That goes so far beyond duty. Duty is not a bad thing—obedience is a good thing. But none of our husbands would be thrilled about having a relationship with us if they felt that we love them because we’re “supposed” to love them. We are supposed to love them; they’re supposed to love us. But they’re looking for so much more than duty in our relationship with them. 

Jesus is wanting so much more than duty in our relationship with Him. He wants that delight. And that delight can be cultivated. Maybe you’re listening and you’re thinking, Boy, I don’t have that delight all those women are talking about. What planet are they on?!” But that delight can be cultivated. 

The more you “eat” of Jesus, the more you partake of Him, the more you spend time with Him, the more you meditate on Him, the more you obey Him, the more you’re going to enjoy being with Him and will delight in Him and find His delight in you.

Dannah: Yes, honestly, as you were speaking, Gretchen, I was thinking that I love it when I am so satisfied in Jesus that I cannot wait to get to my quiet time! Like, I get up early. I pray, “Jesus, help me to wake up earlier than the alarm is set for, because I don’t want just that amount of time with You; I want extra! But help my body to . . .” That passion!

As you’re saying this, I’m thinking, I’m not like that right now. I’m not tanking spiritually, but this is a little bit of a wake up call for me today, that I need to find that place where I’m delighting in Jesus, where I abide in His love! Not just to scratch the devos off my checklist. 

So,  A – Accept Pruning; B – Believe His Word; I – Identify False Vines; D – Delight in Jesus, and here we end with the E in abide – Endure with Joy!

Nancy: How do those two words even go together!? 

Gretchen: I know! And that’s one of the things about abiding. I think when you don’t know the context, you can think, Oh, that must be really easy! But Jesus also says in that passage (v. 13), “Greater love has no one than this, that [he would] lay down his life for his friends.” He actually did that for us! He gives us the key to enduring when we suffer in this life.

And that’s not “if” we suffer in this life, that’s “when” we suffer in this life, because Christians aren’t immune to suffering; we’re not! As a matter of fact, all throughout Scripture, God is preparing us for suffering, for walking in this broken, fallen world.

He’s preparing us, and Christ went before us, and He suffered so that we could have the means of grace to endure with joy. In Hebrews 12:3, Scripture says, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”

He endured ultimately for the joy that was set before Him. We follow in Jesus’ footsteps. He is the One who suffers with us, and He brings us into the full and fruitful life. So we can endure with joy because Christ endured with joy, and He is in us providing us with the joy that we need—in moments that the world is probably going to look at and say, “You shouldn’t have joy right now!”

Dannah: Right. Gretchen, this was a deep dive into the word “abide” from John chapter 15. I know my heart sure needed it! Let me just review, because I’ve got a few pieces of homework to do, starting today.

If we’re 

  • A – we abiding in Him; we are accepting His pruning.
  • B – we are believing His Word, not just hearing it, not just reading it, believing it.
  • I – we are identifying the false vines and looking to attach only to the True Vine of Jesus.
  • D – we are delighting in Jesus.
  • E – we are enduring with joy.

My heart will treasure when I go to sleep tonight. I’m going to take from John chapter 15, “Abide in My love.” What an invitation! 

Nancy: Gretchen, it’s been such a joy for me to get to know you and to hear your heart. As we’re sitting here looking in each others’ faces and recording this series together, I’m thinking of how the three of us women are in different seasons of life. 

We’re in different decades of life. Gretchen, you’re in your thirties. Dannah, can I say you’re in your fifties? 

Dannah: You can; you just did!

Nancy: I’m in my sixties. We have very different challenges, very different priorities in terms of our daily work. And yet, here we are, three women who each know that we desperately need Jesus. We long for more of Him. We’re gaining more of Him every day. We’re able to encourage each other. We need each other!

I’ve been encouraged by this conversation; I think all three of us have been. I hope our listeners who have kind of pulled up to the table with us during this conversation have been encouraged as well. 

What a joy to say in each season of life we can encourage each other. “We can spur each other on to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24 NASB). That there is freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness available through Christ for each of us! 

So, my prayer is that we will be well-watered women—watered with the Word of Christ, with Christ the Living Word—and that God will use us to be means of helping other women become well watered in Christ. That’s what this whole ministry is about; that’s what He has called us to. Thank you so much for helping us further in that journey today, Gretchen Saffles.

Gretchen: Thank you, Nancy.

Dannah: Gretchen, your book is The Well-Watered Woman: Rooted in Truth, Growing in Grace, Flourishing in Faith. Let me just take a moment to remind our listeners that it’s available from Revive Our Hearts as a thank-you gift for a donation of any amount.

Friend, we depend on your support to be able to bring the message of freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ to women all over the world; which is why we love to thank you for that support by sending you a copy of The Well-Watered Woman. In addition, Gretchen has also written a companion devotional journal for the book. We have that available as well.

For more information or to make a donation, just visit ReviveOurHearts.com or call us at 1–800–569–5959. 

Tomorrow we’ll continue our theme of developing that intimate relationship with the Lord. Nancy will take us to the story of Moses and the burning bush—one of my favorites—and his encounter with Jahweh, the Great I AM!

Before we’re all done today, you know what I’m thinking about right now, Gretchen? You were just talking about enduring with joy, just like Jesus. I’m going to put Nancy on the spot. I’ve watched my friend Nancy walk through a hard, hard, hard year with joy. I just keep waiting for her to lose it 

She’s had what I call “the suffering within the suffering.” We have this pandemic going on and the whole world is like, “What?!” and angry at each other and struggling and fighting. And she hasn’t skipped a beat in ministry. 

On top of that, her husband Robert had not one, but two, cancer diagnoses. And Nancy, you never lost your joy! So what’s the secret to enduring with joy?

Nancy: Well, first, I don’t think it would be quite accurate to say that I never lost my joy, because there have been moments of losing joy, losing perspective, saying, “This is just harder than what I want to go through.” But God didn’t really give us any choice; we are going through this.

It’s been the Word of Christ in me that has given me hope and joy and peace in the midst of all of this.

I have clung to my journaling Bible. It’s not my journaling, but it’s His Word. I just am responding to that in my journaling—that has been my safe place, my happy place, my sane place. And I’m thinking, Gretchen, I’m so glad you took us to John chapter 15.

I spent weeks in this passage, John 14, 15, 16, and 17. As Jesus was getting ready to go to the cross, what was He saying to His disciples? He was talking about abiding in Him, and then He ends this part of that conversation at the end of chapter 16, and He says:

“The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone” (v. 32)

[He tells His disciples, “You’re going to leave Me!” All of His friends, all of the people He could have counted on, that He could have looked to, to help Him get through this hard time, “You are going to leave Me alone.” 

Talk about isolation, quarantine, I mean all the things that have been part of many of our lives over these last months! But then Jesus says, “Yet I am not alone. . .” 

He said, “You’re all going to leave me alone, but I’m not alone!” 

We say, “How are you not alone, Jesus, when everybody deserts You?”

“I am not alone,” He said, “for the Father is with me.” He said, “I am not alone for the Father is with Me!” And then He said,

“I have said these things to you, [so] that in me you may have peace” (v. 33).

The same way Jesus was able to have peace—because He knew His Father was with Him—He’s saying, “I’m saying the same things to you so that you can have peace.”

He said, “In the world you will have tribulation.” There will be persecution of believers, as there is in much of the world—so little of that that we know in the United States—but there are other kinds of tribulations . . . coronavirus, cancer, financial challenges, job challenges, relational challenges. In the world you will have tribulation, “But take heart;” have joy ”I have overcome the world” (v. 33). 

I'm telling you, in those hardest places I have, when I was feeling like, “One more wave, and we might just go under,” I’ll lift my hand, my heart, my voice up to Christ. I say, “Lord, I’m not alone. Robert and I are not alone. You are with us, the Father is with us.” 

In the midst of the tribulation that comes to us in this world—this fallen, broken world where it’s the world’s sin, it’s our own sin, it’s all the mess of disease and hardship and contention and all the angry social media stuff and the political challenges and the economic challenges—Jesus says, “Have peace, because I have overcome the world!”

And so, out of my weakness, out of my frailty, out of my need, out of my tears I’ve lifted my heart up to the Lord and said, “Lord, I believe Your Word, and I believe Your grace is sufficient for me today in this moment for this circumstance.”

If we end up planning a funeral instead of celebrating Robert being clear from cancer . . . We could have been having a funeral. I just talked to a woman whose husband died from the very same cancer and the very same treatment that Robert has been through. That could have been where we were, we didn’t know. Thank God, at this point it looks like he’s doing really well, but we don’t know what the next chapter is.

In the world, you will have tribulation, but take heart, have joy! I’ve just said, “I’m going to fight for joy; I’m going to choose joy. I’m going to choose joy because in Him there is peace, and that’s enough!” That’s enough.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth invites you to abide in Christ. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.

About the Guest

Gretchen Saffles

Gretchen Saffles

Gretchen Saffles is the founder of the global online women's ministry Well-Watered Women, the creator of the Give Me Jesus quiet time journal, and a passionate writer who longs to see women grasp the fullness of the gospel in everyday life.  As she shares from her life experiences, Gretchen writes with authenticity and boldness, encouraging women to seek Christ right where they are and live in his abundance. Gretchen lives in Atlanta with her husband and their two sons and loves going on adventures with her family, traveling to new places, daydreaming of wildflower fields, cooking tasty meals, baking chocolate chip cookies, painting, reading good books, and teaching women to know and love Jesus.