The Jesus Habit: Daily Devotional
Hosted by David Lindner
Growing up, my mom had decorations around the house that were encouraging and affirmative in nature. There were pictures that had various Bible verses, a photo of a table that seemed to stretch into infinity and others. But the one I remember the most is a poem called: “Don’t Quit” by John Greenleaf Whittier. It’s a great poem. One of my favorites. The lines of this poem come to mind so often when I’m going through difficult times.
Perseverance and endurance are qualities that seem to be diminishing in popularity over time. I’m reading a book right now called Grit by Angela Duckworth. She defines grit as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” Of course, she’s talking about what it takes to succeed in your goals. But still, she talks about how rare it is these days to find someone with grit.
It turns out that grit, or perseverance and endurance are not only biblical virtues which means they flow from who God is, but they are crucial to becoming love.
John 15:16-17 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.”
As you know, I’m really into fruit trees and plants that produce fruit. I have what you might call a sweet tooth. Probably more like a sweet mouth which is hopefully better than being a smart mouth. As a result of modifications, the shelf-life of fruit is actually going down drastically. Growing up, I remember my grandpa buying boxes of apples. As long as they stayed cool, they would last for months. That’s no longer the case. Our fruit today does not last or endure. It looks nice, but looks aren’t everything.
Jesus wants us to bear fruit that will last. Somehow this bearing of fruit that lasts plays a role in the answering of our prayers. What is fruit that will last?
Well, the word for last in the phrase fruit that will last is one we’ve already talked about. It’s the word abide. As you remember, abide means to dwell, live and reside in. But, as we also have already said, the word is also an ongoing, forever kind of a word. So, it’s to always and forever keep on residing, abide and live in something.
The love of God has grit. It just doesn’t give up. It can’t. That’s how God’s love for us works. That’s the nature of true, actual love. It abides, it remains. It goes on abiding and remaining. There is never a time when it stops abiding or remaining. Because it is the character of God, it will always be this way. Love will always and forever continue on remaining and abiding.
The love of God is fruit that remains. I just recently pruned our fruit trees to get ready for another season of fruit bearing. While I was pruning the prune tree I noticed that the way I pruned some of the branches last year caused the fruit to get caught when it fell off the branch. In some places, it remained on the branch. But, the fruit itself was all dried up. The fruit was still attached, but it wasn’t abiding. It dried up on the vine. Why? Because the sap had stopped flowing. The fruit no longer had a source so it dried up.
God’s love doesn’t do that. God’s love never dries up. God’s love never ends, never fails, never quits, never gives up. It keeps on keeping on. How do I know? Look at Jesus.
We just looked at this verse when we were talking about how love goes from principle to personhood, but there is a word in here we need to pay attention to.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The greek word for ‘endured’ is hupomeno. Hupo is a preposition that means by, under. So then, it’s another form of the word meno and in case you don’t remember, that’s the greek word for abide. The word endurance or perseverance is Hupomone which is a variation of the word hupomeno. In other words, it all comes from the same word, to abide, remain, dwell, reside, live.
These three words are used a total of 150 times in the New Testament making it one of the biggest themes of the New Covenant life of Christ.
You might be wondering if this word shows up in the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13. And it does. 1 Cor 13:13 “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Love, it remains, it dwells. Love forever keeps on abiding. Love never stops abiding. Love always abides.
We’re not very gritty people anymore. When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, we tend to throw in the towel. When the going gets tough, we quit going. We might be gritty about some things, but in our relationships with one another is one area we have lost a lot of grit.
There is nothing about love in the New Testament that makes it conditional. That’s because love isn’t conditional. Agape love is actually defined as love without conditions. The love we know is contractual. We love as long as the conditions upon which this love was established continue. But that’s not love, that’s an agreement. Love isn’t an agreement, it’s a sacrifice.
Love keeps on forever abiding. Because love is a personal sacrifice, something we give away, the moment we stop giving it, we stop being love. We stop the flow of God’s love. The fruit on our vine starts to dry up. Fruit doesn’t remain if the sap stops flowing, and when we choose to stop loving someone sacrificially, we are making the choice to cut off the flow of God’s love because God’s love never stops. It can’t. If it could stop that would mean there would be a point where we were beyond the reach of God’s love. If it could stop, that would mean that there is a way for us to out-sin the cross which would mean that sin is more powerful than love. But it isn’t. Sin can never overpower love. God’s love never stops.
At the same time, God never forces his love on us. God is not an abusive God, forcing himself on us in ways that we do not want. We can never stop God’s love, but we can refuse to let God’s love to flow through our lives.
John 15:1-2 – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
We are grafted into the vine for one specific purpose – to bear fruit. God only wants branches that are fruitful. He cuts out the ones that are sucking up the sap of his love for their own purposes. And even in the life of those who are fruitful, God cuts off things that keep us from bearing fruit that will last. Because God wants us to bear His fruit. Fruit that remains is the fruit of abiding. You can’t have one without the others.
We must get gritty when it comes to loving one another. Jesus had to endure, abide under or through the cross. The cross was not a delightful experience for anyone. It was intentionally torturous. But this is love, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He loved us even though it came at great personal cost. Even though he desperately wanted to quit, he didn’t He kept on loving.
When things go wrong as they sometimes will, When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill, When the funds are low and the debts are high And you want to smile, but you have to sigh, When care is pressing you down a bit, Rest if you must, but don’t you quit. Life is strange with its twists and turns As every one of us sometimes learns And many a failure comes about When he might have won had he stuck it out; Don’t give up though the pace seems slow— You may succeed with another blow. Success is failure turned inside out— The silver tint of the clouds of doubt, And you never can tell just how close you are, It may be near when it seems so far; So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit— It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.