Prepare Our Hearts – May 8

A Weekday Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church.  Find another day here.

Friday May 8, 2020
1 John 2:24-25

Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

I have recently gotten back into running for exercise. I say, “back into” because, once upon a time ago, at a junior high school far far away from here, I was on the Cross Country and Track teams. Because Cross Country was a fall sport, it wasn’t until the spring Track season that I realized that not all runners practice the same. At Track practice, while the distance runners would be monotonously running for the entirety of the grueling 2 hour practice, the sprinters would go off to work on getting in and out of their starts for a few minutes, maybe take a couple of laps, and then spend the rest of their time lounging around on the high jump mats or hanging out behind the bleachers. Driven by extreme laziness and jealousy, following that first year of track, I was determined to do whatever I could to ensure that I didn’t have to run anything longer than a mile ever again.

My main problem in attempting to join the sprinters the next year was just that I am not very fast over short distances. Because the 400 yard dash was the longest race you could run and still be a sprinter, that was my specialty. Although I never got close to winning any races, I at least didn’t embarrass myself. My plan was working flawlessly until the meet our team needed an extra runner for the two-mile race. Although the last time I had even trained for distance was 12 months prior, I was surprised at how easily running more than one time around the track came back to me, and at the end of the first mile, I was actually in the lead! The only problem was that it was not a one mile race. On lap 5 out of 8, I began to slow considerably until every single runner had passed. Midway through lap 6, my stomach began to cramp so badly that I limped off the track and got sick behind the bleachers. Now, after a brief two decade hiatus, I have decided that distance running may not be quite as bad as I initially thought.

One of the more memorable word pictures Jesus uses to describe His relationship with His followers is found in John 15:15 where He says, “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.” To abide means to remain or to stay, and it can be used in reference to a place, a time, or a state of being. Abiding is not a passive exercise, but an intentional effort to stay the course. In John’s gospel, Jesus told His followers to abide in Him, but here in verse 24 above they are told to allow “what you heard from the beginning abide in you.” Why the competing instructions? As John explained at the beginning of this letter, the message of good news which propels the believer onto the beginning the journey of faith also contains within it the ability to empower them to finish the race. That message, that Good News, is the Word Himself, Jesus.

In my youth I saw Cross Country practice only as restrictive and demanding, not grasping that the goal of practice was not to punish but to prepare me to run freely and easily on the day of the race. In a similar way, abiding in the Word can at times seem to be nothing more than an onerous chore, but what God wants us to understand is that when we actively remain in the Word, and allow the Word of salvation through Jesus Christ alone to abide in us, the reward is nothing less than our ultimate freedom.

Even in the midst of a global pandemic, where many of us have more time on our hands than ever before, the potential for distraction is limitless. Whether it is binge watching Netflix, being paralyzed by the news, or attempting in vain to satisfy the insatiable demands of an unruly toddler, there are so many competing claims for our affection and attention that it is a constant active struggle to allow the Word to remain in us. Yet, regardless of the demands of the day, whether self-inflicted or otherwise, the lifeblood of the Christian, from the beginning, has always been the Word. No matter how it appears in the moment, spending time in the Word is never a pointless practice. As we hold fast to the Word, we discover that it is really Jesus who is holding fast to us, sustaining us through the obstacle race of endurance that is life. What a marvelous promise! What a wonderful Savior!

Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, how quickly we forget the promise that brought us life. Forgive us for the times we allow ourselves to believe that we know better than You or view Your commands as harsh and demanding. Open our eyes to the Truth that the only way to know true freedom is by daily committing ourselves to know You and Your Word. In Your perfect name we pray, Amen.