Thursday, June 22, 2017

Life Verse

“Let’s go around the circle, and each one can share what their ‘life verse’ is…”

Honestly, up until that very moment, I hadn’t given it much thought. I wasn’t even aware that people chose — or were they given? — a “life verse”.
I knew that the Bible was full of verses that inspired, challenged, confronted, and comforted people. And depending on the situational circumstances of any given day, some verses might seem more meaningful than at other times.

So, feeling a little like I had somehow missed an important part of my spiritual journey, I waited with bated breath as others began to share their ‘life verse’. (All the while feverishly hoping that a verse would pop into my mind before it was my turn.)

There were some pretty inspiring choices around our circle.
(More than once, I thought: “Dang; I wish I could use that one. Is it okay for more than one person to have the same life verse?”)
Some examples:
  • “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
  • “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
  • “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
  • “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
My turn was coming, and I was getting a little desperate by that point. All that kept coming to mind was a verse from John’s Gospel that seemed very tame, possibly anemic, and less “triumphant” (in my limited understanding at the time).

And suddenly it was my turn, and I heard myself blurting out:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
And the group nodded in solemn solidarity, and then moved on to the next person. I could now relax — I had successfully passed the Life Verse Test.

In the years since, I have often returned to John 15:5 and marveled at what an appropriate choice it was (although I still think it’s not really advisable to isolate a single verse as a guide for the entirety of anyone’s life as a Christ-follower.)
  1. Jesus is the Vine — the Source, and we, as branches, are the recipients. We are completely dependent on Him. We can (and should) be wise about how we do ministry — planning, evaluating, learning, risk-taking — but we need to do all things firmly connected, and flowing from, the Source.
  2. Jesus wants us to be fruitful — I love the wording in the Nueva Versión Internacional (Spanish) translation: we will “give” much fruit. It’s not about us becoming spiritual giants; it’s about giving fruit to bless others. And it’s a memorable phrase: mucho fruto.
  3. And what should be a warning — “apart from me you can do nothing” — I have always found strangely encouraging, perhaps because the positive outcome of doing the opposite seems pretty clear-cut.
In hindsight, my hasty choice of a ‘life verse’ has turned out to be much more significant than I realized at the time.

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