In many species of birds a mother bird lays one egg per day and they hatch in that order. The mother, and sometimes the father, feed the newborns with digested food. With wood ducks, however, the eggs all hatch on the same day. Since eating their way through the shell is such hard work, they become exhausted and rest in their nest high in a tree until the next morning. Then one by one, they make their way out of the nest, falling – since they’re still unable to fly – into the water below. There they feed themselves wherever the mother shows them while she carefully watches for any danger. God puts this instinct into them as they form in the eggs. I wouldn’t characterize abiding in Christ exactly like this, but in some ways it might be similar.
As the wood ducks hear their mother’s voice calling to them from the water below, they follow her, even though it means exiting the safety of the nest and free-falling into a totally new environment. Our spirit, the invisible inner part of us that communicates with God, keeps itself open to the Holy Spirit who lives within us and guides us continually, if we are listening. Even when we feel like if we follow Him, we’d be leaving the safety of our comfort zone and free-falling into a new unfamiliar situation, we do when we abide in Christ.
Abiding means that we trust our leading enough to follow it after we pray, seeking confirmation that we are hearing God’s voice. We want to follow only God, not ourselves or the enemy of our soul. If it’s really a free-fall, we can ask for affirmation through the Word of God or others. Our loving Father doesn’t mind that; He expects us to test and be sure we follow Him (1 John 4:1).
The baby ducks well know their mother’s voice calling them from the water because she vocalized to them continually while they were inside the egg. In the same way, abiding Christians know their Lord’s voice because they have heard Him often previously (John 10:4). Sometimes we don’t need any confirmation; that word gets planted so deeply within our hearts that it is the validation. In that case, we can move forward without hesitation. In cases where God might ask us to change careers, move our family or make other major life-changes, we probably need to get other confirmation; if we’re married, this is a must. When God is leading, He will provide the agreement.
Abiding means enduring, continuing for a long time, not changing, ongoing. It’s like our home where we’ve lived for a long time, not a place we’ve visited for a couple of weeks. Because of that, our personality displays the fruit of the Spirit, found in Galatians 5:22-23a. The reason our attitudes and actions reflect Christ is because we spend time with Him. Our spirits are at home in His presence.
While most of us enjoy visiting friends and interesting new places, we’re always most comfortable at home. That’s where we belong, our true dwelling where we can kick off our shoes and be ourselves. When we abide in Christ, we become the real people He created us to be. Our personalities expand and forgo all the former self-limiting inhibitions that life threw on us. We’re free to do what God leads us. We’re no longer so self-centered but much more God-centered. This gives us a freedom of spirit that we don’t realize is possible otherwise.
Abiding with Christ brings us to a place of shalom – peace with God, peace within ourselves and peace with others. We’re no longer wondering what God wants and if we’re pleasing Him because the Holy Spirit nudges us when we’re not so we can quickly change course. We’re not wrestling within ourselves over decisions, or what we might have done differently. We know God forgave our mistakes, and we’re content and have peace of mind. As much as it’s possible with us, we’re peaceful with others, agreeing to disagree when necessary (Romans 12:18).
Christ commanded His disciples, which we also are: “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” (John 15:4-5 NIV). In verse 9, He goes on to say, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.”