Grape Vine

Day Twelve – Abiding in God’s Design

About ten years into my Christian walk, I found myself exhausted and discouraged. I was married to a great Christian woman, and we had two awesome young children. Debi and I owned our own home, and I had a well-paying job. I was also serving in a significant leadership role in my church. My younger self was living the American Christian dream, but I was miserable nonetheless.

Experiencing internal peace has never come easily for me. I grew up in an unstable home, and had few recognized abilities on which to build a sense of self-confidence. I was shy, awkward, not very good looking, and about as coordinated as a now-extinct dodo bird. Add a Hispanic name—in an all-white small town—and living in a low-income neighborhood, and there was little in which to pride myself.

Looking for Answers

Some of my mindsets had changed soon after I became a Christian, but many did not. I was taking all the “right” outward actions, while at the same time floundering internally. Doubt and worry seemed to continually fill my mind. Peace was elusive. Joy fleeting.

I looked for answers but could find none. That was before the days of online searches, and none of the Christian leaders I looked to seemed to have what I needed. Most of the “solutions” to my problems were suitable for strong people who just needed a little help to right a “tilting ship.” But my ship was sinking, and I was powerless to plug the holes.

I began to cry out to God for answers. And somewhat to my surprise, He began to provide them. Those answers, however, were not what I expected. The Lord started to show me areas of my life that were out of alignment with His design.

You see, we can be genuine Christians who believe in Jesus and are secure in our salvation, but who do not fully experience God’s peace because areas of our lives conflict with the way He has designed us to live.

Abiding in God’s Design

Christianity involves far more than repeating a prayer so that we can one day go to heaven. It is a lifestyle of abiding in Christ, of living out of His presence. As we walk with God, He teaches us how to align with His good design.

An aligned life is an abiding life, and an abiding life is a life of peace. Peace begins with God, and abiding in Christ means allowing the Prince of Peace to restore the broken places of our lives and make us whole in every way.

Abiding is a relational concept. Jesus spoke of it in the sense of a branch staying connected to a vine:

“Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” John 15:4-5 (HCSB)

The Christian life is not about simply doing things for God. Rather it is the outflow of an abiding relationship that becomes our normal reality as we align with Him. As we stay “connected” to the Lord, He begins to change us from the inside out. I am not saying that our external actions are unimportant, but that internal transformation is the key to real and lasting change.

Lasting Transformation

All too often, well-intentioned people get it wrong. That is why understanding God’s ways is so vital; we do not align naturally. During that early season of my Christian experience, I would quantify my measure of “true spirituality” by how many committees I served on, how much money I gave, and how many people I shared the gospel with. And that was why peace and rest were so elusive. I had everything backwards. Only as I began to focus on my internal connection with the Lord did peace become more and more integral to my life.

Transformational theology must have practical and personal applications. We are not just talking about principles and concepts but about the truth of God becoming “incarnate” in each of our lives. It is not that truth is different for each person, as our culture might claim, but that it is “fleshed out” in each unique life.

We might know profound moments of rest through supernatural experiences, but long-term peace is the result of an ongoing process of learning, aligning, and abiding. When God’s people learn to abide in His good design, blessings of all sorts—peace and rest included—begin to flow.

Image by Holger Schué from Pixabay

*Bob Santos has authored several books, and this post is drawn from an upcoming work titled The Search for Rest.