If . . .

John 15:7 “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

One of the largest words in all the Bible is one of the smallest words: “if.”  It’s a word that shows up 1595 times in the holy Scriptures. Because it’s such a little word, perhaps it is often an overlooked word.  The verse above is a case in point.  Over the years I’ve observed people using John 15:7 and others that are similar in their language as a kind of a blank check related to prayer.  They apparently believe that a “good Christian” can go to God and ask for anything that comes to mind, every perceived “need” and God is obligated to give it to them.  Didn’t he tell us to “pray about everything (Philippians 4:6)” and “ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” So, if you “need” a new car, or “need” money, or “need” whatever . . . and we ask God, He is obligated to give it to us.  However, we should notice the “if” in John 15:7. “IF you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish . . .”  The condition is “abiding” in Christ. 

In context, John 15 is all about the connection of believers (the branches) to the life-giving vine (Christ), and how the gardener ((God the Father) tends the vine, pruning the branches, so that they might become more and more fruitful.  That “fruit” is the spiritual fruit that is evidence of the life of Christ flowing into our lives.  God greatly desires that the life of the Christian reflect the life of Christ.  He wants the love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control of Christ to be demonstrated in our lives as believers (Galatians 5:22-23).  It is in the day-by-day abiding in a close relationship with Christ through spending time in his Word, time in prayer, obedience to him, and perseverance in the midst of trials, that this fruit is produced.  And “if” these things are true of a Christian, then the desires of Christ will likewise become evident in their lives.  “If” we abide in Christ, the “whatever we wish” will be what Christ wishes for us and what the Father wants to produce in us.

Back to Philippians 4:6, where we are to “pray about everything.”  In its context, this command is part of the following statement: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The issue here is “anxiety” which is definitely not a God-honoring “fruit” in any believer’s life.  If we have anxiety, we are commanded to resist it by praying.  And what will be provided?  Escape from the situation that is producing anxiety, e.g., more money in a time of financial need, or perhaps instant healing from cancer, or world peace?  Not necessarily.  What is promised is “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.” It’s the peace that characterized Jesus’ life in the face of trial, no matter what that trial was, including his impending torture and death on the cross.  This peace is a God-honoring fruit that God wants to produce in each believer’s life. 

So, is that what you and I want above all else?  “If” we do, and “if” we seek and pray for this with all our heart, God has promised to give it to us.  More specifically, this God-honoring fruitfulness will be “done FOR us” for no matter what it is, the power to produce such sweetness in life, no matter how ugly the circumstances of life, comes not from ourselves, “it is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8),” and we know that our “Father in heaven (will) give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11).”

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