What part of “nothing” do we not understand? Jesus says that He is the Vine and we are the branches (John 15:1-5). He also says that because of that, without Him we are nothing. The branch apart from vine is useless; it is dead and does not even make good firewood. Now Christ is at work in His people to accomplish His purposes (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:28,29). He also works through His church as a whole to produce results in the world (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:5-7; 2 Corinthians 3:5,6). Now that does not mean we can simply be passive; we need to be involved in actively doing what is right (1 Timothy 4:7,8; Hebrews 5:11-14; Titus 2:11-14). But the real issue is, what are we trusting in, our own capabilities or God’s power?
I have found this is a very subtle thing. I can start out with the idea I need to trust God and find trust in myself slowly creeping in. There is a serious danger here. I can start to believe that I am really the one responsible and that I am accomplishing things by my own ability. This sets me up for pride and a fall (Proverbs 16:18; 1 Corinthians 10:12; Habakkuk 2:4). Or I can look at the task based on my capabilities and past failures and decide I am not able to do it. This results in my letting fear keep me from doing what God wants me to do (2 Timothy 1:7; Isaiah 41:10; Hebrews 13:6). Rather, we need to trust God, not our own designs (Proverbs 3:5,6; Psalms 127:1,2; 37:3-6). But it is easy to get the idea that if I am just determined and try hard, I will get what I want. Or if I just find the right plan, procedure, or program, it will work for me. Now I am not against planning or diligence, but we need to do these within the context of trusting God (Proverbs 16:9; 19:21; 21:30,31).
How then do we go about learning to abide in Christ? We need to start by putting our faith in Christ for salvation (John 6:56; 15:3; Ephesians 2:8,9). We also need to abide in His Word, reading it and studying it (John 8:31,32; 15:7; Colossians 3:16) We need to abide in prayer (John 15:7; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6,7). As a result of these, we need to develop our trust in God and to face life based on it (Isaiah 40:31; Hebrews 11:6; Romans 4:18-21). And this results in a life of obedience (John 15:10-14; 14:21; 1 John 2:6). But if we try to approach it the other way around, trusting in ourselves, we will surely fail. The basic issue is attitude. Devotion to the Word of God and to prayer can help us to produce that attitude. But it is the attitude of dependence on God that we need to develop.