Apart from Me You Can Do Nothing
Updated: May 25, 2021
Written by Nathan Clendenin
“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 15:5
I shared back in October as part of Lawrence’s sermon on Confidence. I told a story of how God has provided in our family and in our business, StoryDriven. With a short time to share, I wasn’t able to share the full story. I hope you'll find encouragement for your faith in this fuller story.
Our business cycle at StoryDriven is either drought or monsoon. There’s not much between. Last Spring, we were in a deep drought that had been going since January. I was getting pretty nervous as I watched the company bank account dwindle. We’d already cut back my salary and moved to a cheaper office. But as a business advisor once shared, “You can’t save your way out of financial crisis.” As I prayed, first in desperation, “God, please provide,” I heard God saying, "Abide in me." He asked me not to come to him with any particular request, but to be in his presence. He was using the circumstances of my desperation to draw me closer.
I started journaling my thoughts and prayers. God was showing up! He gave me encouragement each day, but still no checks in the bank. One Saturday, our small group was helping set up an apartment for an Afghan family of nine. We had tapped our networks for donations of furniture, clothing, and volunteers to help move everything. During a break, I sat on their couch and realized that this family had no idea any of this was happening. They moved across the world with all their belongings, with no idea where they would live. They weren't aware that God was orchestrating so many people to come together and provide. If that was true for them, it was probably true for me and StoryDriven. I called my wife Rebecca to share this revelation and to check in how things were going at home.
She told me a story of what happened that same afternoon. Our youngest son, Henry (6), was aware of the financial struggle going on with our family. We had prayed about it as a family for the past few months. As Rebecca was sitting on the couch he approached her with his hands behind his back and a smile on his face. He said, “Here mom, I want you to have this,” and held out a $20 bill. It was the largest bill in his stash of birthday money and other gifts. “It’s for StoryDriven,” he continued. Rebecca, taken aback at his generosity, said she would deposit it that day. As she was at the ATM she prayed, “Lord, please multiply this money, for the sake of the faith of my son.”
Going into the next week, it was time to share the struggles we were experiencing with the rest of our StoryDriven team. I shared that we would be moving to ⅔ time the following week. They took it well, with concern of course. All that week, I continued journaling. I experienced intimacy with God. He also provided person after person to speak a word of wisdom or encouragement. His plan to draw me closer was working! But still no checks.
Finally, on Thursday, a long-time client emailed. They wanted to spend some money left in their budget but weren’t sure how much they had exactly. They asked if I could send an estimate for five videos. That equates to about six months of our StoryDriven expenses. It would carry us until the next monsoon season. Not wanting to get my hopes up, I figured they’d sign on for one or two. That would help us fur sure, but would not get us out of the woods. On Friday afternoon, I got an email asking to convert that estimate for five into an invoice. They wanted all five videos! As is our custom at StoryDriven, we rang the gong (five times) and gave thanks to God for His provision. And of course, we told our boys that God had indeed multiplied the $20 Henry donated.
I hope it’s clear that this story isn’t meant to say that if you trust God He’ll always do what you ask. Instead, I want to echo what Jesus said, “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.”
Without God, we can do nothing. I wish I could say ever since then I’ve been great at abiding. That’s not the case. But I have learned that whatever I may ask of God, the best thing I can get in return is God Himself.