Summary: Learn the three commitments, when acted on over a lifetime, will turn any life into a rewarding life
Someone made the comment, "Christmas has come and gone." If Christmas were only the preparation, the decoration, the sales and the get-togethers, I could understand. But if Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ into this world and into your life, then Christmas can never really leave you. What ended was the cultural celebration of Christmas.
And for some people after the celebration of Christmas is the resolution to lose weight. Someone tells of a woman who walked into her bathroom at home. She saw her husband weighing himself on the bathroom scales, sucking in his stomach. So, she said to her husband, "That’s not going to help."
Her husband replied, "Yes, it will. It’s the only way I can see the numbers on the scale."
I’m aware that some people don’t make any New Year’s resolution, while others make too many New Year’s resolutions. I’ve had years where I’ve made no resolution and years where I’ve made a few. Whether we make resolutions or not, most people share a common desire, and that is to live a rewarding and fulfilling life.
I don’t know anyone who chooses to live a boring, meaningless or frustrated life. Those who live such lives generally don’t acknowledge or understand how they got that way, and they don’t know how to get out from that kind of a rut.
There are no quick-fix answers that will help every situation, but I do know three commitments, when acted on over a lifetime, will turn any life into a rewarding life. We find these three commitments in a parable told by Jesus to his disciples, recorded in John 15:1-8.
What Jesus calls a "fruitful life," I will call a rewarding life. A rewarding life is more than achieving annual goals, such as making so many sales or reading through the Bible in a year. A rewarding life includes internal success, external success and eternal success. To achieve success in all three realms, one must resolve to live as Jesus taught in John 15:1-8.
First, if we are to live a rewarding life, we need to be connected with Jesus Christ. Verses 1 and 2a
There are three characters in this parable. The Gardener represents God, the Father. The Vine represents Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And the branches represent mankind, in particular, disciples of Jesus Christ.
In this parable, the Gardener cares for the Vine, and the Vine cares for the branches. The Vine cares for the branches by giving nutrient to the branches, so that the branches can bear fruit or live a life full of rewards. So if we want to experience God’s care or rewards, we must be connected to Jesus Christ.
Almost fifteen years ago, my family and I visited China. We had a relative in Canton, who was responsible for distribution of food. When we visited him, we were treated to the best in everyway. In China, whether you think it is fair or not, relationship, or guanxi, is everything. People are not always rewarded based on ability, but based on your connectedness.
2 Corinthians 1:19-20 tells us, "For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you ... was not ’Yes’ and ’No,’ but in him it has always been ’Yes.’ For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ’Yes’ in Christ."
In other words, certain promises or rewards God gives to us purely because of our relationship with Jesus Christ. For instance, God rewards those who trust in Jesus Christ with the forgiveness of sins, peace with God and eternal life. We can’t earn these, but we have them because we placed our trust in Jesus Christ.
Are you connected to Jesus Christ? He is the source of God’s blessing. Jesus is the true Vine. A relationship with Christ provides eternal rewards.
Second, if we are to live a rewarding life, we need to be cultivated by God. Verses 2b and 3
Fruitful living or a rewarding life requires the removal of fruitless and sinful activities and attitudes. God will prune or clean away those things from our lives that do not reward us for the time or energy spent.
God’s pruning process varies in differing circumstances. If a person is teachable, God’s Spirit and God’s Word are sufficient to take away fruitless and sinful activities and attitudes.
When I first became a Christian, God’s Spirit revealed how my listening to heavy metal music was hindering my relationship with Him. So I threw out my heavy metal music collection. Three or four years later, God’s Spirit revealed how my listening to pop and club music produced impure thoughts in my mind, and so I threw out my pop and club music. God’s Spirit pruned away those things that hindered the rewarding development of godly character in my life.