Beth Moore has loved me like Jesus on the darkest days – and there aren’t enough words to express how much her cruciform love has transformed my heart. She is a gift to the Church, to generations, to the nations – and a gift back to our Lord Jesus. She is a mother to a whole world of us because she’s made herself into a space to hold space for her sisters in Christ to grow, change, unfurl, and find their place in the world. She is a mother to a whole world of us because she’s been willing to suffer… because this is what passion is — burning up bits of your heart for the other. She is a roof who has bent her brave, busted heart into shelter to absorb storm so her sisters can stay in a circle of courageous-safe. There aren’t enough words to thank her for how she’s stretched herself thin, a heart with stretch marks, and she’s become a thin place — where her sisters experience the nearness of God. It’s a grace to welcome Beth Moore to the farm’s front porch today…
“Do you believe it is God’s will for us to be happy?” The question came to me just a few weeks ago on Twitter.
Often Christians on that medium tend to love nothing better than a nasty doctrinal fight but I could tell instinctively no such thing was in play.
This question wasn’t just doctrinal. This was personal. Something was at stake.
The inquirer was a guy, by the way. If you and I were face to face, I’d ask you if you’d assumed it was a girl. I would have if I’d been you.
The truth is, men want to be happy, too, but, male or female, let’s admit, “does God want us to be happy” can be a loaded question.
I winced when I saw it because I knew what the brother wanted me to say and goodness knows I wanted to say it.
Haven’t most of us wanted someone to tell us, “Yes! You better believe He does! And, if you’re not happy, you have the right to go out there and find happy!”
I also winced because I’m sanguine to the bone. You get the feeling along the way that some people enjoy being miserable but nothing about being happy makes me sad.
As a matter of fact, I do think God delights in seeing us happy. But that wasn’t the guy’s question.
“Beth, do you believe it is God’s will for us to be happy?” The way he posed the question, he meant, is it a top-tier divine priority?
I was well into my forties and the full throes of ministry the first time I recall a Christian speaker saying, “Marriage is not meant to make us happy. It’s meant to make us holy.” All I could mutter under my breath with brows drawn nearly to my cheekbones was bummer.
My hope is that I’m writing to all sorts of people today: single, married, divorced, widowed, young, middle aged or old, male or female, because the point I’m here to make applies to all of us.
No Jesus-follower is excluded. But I’ll just ask this on behalf of those who happen to be married: “Can’t it be just a little bit about being happy?”
Few things feel longer than an adult lifetime of unhappily-married no matter how holy you are. Thank goodness, holiness and happiness were never meant to be mutually exclusive terms. I’ve pushed them to the north and south poles, not God.
As it turns out, they overlap substantially more than some of us feared but that was more than the brother on Twitter wanted to know.
I placed my fingers on the keyboard and typed him back, “I believe it is God’s will for us to be fruitful.”
I hated to be bossy but, the truth was, I didn’t just believe it. I knew it to my bones.
I knew it because it’s all over the Bible. I knew it because it waves like a banner in big bold letters out of the very mouth of Jesus in John 15:8. “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (NIV)
In the Word of God, the ultimate purpose of every person, place and thing is the glory of God and this is to His Father’s glory: that His followers are immensely fruitful.
One day we will pass from this life into His presence and truly live happily ever after. Here, however, Christ’s higher priority is for us to live fruitfully ever after.
But here’s what I’ve spilled all this ink to tell you: never underestimate the power of fruitfulness to cause some happiness.
I spent two years studying viticulture trying to grasp some of the broader implications and deeper insights from Christ’s teaching in John 15 on the Vinedresser (God the Father), the Vine (Jesus), the branches (Jesus’ followers) and the grapes (fruit of our lives for the glory of God).
I found it so fascinating, the only reason I ever put a final period on the book Chasing Vines was that I ran out of time.
The wonder of the concept was never exhausted. None of it was wasted on me but one part of it bears particular significance in what I want to say to you.
The mural behind Christ’s Vine-and-Branch imagery would not be complete without a depiction of the annual Feast of Harvest.
God didn’t just permit His people to gleefully celebrate the ingathering of fruit each year. He commanded it.
“You shall keep the Feast…when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing floor and your winepress…you shall rejoice in your feast…so that you will be altogether joyful.” (Deut.16:13-15 ESV)
Humility doesn’t mean acting like you didn’t notice God invited you to participate in a divine work. And it worked. The ingathering of the harvest was anything but solemn.
Men, women, and children moved rhythmically up and down the rows, baskets in hand, singing, dancing, and rejoicing. They shouted to one another over splendid clusters, celebrating with unbridled conviviality the goodness of God in bringing fruit from the dust of the earth.
Some fruit is enormously expensive. It comes from such pain, we may not experience the palpable happiness of its harvest till we’re in God’s presence where the sufferings of this world won’t be “worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rom.8:18 NIV)
But I want you to know there’s nothing wrong and everything right about celebrating the fruitfulness God produces through you when you can. Life’s hard enough.
When a moment of glee hits you over the goodness of God, TAKE IT. Just don’t take the credit for it.
Fruitfulness is grace wrapped in a grape skin. And don’t wait for the big things.
Dance and sing, clap your hands and shout for joy even for the small things.
Tears will come again soon enough.
When a cluster of fruit comes from this earthly sod strewn with thistles and thorns, hold those grapes up before the Lord, let the juice drip through your fingers and thank Him with all your might “for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.” (Ps.116:7 ESV)
Join bestselling author Beth Moore in her life-changing quest of vine-chasing―and learn how everything changes when you discover the true meaning of a fruitful, God-pleasing, meaning-filled life.
God wants us to flourish. In fact, He delights in our flourishing. Life isn’t always fun, but in Christ it can always be fruitful. In Chasing Vines, Beth shows us from Scripture how all of life’s concerns—the delights and the trials—matter to God. He uses all of it to help us flourish and be fruitful. Looking through the lens of Christ’s transforming teaching in John 15, Beth gives us a panoramic view of biblical teachings on the Vine, vineyards, vine-dressing, and fruitfulness. Along the way you’ll discover why fruitfulness is so important to God—and how He can use anything that happens to us for His glory and our flourishing. Nothing is for nothing.
[ Our humble thanks to Tyndale for their partnership in today’s devotion ]