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  • Writer's pictureSarah Puebla

Stop Working Hard and Abide!

Jesus did the hard work for us. When we realize that fact, we actually want to start working hard, but from a whole different place.


As a Biblical counselor, there are some moments that you know that you won't quickly forget. Moments when you know the Spirit has given you a divine appointment to speak a different truth than what you had originally planned. There are also so many instances in counseling sessions when the counselee wants a 3 step program in order to stop doing a certain behavior, or to bring about a change in circumstances. They are willing to do the hard work, willing to "put off" the works of the flesh, and willing to “fill in the blank”. But they fail to understand the importance of abiding, and how in abiding, they are changed. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I know we all want our counselees to “do” their homework, but we also want them to see the “why” behind the assignments. 


Why The Righteousness of Christ is Key To Change

Recently, I had been counseling someone in the midst of fears and anxieties, and as we looked at the promises of God, they struggled to believe. She was stuck at the “those who walk uprightly” of Psalm 84:11, and “the righteous” of Psalm 55:22. She asked the question: “How? I know I don’t fit that bill. I know I cannot attain that status.”


This was a profound Gospel opportunity for me to step back, walk them through the beauty of the righteousness of Christ, and explain what that means for believers. Indeed, this is the key to understanding our identity in Christ. Our righteousness before God is not about what we are doing or have done. It really is all about the life that our beautiful Savior lived, a life that we could never live ourselves!


These are the sacred moments where we are able to propel our counselees to see the Gospel in a new and different way. It, surely, is as simple as believing in the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord, but most of them probably have not even thought about the story of our position in Christ, or of how Christ lived the perfect life that was required to appease His Father’s wrath. 2 Corinthians 5:21 reminds us, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."


Abide NOT Strive

So, as I used these opportunities to present this truth, the Holy Spirit pushed us to walk through John 15:1-5. 

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

As we walk through this passage, there could be a temptation to put all the emphasis on bearing fruit. And, encouraging one to bear fruit is important. But this was not the emphasis, or main action word used in this passage. Jesus is telling us that abiding is really the action that needs to take place in our lives. The desire to change needs to be evident, but we are not to expect some sort of behavior change through how hard we are working. Now, I am aware that most of us believe this truth, but, we can tend to live differently, even in our own lives as counselors.


The Work In The Counselor’s Life 

There have been unique and God-ordained conversations in counseling that have been a balm to my own soul. It has made me think through my own life of putting off my sinful habits in how I think and act. Most of us are able to look back on our changed (and continuing to change) lives and see God’s work. Of course, at times we can see the hard battle we fought with our thoughts and actions, but so many of these battles were won over the months, and even years, by pursuing Christ and abiding; not striving.


Abiding means to remain, stay or rest. It has been in those trenches—where I have been forced to rely on Christ's work—where I have seen the most transformation, both in my own life and in the lives of my counselees. God does the work in us as we grow in our intimacy with Christ. We must encourage our counselees to see the importance of abiding by using the disciplines of our Spiritual life: Bible reading, Bible study, prayer, lament, fasting, worship, and leaning into our strong, ever-steady vine. 


The Vine is Perfect

The vine that we abide in is perfect; this is a truth we must rest on. We must remember that there is nothing we do as the branches that enhance the vine. It is in His perfection/righteousness that we are accepted and grafted in. Romans 5:19 speaks these beautiful words: "For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous."


Thank you, Jesus, for the perfect life you lived. Thank you for bringing us into the light of life. Thank you for allowing us to be grafted into you and then working in us as we abide. Help us bear fruit that brings you honor and glory. Help us to abide and then use us!











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