The Hope Within
Stop looking outside of yourself for the strength to carry on. Turn to the indwelling presence of Christ
By Charles F. Stanley
For many years, my Christian life resembled a roller coaster—up one minute and down the next. Instead of making progress, I went through life experiencing more failure than success. I was locked into a relationship with Christ that I didn’t even enjoy. Each struggle to follow Him made me feel as if I never quite measured up to His expectations. But all that changed when I began to comprehend one simple truth: Christ lives in me.
Many believers think the Christian life is something they merely do—like going to church, reading the Bible, praying, and serving. They picture God far away in heaven, hearing their prayers and sending down the strength they need in times of trouble. This may sound good, but it’s not what the Bible teaches. The power we need to live the Christian life isn’t dispensed from “above”—but is released from within the life of every believer through Christ’s indwelling presence.
Just before He was crucified, Jesus Christ gave His disciples an illustration of their relationship with Him. He described Himself as the vine and His followers as the branches who abide in Him (John 15:4). According to the metaphor, they would bear fruit as a result of the Lord’s life flowing in and through them, not by means of human effort. You’ll never see a branch on a grape vine sweating and grunting as it pumps out the fruit. It simply lets the sap flow through it and displays the grapes that the vine produces. And so it is with those who follow Jesus: He is the source of our nourishment and growth. This amazing experience begins at the moment we accept the Lord’s offer of a saving relationship with Him.
Is it really possible?
Perhaps you’re wondering how Jesus can be inside you and in heaven at the same time. The explanation is found in John 14:16-20—before returning to His Father, Jesus explained to His disciples that He was leaving them but would send the Holy Spirit as a Helper who would abide in them forever. Now, we need to be aware that there’s a great mystery in this and our ability to understand as human beings is limited. Yet Scripture is clear that, while Jesus is presently seated at the Father’s right hand, He also dwells within us through the Holy Spirit.
In a way we cannot comprehend, the persons of the Trinity are distinct from one another. But we need to remember that they’re also perfectly one God. This communion shared by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can’t be broken, and if one Person of the Godhead lives within us, we have fellowship with all three. So when the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, Christ also enters in.
The Lord knows that our human frailties and limited strength make us inadequate to live the Christian life. His purpose is to accomplish through us what He knows we cannot do with self-effort or natural abilities. Although Jesus’ disciples walked with Him for three years, they needed more than a side-by-side relationship in order to carry out His will—and so do we. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live Christ’s life as we die to ourselves and learn to truly live.
Jesus lives in us for another purpose as well: to glorify Himself and carry out His kingdom work. Since He is no longer here in physical form, His indwelling presence enables and empowers us to do what He once did on earth—proclaim the gospel, make disciples, teach His Word, and care for people. You may not feel qualified for the job, but that should never be the deciding factor. The Lord promises to make you adequate for whatever He’s called you to do (1 Thess. 5:24). Our union with Him goes both ways. We abide in Christ, and He abides in us. This relationship is His way to qualify you for life in heaven and also His means of preparing you to live a fruitful and obedient life on earth.
How does Jesus’ indwelling presence affect us?
Christ’s union with us is one of the Bible’s most profound truths—that the sovereign, transcendent Creator, who spoke the universe into existence, would condescend to live within the spirit of mortal humans. It’s beyond our comprehension, and the implications are far-reaching.
Transformation: Jesus’ indwelling presence enables each believer to become the person that God intends for him or her to be. Even though you may feel as if you’re far from this goal, as long as you keep learning and applying the truths of Scripture, you will increasingly become more like Jesus. Spiritual transformation and growth are achieved not by trying harder but by submitting to Christ and allowing Him to express Himself through you.
Christ in you is your hope of glory (Col. 1:27). Although we receive glimpses in Scripture of what awaits us in heaven, we’ll be amazed when we step across the threshold and see our Savior face to face. As children of God, we are fellow heirs with Him (Rom. 8:16-17) and will enjoy the honor and rewards He will give us for obedience and faithful service.
Sufficiency: Because Jesus lives in us, we also have the assurance that He will make us sufficient in every circumstance. His riches are available for all areas of our lives, regardless of the need. If you require understanding and guidance, the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ (Col. 2:3). If you’re struggling financially, all the wealth of the world is His (Ps. 24:1). When a task is beyond your ability or a trial seems unbearable, He is your strength (2 Cor. 12:9-10). The Lord knows exactly what you should do and is willing to guide you in every situation.
Intimacy: Perhaps the greatest benefit of our union with Christ is the privilege of living moment by moment in an intimate relationship with Him. Anytime day or night we can enter into a private conversation with Him. Jesus is an ever-present friend who knows us more intimately than any human being ever could. Nothing can separate us from Him, because He has taken up permanent residence within us.
A “Christ in you” lifestyle
It’s not enough just to acknowledge that Jesus is in us. This glorious truth is not meant to be an academic concept. It’s intended to transform the way we live. Instead of trying so hard to improve ourselves and act like Jesus, we simply need to let Him flow through us like a stream. We can never pump out godliness, because nothing good dwells in us apart from Him. Only as we yield our lives to the One who resides within will we experience the fullness of His life in us.
A commitment is required if we want to turn this truth into a lifestyle. We must acknowledge that Jesus Christ is our life and then act upon this confession. We can’t keep it as simply a doctrinal truth; we need to experience it daily. Begin each morning by reminding yourself that Christ is your life. Then throughout the day, whenever you encounter temptation or a difficult situation, reaffirm it: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20, emphasis added).
The reason so many believers feel weak and inadequate in their walk with Christ is because they rely on their feelings instead of the truth of God’s Word. Feelings fluctuate, but faith anchors our soul and reminds us that Christ is our life no matter what challenge we’re facing or how we have failed. The key to fruitful Christianity is living out what you believe. Then Christ’s character and power will surface and become a part of your life.
If you are caught on a roller coaster of self-effort, it’s time to get off and start enjoying your relationship with Christ. You don’t have to try to live up to His expectations; you just have to believe He is your life, submit to His leadership, rely on His strength, and watch His life flow through you.