The voice spoke to me from the depths of my soul. “Robert, if you stick with me, then I’ll stick with you.”
A barrier inside me came crumbling down, releasing a torrent of revelation. There was no discouragement. For the first time in my life I saw God’s glory, his righteousness, and his mercy. The enormity of God’s character overawed me.
Wiping the tears from my face I scrabbled to my feet. There must be a bible here somewhere! Every house had a bible gathering dust on the shelf. A frantic search of the nearby rooms unveiled an old sun-faded picture study bible. I thumbed the tome open and read the first thing I saw.
“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 bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15.1 – 8, NKJV)
My heart thumped and my mind heaved as something inside me clicked into place. The power of what I read raced through me and jolted me to life. Everything became clear. In an instant I understood God’s role, what just happened to me, and my place in the grand scheme of things. Peace and joy surged through me, and thankfulness filled my mouth.
I went to bed with peace radiating through me and when I woke up the next morning everything was different. The grass was greener. The sky was brighter. I knew that I met God the night before. Immediately I stopped smoking and drinking. The need was no longer there. The depression left and I stopped taking the anti-depressants immediately. Above all, my life now had a purpose.
When summer break ended I began attending a local church. I attended every service and was involved in church life and ministry. As the day of my graduation drew near I arranged to meet up with Frank, the Student Ministry leader. Over the last year we had built up a good relationship. I wanted to tell him that the newfound purpose that drove me was taking me down the path of service and ministry, and that after graduation I should look to pursue theological education. We arranged to meet in a coffee shop one sunny afternoon in March.
“That’s my salvation story,” I said. “I think it’s the first time I’ve shared it with you.”
Frank looked away from me. “Mine wasn’t like that.”
Why did he relate my salvation experience with his own? “And ever since then I’ve now got a purpose and a reason for living. I feel called to ministry. I want to live for others the way you do and see them reach their full potential in Christ.”
Frank wiped his peppered mustache and sat back in his chair. A passing waitress had to squeeze behind him. Her cool demeanor revealed a polite annoyance. Frank briefly apologized. “Look, Robert. I don’t think God’s called you.”
What? I must have heard him wrong. He wouldn’t be so blunt as to say that! I looked round the coffee shop for something to focus on in the same way my mind searched for something to say. The waitress took the long way round from the table she’d been serving rather than passing behind Frank’s chair.
“If I was you,” said Frank leaning away from the table. “I would just continue to do what you’re doing. Get a job, live normally, and just get on with things.”
Through furrowed brow I stared into Frank’s eyes. “You don’t think I should go to seminary or continue in any kind of ministry education?”
He shook his head and narrowed his eyes.
“What about the spiritual things I’m experiencing and the way God’s moving in my life? I think God’s telling me I’m called and that I should further educate myself”
“I was like you once. Many people are. They get saved and are full of excitement for God. But over time it’ll go away. The spiritual high you’re experiencing now will go away as you mature and grow up in Christ.” He glanced at his watch. “I need to go.”
My mouth dried and my stomach reeled. Wasn’t he supposed to be encouraging me? Instead he dashed the newfound purpose that shaped my life against the rocks. If I had no purpose, then there was no point being a Christian.
Frank took his brown leather organizer from the table and put it in his laptop bag. With the efficiency with which he organizes his day, he’d just organized the rest of my life for me.
What can we learn from this
One thing we need to realize from the bible passage quoted earlier, is that God the Father is the vinedresser. In a vineyard the vinedresser is responsible for the seed, the planting, the growth, and the fruit. He interacts with every stage of the process.
We need to remember that I was only a Christian for 9 months when I had this conversation. Evidently the vinedresser was nurturing the roots on the inside of me and telling me his plans for my life. However, because they were roots, they were not visible to others. Therefore, when I told Frank of my calling he naturally looked for growth on the outside, but because there was no growth taking place above the surface there was nothing for him to see. He then judged accordingly and gave me his advice.
We were both at fault.
I made the mistake of describing something to my mentor which he could not see. Thereby, I hoped to receive his affirmation. This is a common mistake Christians make. We know we are growing and we wrongly assume others can see the growth. Consequently, we end up telling people things we should keep to ourselves and we are hurt as a result.
Frank, on the other hand, lacked discernment and foresight. He lacked the discernment to recognize God was cultivating things below the surface, and the foresight to realize that God was speaking things to me that needed nurtured instead of shot down. Sadly, this happens a lot. People judge others by the size of the seedling rather than the potential for growth.
We need to take time to see people as God sees them.
Although there is no visible growth in a person’s life it does not mean they are not growing. Nor does it imply that God is not working in one area of their life or another. It may be the case he is still cultivating the root. Remember, he is the vinedresser.
Points to remember
- God oversees Christian growth
- Do not only look for outward growth.
- Be aware that inward growth is also taking place in our lives and others’ lives.
- Always encourage others towards their purpose even though you may not see any growth towards it yet in their lives.
- Be careful who you share your calling with because not everyone is in tune with the vinedresser.
This is the second part of my story. Click here for my salvation testimony to read the first part and learn how I was cured of depression.