“There is a huge question that has been asked by all of the greatest saints throughout history in their pursuit of God. We saw in our previous chapter that this question was asked three times by Zechariah. It is the common quest of the diligent soul. It is the shared question of all generations, for all time. The question is very simply, ‘How do I abide in Christ?’ The question is simple, but the answer profound. And few there be that find it.
“Many of us feel like we move in and out of God’s throneroom. We have times of great connectedness, and then we suffer periods of disconnectedness. We can’t always analyze exactly why a distance has developed in our hearts toward the Lord, but most of us feel like our relationship with Christ is a roller coaster ride of feeling close, then far, then close, then far, then close again. In and out. And we hate it. We were created for constant intimacy, and anything less drives us crazy on the inside.
“In my opinion, these are some of the most glorious words of Christ in the entire Bible: ‘If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples’ (John 15:7-8). The ‘if’ of the passage almost drives me insane with holy desire. ‘If!’ The great condition to answered prayer is an abiding relationship with Christ and His words. This attainment is not guaranteed. It is available, but rarely experienced in fullness. I know that I do not abide in Christ in this way because the things I desire are not yet done for me. So I seek this dimension of holy living with great spiritual appetite—with what I call ‘holy heartburn.’ I must gain Christ!
“…Hudson Taylor struggled for a closer walk with God. Although he is considered one of the greatest missionary champions of church history, he longed for a more intimate relationship with Christ. ‘I prayed, agonized, fasted, strove, made resolutions, read the word more diligently, sought more time for retirement and meditation—but all was without effect,’ he pined. ‘I knew that if I would abide in Christ all would be well, but I could not.’ Taylor reached a turning point in his life when he received a letter from a colleague. This simple message unlocked the door: ‘Friendship with God comes not from striving after faith but from resting in the faithful one.’ Those simple words were somehow precisely what Hudson Taylor needed to help him cross a threshold in his relationship with Christ. He was able to cease striving and to embrace Christ’s nearness and power and life. I refer to Taylor’s experience, not as though it’s a formula for learning to abide in Christ, but rather to show that the most eminent of saints have wrestled with this very issue.
“How you come to abide in Christ will be different from all others. We all abide differently because we are all unique creations of God. Your relationship with Christ will never be like mine, and mine will never be like yours. That’s why you’ll never learn to abide in Christ by reading the stories of others. You won’t learn to abide by reading the right book or listening to a great sermon. No one can mentor you into an abiding relationship with Christ. A mentor might be able to help to a limited degree, but in the final analysis we all have to find our own way to abiding in Christ. When all is said and done, we must shut the door, get into the secret place with God, and discover what an abiding relationship with Christ will look like for ourselves.
“Usually the pathway to an abiding relationship with Christ is attended with duress. God allows uncomfortable circumstances or emotions in our lives that press us into Christ with vigilant determination. Most of us will never abandon ourselves to pursuing an abiding relationship unless the Lord, in His kindness, allows calamities or struggles in our lives that elevate our pain level to the point of desperation.
“Joseph had no idea why he was in prison. Surely he must have been tempted with the thought, ‘God, what is the use of serving You? When I love You and serve You and keep a guard upon my heart, it does me no good.’ Satan wanted to convince Joseph that serving God didn’t pay. But Joseph chose to push away the tempter’s thoughts, and instead he set his love upon God even in the prison. He held to the dreams God had given him of eventual promotion.
“Joseph realized that apart from divine intervention, he would spend the rest of his life rotting in this Egyptian prison…Reduced to total helplessness, Joseph began to cry out to God with intense desperation. ‘God, talk to me, or my life is over!’ He began to push down roots into the Spirit of God, deeper than ever before. ‘God, why have you allowed this to happen to me?’ God said, ‘Deeper.’ So he put the roots down deeper. ‘Still deeper.’ So in his desperation, Joseph pressed into the depths of the Spirit of God. ‘Deeper, Joseph.’
“Joseph kept sinking his spiritual roots deeper and deeper into the Spirit of God—until one day he found the river! There is a river, dear friend, that makes glad the city of God. This subterranean river runs so deep that most don’t find it. But in some cases God will allow extreme duress to press His servant into the depths of the Spirit with an unprecedented passion. When Joseph found this river, he found a lifesource in God that goes deeper than the seasons of life. Whether it’s flood season or drought season, there is a river available to the saint providing a constant source of divine life and Spirit empowerment. Very few seem to find this great underground river, but when you find it, it is called “abiding in Christ.”
“God was saying to Joseph, ‘Son, I have a great promotion in store for you. But what I’m calling you to will never be managed on the strength of your giftings and talents. And I know that as long as your strengths are intact, you will always default to them. So I’m going to put you in a place where your strengths will be useless. I’m putting you in prison! In the helplessness of losing all control, you will have to find a dimension in Me that supersede your gifts and talents. You see, Joseph, there is a dimension in Me that is not of your might and power, but it is by My Spirit.’ When Joseph found that river, it was his ability to draw upon the life of God that lifted him from the prison. It wasn’t his talents that delivered him from prison, but his life in the Spirit. When Pharaoh called upon Joseph to interpret his dream, Joseph was able to tap into the river and give Pharaoh the wisdom that he desired. And in one day, Joseph went from the prison to the palace!
“It is an abiding relationship with Christ that launches the saint into the God zone. I’m talking about the dimension where God works sovereignly and mightily in the affairs of men. Jesus had an abiding relationship with His Father, and He changed the history of our planet. If God will grant you the grace to find this never-ending source of divine power called ‘abiding in Christ,’ then you will change your generation for God as well!
“Do not be discouraged by the duress and hardship that has suddenly come upon you. Press into God like you never have in all your life! Allow the desperation of your soul to help you pursue God with absolute abandonment. The secret is this: If you will seek Him with all your heart, He will guide you to the ancient river that runs deep in the heart of God. As you chase Him with every ounce of your strength, He will bring you to the fountain of divine life. When the life of God begins to flow into your world of impossibilities, this is the stuff of miracles. The life of God cannot be stopped! If you drink of this river, everything in you and around you will begin to shake and shudder under the groundswell of God’s power released. Everything about your prison is about to change! I pray you might receive this word: Learn to abide in Christ!”—Bob Sorge
“Lord, I don’t have much to pray about. If Hudson Taylor struggled so much before entering into Your abiding rest, then I am in good company. I just pray that even if You pass me through some duress to bring me to the place of abiding, may that abiding take place to bring me fully into Your rest. I want to drink from those deep rivers of God where all the great saints of old drank from. They wrestled but they finally found their life-source in God. You are my life-source, Oh Lord. You dwell in me and yet I still want more of You. That’s the mystery of the restless pilgrim who lives in God, and has God, and yet pants after God. I want to live in the daily abiding that releases freshness and fullness into my frailty and fragility. I want the fresh waters of heaven that seep into the life of the abiding soul. That is what I want. I am not an unbeliever, neither am I a carnal follower. I simply know that there are depths of God yet to be explored and if it will take duress to bring me there, then the duress would have been worth the experience. Blessed be Your name, Oh God. Blessed be Your name; who remembers the cry of Your beloved in prison and orchestrates the walls of prison to prepare him for a sweeter and longer encounter with Jehovah God. That is also what I want. No superficially. No sudden spiritual encounters without roots. I need more of the ‘intangible eternal tangible’ that confronts me and keeps me abiding within the gates of the Most High. Amen.”
Don’t stop pursuing. Even when it seems like the route is getting longer and delays abound—never lose hope in the vision and in the pursuit. Like Joseph, you will arrive at the shores of greatness one day; the greatness of overflowing with God, and manifesting God to your world. Amen.