Life Verse

“Let’s go around the circle, and everyone can share their Life Verse …”

My teenage ears perk up and my blood pressure spikes. Life verse? I’d never given it any thought. I wasn’t even aware that believers were supposed to choose — or were they given? — a Life Verse. I knew the Bible was full of verses that inspired, challenged, confronted, and comforted people. But no one told me I needed to pick a Life Verse.

So, feeling a little like I’d somehow missed an important spiritual memo, I waited with bated breath as others shared their Life Verses. (All the while feverishly hoping that one would pop into mind before it was my turn.)

An inspiring collection of Life Verses were shared around our circle. I found myself repeatedly thinking: “Dang – I wish I could use that one. Or maybe this one. Is it kosher if more than one person picks the same life verse?” Some examples:

“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).”

“I can do all things through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).” 

“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).”

“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).”

My turn loomed ever closer, and I was getting a little desperate. All that came to mind was a verse from John’s gospel that – compared to my friends choices – seemed tame, a trifle anemic, and generally less “spiritually awesome.”

Suddenly, all eyes were on me 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).”

The rest of the group nodded in solemn solidarity and moved on to the next person. I heaved a sigh of relief and relaxed; I’d successfully passed the Life Verse Test.

In the years since, I’ve often returned to John 15:5 and marveled at what an appropriate choice it was. (Although I’d also suggest that it’s not a brilliant idea to isolate a single Bible verse as your life-guiding mantra.)

Jesus is the Vine — the Source – and we, as branches, are the recipients. We’re completely dependent on Him. We can (and should) be wise about how we do life and ministry — planning, evaluating, learning, risk-taking — but everything needs to be firmly connected to, and flowing from, the Source.

Jesus wants us to be fruitful. We get to partner with Him. I love the wording in the Nueva Versión Internacional: 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 Spanish phrase: dara mucho fruto.

The latter half of John 15:5 sounds like a warning — “apart from me you can do nothing” — but I’ve always found it strangely encouraging, perhaps because the positive outcome of doing the opposite seems pretty clear-cut.

In hindsight, my hasty choice of a “life verse” – even if picked under Christian peer pressure – may have been inspired by the serendipitous Spirit. You never know; it sounds like something He’d do.

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