One thing at a time

Winston Churchill said, “Only one link of the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.” A less remarkable person reportedly said, “If you try to catch two rabbits, you’ll catch none.”

The help-wanted ads clamor for a person who has “multi-tasking skills.” Do those exist? It seems as though a person may do more than one thing at a time but may make a mistake because attention is diverted.

Israel had only one purpose: it was to serve the Lord God. Nothing else mattered. God led Israel through the wilderness and promised to defeat its enemies. All it had to do was serve him. The people became distracted trying to do unnecessary things.

Ezekiel, by the inspiration of God, tried to teach Israel it only had one thing on which to concentrate its efforts. In Ezekiel 15, the prophet used the figure of a grapevine. He asked what could be made from the wood of that vine. The answer was obvious. Nothing can be made from it because it is unsuitable. It has no straight surface and it is not large enough for anything except for maybe a tent peg.  It had only one purpose and that was to grow grapes.

The vine returned to prominence in John chapter 15 in a figure Jesus used in almost the same way. We must abide, or remain, in him (John 15:4). The little word “in” is important here because it means we are to remain within the sphere of Christ’s influence. As long as we live within the commandments and influence of Jesus’ teachings, we will remain faithful workers in his kingdom. This is the only focus we should have.

There is a second reason why Jesus used the vine as an example. If one severs a branch from the vine, the branch dies. Grape vines are mostly wood. It has been estimated that almost 70 percent of an unpruned grapevine is useless wood. So, in late winter or early spring, each vine must be pruned. The pruned wood is discarded.

If we do not remain within the sphere of influence of Jesus and therefore bear fruit as his disciples, we risk becoming discarded. Jesus, in John 15:14 repeats what he told them in John 14:15, “You are my friends if you do what I command you,” (John 15:14 NET). We cannot call ourselves faithful Christians and useful in the kingdom if we do not obey the commands of Jesus. If we don’t, we face being discarded from the vine.

Israel failed to remain faithful to God because it allowed itself to lose its focus on what was important. Will we suffer the same fate? We will if we don’t remember to concentrate on obeying Christ by keeping his commands.

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