I was reading my devotional a few weeks ago, around the first of the year, and the words, “refresh” and “renew” kept coming up. And now, a few times this week, I have heard or had repeated the words “remain” or “abide”.
What do these words mean?
I looked them up in the Webster online dictionary, because I knew what I thought they meant, but I wanted to be sure I really knew their meanings. Here are the definitions:
- Refresh – to update or renew (something, such as an image, the contents of a computer memory, or the displayed version of a Web page) especially by sending a new signal; to restore strength and animation to
- Renew –to make like new; restore to freshness, vigor, or perfection; to restore to existence
- Remain – to stay in the same place or with the same person or group; to stay behind
What struck me as I kept hearing these words, and as I read the definitions, was that none of them are what I thought of as a “genesis” word – they don’t denote creation, or starting something from scratch. They are more like “sustain” words, showing a return to something that has already been created, an update to an existing thing, or in the case of “remain”, never leaving that thing behind in the first place.
I got to thinking, how many times does God save our behinds in some way, give us a blessing, or set us up to succeed, and the rest of the scene goes a little like this?:
Us: “Oh great, God, that’s awesome! You’re amazing, I’m going to stay right here with You because You take such amazing care of me and I’m so grateful. I can’t do it without You!”
God: Abide with Me. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you” (John 14:27)
Us: ”I’m right here God, but did You see that over there?”
God: Remain in Me. “God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
Us: “Ok, I’m just gonna step away, just an arm’s length, because I want to take a closer look, but I’m still here….”(step, step, step)
God: Stay with me. “I will save those who love me and will protect those who acknowledge me as Lord” (Psalm 91:14)
Us: (calling out to God) “I’m still over here, I can see You but I’m just gonna go take a look..
God: Come to me. ” I came that they may have life and have it abundantly .” (John 10:10)
Us: (farther away, we call back) “Hey God, I’m just gonna pop over here real quick and do x, y or z without You….”
Sound familiar at all? It does to me! Our lives can be full to overflowing with the blessings, peace, protection and abundant life that God offers us, yet we get so sidetracked by other things and fall away from Him step by tiny step; before you know it we are straight off of His path and calling out to Him from a distance wondering where He is? We started off in the good place He provided, and where we were supposed to be, and then fell away.
Refresh, Renew, Remain.
The parable of the vine and the branches says “Remain in me and I will remain in you.” The word remain is used 11 times throughout the passage to remind us that we have a choice to stay with God, to abide, to continue with Him — we have to continue to choose moment by moment to either stay with Him or to wander, creep, or run away. We make that choice — He doesn’t put cuffs on us, or put us on a leash to be sure we can’t get more than 3 feet away. He lets us choose to be in His presence and to submit to His power, and then He blesses us for that choice with love, peace and security.
One of the verses that stood out to me while I was thinking on all of this was the verse from Psalms that says “create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” – For the first time, it really clicked for me that we can commit to Christ and He can give us a clean heart, a steadfast spirit, joy and peace, but its never a done deal. If we aren’t getting fed or continuing to purposefully remain near to Him, those things fade away. If we don’t honestly and frequently evaluate where we are in relation to God, we can look up and be far away before we know it. Continual exposure to Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit renews us and refreshes Christ in us day by day.
I know in my life, one moment I’ll be riding a high of being on track with what I am being called to do, pursuing God daily, having long talks with Him and living in peace, and then in the next moment life will get busy, I will get sick, or our schedule changes and all of the sudden I’m wondering why I feel dissatisfied, disjointed, at odds with my family, and completely off kilter! If I catch it quickly and stop to evaluate, I realize that I’ve not been praying and talking to Him like I was – I haven’t been in His word – I haven’t been drawing near to Him and it shows – once I realize how I’ve fallen away, I come back to Him again and He refreshes my soul in a miraculous way!
The most absolutely beautiful thing about all this is that God doesn’t ever see us as lost causes. He is always there to make us new again. His mercies are new every morning — as we realize that we have gone away from Him, all we have to do is pray to Him and step back into His presence, and He refreshes us, renews our spirits and minds and extends fresh mercy to us, His beloved children. I’m so incredibly thankful for that!
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”