Learning to abide
God has assumed the responsibility of a Father, and has taken up those responsibilities to meet them in and through His Son. The enlargement of that in Christian utterance is found in Philippians 4:19. This means Christ recognized, Christ known, God in Christ, and that on the ground of our utter separation unto Him. But note: it is God’s gift. He says that it was not Moses that gave the manna in the wilderness, but His Father. Then it is not the result of man’s labors, it is the issue of God’s grace. Are you laboring for spiritual growth? How we have striven and strained to increase our spiritual measure and our spiritual stature. What a burden we have taken upon us in relation to the maintenance of our own spiritual life! We have almost assumed the whole responsibility for our spiritual life, and made it as though it depended upon our labors in prayer, our labors in the Word of God, our labors in the Lord’s service, our effort, our stress.
No one will think that we have made little of prayer or the Word. No one will think that we have said you must have no care whatever for your spiritual life, but there is such a difference between assuming responsibility for ourselves and recognizing that God has assumed that responsibility. And because God has assumed the responsibility we should cooperate with God. There is all the difference between trying to work for our justification, and working because we are justified; between trying to work for our perfection, and working because our perfection is secured in Christ. The difference is not merely technical, it is practical, and of immense value. Sometimes it is necessary for the Lord to say to us: “Look here, you are making far too much of your own praying, far too much of your own business in the Scriptures, you are unconsciously coming to think that everything depends upon how much and how fervently you pray.” And then you go out and talk to other people about your prayer life as a kind of setting up against their own. You do not mean it, but the implication is that this is what accounts for your growth, and it is going to count for other people’s growth. That must not be a cause but a result. ‘The cause, the secret, the spring of everything is Myself, and sometimes you will just have to cease straining, and rest back in Me, in loving trust. Learn to do that a little more, and then you will pray better, and I shall be able to do something more!‘
That from Chapter two of Knowing God in Christ by T. Austin-Sparks (emphasis mine)
I think most Christians would say that they are responsible for their spiritual growth. With that comes a host of problems that include a heavy burden to do a lot in order to grow and guilt when we don’t do all those things.
But, as T. Austin-Sparks says, we have taken on a responsibility for something that was never ours to begin with. God never intended us to heap on this heavy burden. In fact, this burden is the opposite of not only the freedom painted in Galatians, but also the verse in Matthew that says, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Our reality is much different from the way many of us live. We strive for perfection and to “become more like Christ” instead of realizing that those things have already been accomplished. We are saints now. Not because of anything we have done, but because of everything Christ did and, as Paul said, that we are dead and our life is now bound up with Christ living in us.
Jesus said, “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.” The definition of abide is “to remain; continue; stay.”
May we learn to cease straining and instead learn to abide, rest, and just BE in Christ.