March 13 – Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
what a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
leaning on the everlasting arms. (“Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” by E. A. Hoffman)

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1–5 ESV)

At Triennial 2018 in Edmonton, Alberta, Barry Jones talked about spiritual formation and the spiritual disciplines at two of the general sessions. In his second talk, he told a story about his father. For the last two weeks of his father’s life, Barry became his primary caretaker, sitting beside his bed day and night, sometimes just watching his chest move up and down and wondering when it would stop. The cancer that was killing him had sapped him of all strength. Barry said, “He was so weak and so frail that he couldn’t even get up out of his bed to walk down the hall to go to the bathroom.” This meant that it was up to Barry to help him by lifting him out of bed. His dad would then lean all of his body weight into Barry as he led his father, baby-step-by-baby-step, down the hall, with Barry’s dad singing the refrain from one of his favorite hymns, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”

To Barry, this became an illustration of what a healthy spiritual life looks like. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. We are weak and frail and incapable of supporting ourselves, so we are to lean on His arms and trust Him to guide us, baby-step-by-baby-step, in the direction that will help form us into His image. South African minister Andrew Murray writes in The True Vine, “The essential idea of fruit is that it is the silent, natural, restful produce of our inner life.” It is not within our power to produce fruit; we must simply submit ourselves to Christ and allow Him to do the necessary work within us. Murray goes on to say, “You see to the abiding; He will see to the fruit, for He will give it in you and through you.” Spend the day abiding in Christ: listen for His voice, rest in His presence, and acknowledge your need for Him in every moment of your day.