5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15: 5-8
When I first met Jason Minshew in 2004, I had no idea what he had already been through. He was a positive young adult who enjoyed talking about his family, church family, the Atlanta & Rome Braves, local high school sports, card collecting and SEC football with me.
Later I would discover his long bout with a kidney disease (beginning his senior year of high school) and the sacrifices and trials he faced each week on dialysis, while he continued to work and do his best to serve in his church. I saw firsthand what this disease was doing through countless experiences with him at church, with the young adult Sunday School class, in and out of the hospital and through the many hours we would spend texting back and forth through some of his dark nights of the soul. There was the occasional question of “Why me?” usually followed by “I don’t mind what I am having to face as long as God will show me the purpose behind it.”
Of course I was always honest with Jason. There are no easy answers to the why question. None of us know on this side of eternity why we face what we face. Only God knows. I, however, had an answer for how God was using him through it all. Jason chose to be a person of faith despite his trials. He chose to keep serving God and trying to do what he could in life despite his circumstances. There have been countless times through the last eight and half years of his life where Jason was a testimony and witness to me and to those who knew him. When we look at what he had to face, and the way in which he faced it as a person of faith, we simply were inspired by his life and witness.
I was inspired to love my family more, live more and share God’s love more with humanity. I was inspired that when things were tough for others I counseled with, that there are others like Jason facing much more difficult circumstances who continued to serve faithfully, and so should we. Jason’s faith inspired me to write a sermon in which I shared the following about the Christian life:
In the Gospel of John, Christ does not say that we are to think about him or to believe in him. Rather we are to abide in him, remain in him. We are to follow: to live in the world and do what he did. Christianity to Jesus is being a follower, a student, a disciple. Christianity is not a set of beliefs. It is a matter of following. Faith in Jesus is not just belief in Jesus; it is following Jesus even when life is tough. The faith is in the following.
More than anything else as Sunday School teachers we are to model faith as we abide and remain in Christ. Often it has been said that sailors are tested for how well they sail not in calm waters but during storms. The same is true in the Christian life. Our students need to see Christ through us especially in the storms. Then they will see you are Christ’s disciples!