How to Have a Rich, Full, Overflowing LIFE!!
Sowing and Reaping
Thursday Night, May 21, 1992
Do you want to live a Rich, Full, Overflowing, Abundant Life? Is the Life and the Light of Jesus of Nazareth shining through you to the extent that it convicts people who are walking in darkness and warms the hearts of those who are walking in the light? Are you changing people’s lives? Well, guess what? If that’s not who you are today, it’s because of how you lived your life six months ago. And if that’s not who you are six months from now, it’s because of how you lived today. This is the law of sowing and reaping—set in motion by God Himself. If you continually sow bad seed in your life, you will reap destruction. If you sow to the Glory of God—Unlimited Potential and Opportunity await you! : )
There’s No Way Around It
If you think you can somehow overcome the law of sowing and reaping, then you are mocking God. Do you think you’re spiritual enough, nice enough, or knowledgeable enough that the law of sowing and reaping does not apply to you? If you are not really sowing to the person of Jesus and investing in Him passionately, then you will fall. I guarantee it. If you’re just doing things to try to keep your nose clean—you will be devastated. You will eventually be crushed under the weight of your own foolish sin.
You think you’re safe, but you’re not. You think you’re keeping your nose clean now, but you wait. You are prime bait for satan if you’re not sowing vigorously to the Spirit of God and crushing the things that have no value. It’s not just “poison ivy” I’m talking about right now. Poison ivy has a detrimental affect. It’s a bad weed, right? Well, there are all kinds of weeds that choke out the harvest, and not all of them give you goose bumps or make you itch. A lot of weeds look pretty harmless, but they will choke out true life.
If you are not investing passionately in Jesus…if you’re not doing all to the Glory of God but just some things to the Glory of God—then you are disobeying the Scriptures. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” You’re disobeying God right off the bat if you are not doing all to the Glory of God.
Besides the fact that you are disobeying the Scriptures, you will never bear good fruit that way. And what is good fruit? Changed lives. Lives that can look back to you and say, “That person permanently altered my life and made me more like Jesus.” You’re not bearing good fruit if people cannot point to you and say: “That person brought me closer to Jesus. My life is changed. I’ve repented of sin in my life; I’ve gotten rid of imaginations that were unlike Jesus. I’ve found a fullness, a fellowship, a wholeness with the person of Jesus of Nazareth because that person touched my life. That person challenged the things that were unlike Jesus in my life. That person saw through my facade and ripped the mask off and brought me to a wholeness, to a measure that I never would have encountered (to my knowledge) apart from their influence in my life.”
If there are not people who would say that about you, then you are not bearing fruit right now. There is no other kind of fruit than lives that are more like Jesus and closer to Him. And I don’t mean a little nicer or a little more moral. Rather, their personal relationship with Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God, has been changed as a result of your direct influence on them. Not a smile and a back pat with a howdy-doody and a verse for the day. I’m talking about seeing into people’s hearts and lives to bring about change in their marriages, with their children, and in their relationship with God. Unless that is happening, you are not bearing fruit.
So, apply these words to your life as both teaching and warning. First of all, if you are not bearing good fruit now, it’s because you didn’t sow good seed six months ago. You were self-centered. You sowed to your flesh six months ago. You did not passionately pursue Jesus with all your heart (no, not half!), all your soul, all your mind and all your strength six months ago.
Now if you think you stand—beware! You will fall. You will have devastating problems in your life if you are sowing neutral seeds now. You will fall. Satan is far smarter than you are. He’s far more devious than you can imagine. And your holes are far bigger than you think they are. So, the only protection for your future is the law of sowing and reaping. Be not deceived—don’t kid yourself, don’t lie to yourself—God is not mocked. Don’t mock God by thinking you’re bigger than this law. A man reaps what he sows.
There’s No “Neutral” Seed
If you are not bearing fruit now, there is very little you can do today to bear fruit today. But I want you to know that if you continue to sow garbage into your life, you will fall. That includes neutral garbage, the things that you could point to and say, “Well that’s not sin.”
If you sow stuff into your life that doesn’t bring Glory to God, it is sin. Paul said to the Corinthians, “Do all to the Glory of God,” even food and drink; whatever you do. The word “whatever” is there in the koine Greek text. If someone couldn’t somehow find God’s Glory in your motives for doing something, then it is sin for you to do it. Don’t think it’s neutral.
When you sow to the flesh (even to the neutral things in your life that have nothing of God’s Glory in them), you mustn’t think that’s innocent just because you think you’re not doing anything “immoral.” “Well, I’m not hurting anybody.” If you hide behind any of that stuff, then your next six months will be bigger garbage than your last six months. I guarantee you, in the name of Jesus, be not deceived: God is not mocked. That’s how Paul introduces the law of sowing and reaping.
Ready or Not, There’s Going to be a Harvest
What will your six months from now be like? Mark the day. Your future is dependent on the sowing that you are doing now. That will determine your authority over sin, your fullness of fellowship of life in Jesus, and your ability to change lives and walk with the light of God. The seeds you are sowing now determine your ability, like Stephen, to have a face shining like that of an angel, and to see the Son of Man standing at the right hand of the Glory of God—instead of just being a religious puppet. If you are sowing garbage, you’ll reap garbage and God will make sure that you have a far bigger fall than you ever thought was possible in your life. “Be not deceived: God is not mocked.” Please sow GOOD seed, not neutral stuff.
Can you pinpoint the things you are doing and say, “I know this is for the Glory of God. This is not for my glory, this isn’t for my education, this isn’t self-centered, this isn’t for my rest and relaxation or for my entertainment—this is to Glorify God.”?
If you can’t figure out how what you are doing is supposed to glorify God, Don’t Do It! Quit playing with fire. Be not deceived: God is not mocked. You will reap what you sow. When you sow weeds (worldly, self-indulgent, meaningless, trivial things), you fight as one beating the air. You never contact what is right in front of you, but you just try to add a little bit of good to your mediocrity. That’s lukewarmness. Do not deceive yourself. You’re not above God’s laws. There are not enough people around you to protect you from it. God is not so merciful that He’s going to break His own law. God is not mocked; you will reap what you sow.
Sow garbage and you’ll reap garbage. Sow lukewarmness and mediocrity, and that’s what you’ll reap. Sow worldliness, your own entertainment and lack of self-sacrifice—do whatever pleases you, without spending yourself for God’s Glory—and that is exactly the harvest you will reap.
Mark it down, right now, on your calendar. Six months from now, whatever you are doing now to sow to the Glory of God will be hanging all over you on that day. I guarantee it on the Authority of Jesus of Nazareth and on His Word. Be not deceived: God is not mocked. If you’re worthless right now spiritually, you’re not going to be able to change that tomorrow morning. Six months ago made you worthless today.
HOWEVER, there’s no reason in the world why you can’t sow good seed, humble yourself before God and call it what God calls it—TODAY. Be up front with it. Nail it down. Are you worthless spiritually in terms of bearing fruit? I’m not asking you if you’re a nice person and if you manage to control your temper most of the time. That’s not it. Are you changing people’s lives? Is Jesus’ light and love shining through you to the extent that you are a convicting stench to those who want to live in darkness and a ray of hope in the hearts of those who desire to live and move and breathe in the Light?
If that’s not who you are today, it’s because of six months ago. And if that’s not who you are six months from now, it’s because of today. It’s because you have made choices that have sown junk into your life. You decided to be a “good-ol’-boy”; you decided to be self-indulgent; you decided to go on automatic pilot and just cruise along and try to keep your nose clean—but you never passionately pursued God’s Glory. You sowed stuff that no one in the world could ever establish as being to the Glory of God.
“Whatever you do, whether food or drink” means don’t even have a meal unless it has some permanent value. Find a way to get permanent value even out of your food and drink. Bring a cup of water for somebody else. Invite somebody over for dinner. Go do something. The Scriptures say even food and drink must somehow count—Make it count. Do not be isolated in your little glass booth with your smile patched on your face—yet be worthless before God.
Now, what you do about what you are reading right now will be hanging on you six months from now: If you are still even in the race six months from now! You may not be. :( If you choose to sow to your flesh, you may be a statistic six months from now. You may have totally shipwrecked your faith. Paul mentions all kinds of people that he knew who chose to shipwreck their faith. They chose to go into the world. Now, I don’t care who you are or who you think you are, you are not above the law of sowing and reaping. I’m not above it and you’re not either. My six months from now is determined by what I do tonight, tomorrow and the next day. And who I am right now is based, not on my commitment tonight (my grunting and groaning and striving), but on the sowing that I did six months ago.
When Satan Drops the Bait—Crush IT
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction” (Gal. 6:7-8). If there is something in your ego or flesh that you stroke, if there is something you desire—beware. It may seem like such a small thing now (so “harmless”) but baby dragons grow up into fire breathers!
Let me give an example of something that I had to deal with in my own life and heart. Whenever I would give a presentation at Rand McNally, standing in front of the board of directors or a bunch of hot shots, I would come in so ready, so prepared. I would use imagination and creativity to find a way to add some pizzazz, some power, some authority that had everyone’s mouth hanging open. I wanted them to think, “Wow, this guy must be some kind of genius or something.”
I lived for that. I wanted that. I wanted to impress. So I would crank out some report and graphically orient it, doing things that people hadn’t done before. I would massage the data and come up with all sorts of things that could impress others.
Now, it wasn’t wrong to do a good job and “to work heartily as unto the Lord.” But, here’s where the rub came in: I would sit around half an hour after I could have been out of the office and doing something more productive, and I would look at those reports, those presentations, or that equipment I had designed. I would sit around and look at it! I did that under the pretense of “maybe I could do this a little better next time.” But it was nothing but pretense. The fact was it was ego and pride and self-centeredness. I was stroking my flesh.
Those are the kinds of seeds that will reap destruction. Think about it. How will it reap destruction? What happens when someone else comes along and designs or presents something better? Jealousy springs up because I had something invested in it. Or anger springs up. Or maybe I’ll gossip about that person later on. Maybe I’ll take credit for something they did or get angry when they take credit for something I did. Maybe I’ll boast and look for people to tell about all the good things I did. Can you see the progression toward destruction? If we stroke the ego, somehow pad the flesh and allow those things to move into our lives and hearts, we do reap destruction. Sin comes forth.
James said that satan drops the bait, and our sinful nature grabs after the bait if it hasn’t been sufficiently suffocated. Can you see the progression? If you don’t suffocate it and destroy it, but just allow it to hang there, it will destroy you. You’ll just stroke it a little, then push it aside a little so nobody can see it. Then you’ll go a little bit further next time, then stroke it and hide it back in the shadows again. Instead of crushing it, you fool with it and have a coexistence with it… “Well it’s not so bad.” And later on that thing will become a gaping hole that satan will drive a Mack truck through, and you will be shipwrecked!
You will be shipwrecked because of that one little thing that you didn’t crush and suffocate! It will rise up to DESTROY you later on. If it hasn’t happened already, it will, if you allow those things to take place in your life. “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction.” If you pad yourself and allow yourself to just hang on, you’re living to please yourself. If it’s not for the Glory of God, it’s for you.
“Well it’s not so bad. It’s not sin. It’s not immoral.” If you do it for you rather than for the Glory of God, it will rip you off later on. Be not deceived: God is not mocked. A man or woman reaps what is sown.
God Said “DESTRUCTION”
This is really serious stuff. This is important! God doesn’t introduce something with that kind of power (“God is not mocked: Be not deceived”) if He doesn’t mean business with it. He’s saying: “Would you please listen to Me? This is an irrevocable law. Listen up or you will die. If you sow even little seeds to please your sinful nature rather than sowing to the glory of God, you will reap destruction.”
“Well, I think I’ll reap not being quite as spiritual as I might have been.” That’s not what God said. He said you will reap destruction. “Well, I just won’t get as big a crown or as close a place to Jesus.” That’s not what He said. He said you will reap destruction. Do you believe Him? Don’t deceive yourself. Don’t think that it’s going to be okay, that you can get by. You won’t get by. And if you harden your heart to what you are reading right now, you’re in big trouble.
Do you sow to please the Spirit? In other words, why did you do what you just did? Why did you just turn down that invitation? Why did you just go take a nap? Why did you just decide to come here by yourself or to go there for this purpose or that? Why did you just decide to open the newspaper? Why did you decide to read this book instead of that one? Why did you decide to do what you did—was it to please the Spirit? If so, you will reap eternal life (and that’s not just going to heaven, but having life that’s truly life, life to the full, abundant life).
If you can honestly say, “The reason I did that was to please the Spirit,” you’re in good shape. If you can’t say that, you are in big trouble. What was the reason you made this decision, placed that phone call, did this action, accepted this invitation, didn’t accept that other invitation, initiated, didn’t initiate? If you can honestly say that because you wanted to please the Spirit you did this thing, you will reap a wonderfully awesome life as you keep sowing that kind of seed. But if you choose to sow to please yourself instead—you reap destruction. Not less maturity or fruitfulness. That will happen, too, but “destruction” is the word that God used. If you don’t believe me, you’re deceived. God said that. I’m not making this up. I’m just reporting it.
So, What Are You Doing About It?
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9). This implies, of course, that you may have a tough time with it. It’s going to take a little while. It’s not going to be much fun. Otherwise, why would you be tempted to give up? Right? It’s going to be a little bit tough. But, if you don’t give up, you will reap a harvest in due season, at the proper time: if you don’t faint, if you don’t quit, if you don’t give up.
We all know it’s true. But if you get lazy and say, “What’s the big deal? Nothing bad has happened to me yet, so I don’t think I believe all of that. I don’t think it makes that much difference. I mean, I’m going along okay. I’m happy. My life is fine. I’m at peace…” BEWARE! At the proper time, you will reap a harvest. Whether a good harvest or a bad harvest, be assured that you will reap a harvest—absolutely guaranteed.
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. 6:10). Do not become weary in well doing, in doing good. In other words, there’s action required. You can’t think, or wish, or imagine your way into this. This has to do with doing things. Not to earn your salvation, but it certainly has a lot to do with what’s in your heart. If out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks, then also out of the overflow of the heart the actions come. James said you don’t have any faith if there’s nothing to support it. If I can’t find what you’re doing to the Glory of God, if I can’t identify how you are living that pleases the Spirit of God, then you’re probably not.
James said that faith without works is dead. He wasn’t saying you earn your salvation by works. He was saying that if you are really living in faith, if you really see God and know Him, then there is absolutely no question that the outworkings of that faith will be evident to all. Even the pagans will see it, Peter wrote. They will give God glory when He returns because of your quality life, not just because you were a “nice” person. There are plenty of nice people around.
Jesus was not a “nice” person. He was nice, wasn’t He? Yes, but not to everybody. Not everyone thought Jesus was nice. If everybody thinks you’re a nice person, curses on you. Curses on you! Jesus said that (Lk. 6:26). “Curses on you if all men speak well of you.” If you’re so nice that everybody thinks you are such a nice person, then you’re really not a nice person. You’re deceived. Curses on you, Jesus said. Jesus said that no man is above his master, so if they hated and persecuted Him, they will do the same to you. If that’s not happening, then you are not very much like Jesus.
Now, the point is not to be obnoxious, or rude, or “bold.” The point is simply to be like Jesus in every attitude of your heart, every action, and every word that proceeds from your mouth. If you do that, not everyone is going to think you’re a nice person. So I’m not talking about being a nice person when I say, “Be like Jesus.” You’ll be the stench of death to people who love darkness, and you’ll be the aroma of life to the humble and contrite in heart. If you’re not the stench of death to people who love shadows (darkness), then you’re self-deceived and you’re weak in your faith at best. If you’re the aroma of life to those who seek God with all their hearts…if you have words that God speaks to you at night while you sleep and you speak them to sustain the weary…if you can see and provide an aroma of life for those around you, then you’re on the right track. Okay?
Break Up Your Fallow Ground
“Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed (fallow) ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and showers righteousness on you” (Hos. 10:12). Break up your fallow ground. That was the part God asked us to play. Break up the hard heart. Break up the big clods of dirt, so that the seed can take root. Break up the fallow ground and, as a result, He will come and shower righteousness on you. But He went on to say to those people: “But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors…”
Notice what has happened here. God said that because you think you’re good looking, strong, intelligent, popular, and can do things—you have eaten the fruit of deception. According to the Scriptures, whatever those particulars happen to be in your instance (whatever it is that you’re depending on rather than Jesus of Nazareth) that puts you in the place of being wicked and sowing bad seed for your future. Now the opposite of depending on yourself, of course, is to be totally broken and contrite in heart before God, with humility and dependence on Him.
Guess what is going to happen if you’re dependent on God? You’re going to be on your face before Him praying and worshipping all the time. If you’re not doing that, then you couldn’t possibly be depending on Him.
“Well, I just don’t pray enough.” No, that’s not your problem. YOU TRUST YOURSELF TOO MUCH—that’s the problem. If you knew that your very next breath of air depended on God’s provision, you wouldn’t be arrogant. You wouldn’t be so cut off from Him to the point that you just barely think about Him at beddy-bye time and before meals. If you really understood how dependent on Him you are for your holiness, for your very life, for your next bite of food, for your physical well-being (so that your joints all stay in their sockets, your eyes aren’t gouged out, and your head isn’t crushed), you would be worshipping all the time! If you ever really understood how dependent you are on Jesus, in whom all things consist and are held together, and how gracious He’s been to sustain you and protect you from yourself, from the world and from the enemy, you would never dream of going long periods of time without being near Him.
“As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after You.” That’s what God is calling us to be. If you really knew how much you needed Him and how kind He has been to you, you would have no problem worshipping Him. You wouldn’t forget to “pray.” You wouldn’t have to work in a little bit more “prayer time” or be a little more disciplined in your “quiet time.” It’s got nothing to do with that! It has to do with loving God and knowing how utterly dependent you are on Him, and then pouring your life and heart into Him who died for you. Prayer (whatever that is) takes care of itself when you’re in love with Jesus.
His Grace Brings the Blows
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘These people say: The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built.’ Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: ‘Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?’ Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.’ This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,’ says the Lord. ‘You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘Because of My house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands’” (Haggai 1:2-11).
That Scripture goes on to say that the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai because the Lord their God had sent him and the people feared the Lord. What was it that turned them around? They didn’t just say, “Well, hey, that’s a nice sermon, Haggai. Nice little teaching, Haggai, appreciate it brother.” They didn’t do that! They feared God and they did something about it. They moved. They took action. They heard it, retained it, persevered in it, and produced a crop with it. Things changed and the House of the Lord was built.
These things were written for our learning, according to Paul. This has to do with you and me. It has to do with your house and my house and how we are paneling or wallpapering—whatever we are doing to entertain ourselves and to please ourselves rather than the Lord. If that’s what we’re doing, then God says to us: “Out of My mercy and kindness to you, I am going to judge you. You are going to put a $10 bill in your pocket and, when you pull it out, it will be a $1 bill. Go ahead—calculate your budget for the next five years, and make your big ‘five-year plan.’ But more terrible things are going to happen to you than you can count—because I won’t allow you to prosper outside of Me.”
His grace does that! It’s by His grace that He brings these crushing blows and unpredictable things. He says: “Because I love you, I can’t let you prosper while you become numb and dull in My sight. I have to make the rain stop falling and the dew fail to produce. I’ve got to bring a drought into your life in order to get your attention.” And Israel said, “Oh, we get it!” So, the fear of God rested on their hearts and things changed in a serious way. “On the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month of the second year of King Darius.” There was a particular day in their lives when something changed. So it must be with us.
In Luke 6:38, Jesus gave the same principle out of His own mouth: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Try to catch a picture of what Jesus is saying there. A man goes down to the marketplace to get some grain, using the skirt of his robe for a grocery sack. Now Jesus said the measure that will be poured out into your lap—into your skirt—will be pressed down, shaken together and running over. It won’t have a lot of air holes in it.
He went on to say that with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you. In other words, “If you hold back on Me, I will hold back on you. But if you spend it all for Me (like the widow with her two mites giving all that she had—her spending money, her grocery money), if you’ll trust Me like she did and put it all in My lap, I’ll put it back into your lap with a measure that’s running over.”
I Will Not Offer to God….
It’s like the law of gravity. If you sow in a way that costs you something, rather than at your leisure, it will overflow. If you spend in a way that costs you, not out of your extra, God will see to it that you are rewarded for your faith. Now, it doesn’t take any faith to give the extra. It takes no faith whatsoever to give out of your spare time, or out of your extra money (if there is such a thing). Giving whatever is convenient gets you nowhere. The cry of King David’s heart (and a song written by a precious young believer among us) was, “I will not offer to God that which costs me nothing.” Is that your heart? If it’s convenient, if it’s pleasurable (in the sense that you are doing it to please yourself, rather than offering to God that which costs you something), then it’s not good sowing at all. It’s worthless!
“Well, I gave so much money last year…” You didn’t give a penny in God’s sight if it came only from what was convenient for you, from your extra. You didn’t give anything at all! You have to understand that God doesn’t count the same way Uncle Sam does. God only counts that which costs you, that which is to please the Spirit rather than to please yourself. If you pray on the street corner to be seen by men, He doesn’t even hear you! You’ve already received your reward. If what you do is for your own benefit or is costless to you, then God doesn’t even see it. It never even makes it past the ionosphere. He doesn’t get it.
But that which is sown in a costly way will be pressed down, shaken together and running over. That’s a promise from Jesus of Nazareth. If a man who walks on water, raises dead people and gives sight to the blind tells you something, you’d better listen up—He means it and He will do it. Jesus says that if you’ll give that which costs you something, He will press down the blessing, giving to you in return until it runs over.
Go Ahead, Try to Make Me Feel Guilty
“I will not offer to God that which costs me nothing,” was the cry of a man after God’s own heart. But what if I then start to function out of guilt? Every time something comes up in my face I say, “Well, I don’t really have time to do this, but God said it would cost you something.” So I end up functioning out of guilt instead of a real relationship with God. That can’t be right!
Satan loves to take good things and twist them. He always counterfeits the good. He always twists the good in order to turn it back on you. If he can’t stop you from moving ahead, then he’ll make you feel guilty for moving ahead. But one of the surest ways I’ve found to overcome that guilt thing is to take everything directly to Jesus. I can say with a clear conscience that I don’t function in guilt. Now maybe God will keep right on helping me grow even more in this area, but I’m not controlled in any way by guilt. Men’s expectations of me have almost no effect.
I think the main reason for this is that everything I do is taken directly to Jesus. It’s not about principles; it’s about the person of Jesus of Nazareth. What if I do something sacrificial, but I haven’t talked it over with Him first and I haven’t talked it over with Him while I’m doing it? Then it’s just religion—it’s junk. Where is the relationship? It’s so easy to fall into a religious trap and miss the person of Jesus. That’s where you find the guilt—in religion. I say “religion” in the negative sense. There is right kind of religion, but the right kind of religion is fellowship with the Holy Spirit—a friendship, a relationship.
I haven’t had much problem with guilt since I found my affirmation in Jesus. I won’t feel guilty for not knowing anything. I don’t have to feel stupid if I’m in a conversation and I don’t have anything to say. I dare you to make me feel guilty in any situation. You can’t make me feel guilty. You can bring me to a place of conviction, but not guilt. If I don’t have anything to say, I’ll look you right in the eye and say, “I don’t have anything to say.” I just don’t care whether you think I’m stupid.
Why? Because I trust God so implicitly, and I know this has to do with Him and me. It has nothing to do with things I’ve learned about Him that hopefully I can do for Him. It isn’t like that. It’s about being with Him. Now, hopefully, I can be meet for the Master’s use. Hopefully, I can somehow be useful to Him…but that’s His choice. I just need to be a prepared vessel, a pure vessel for Him.
You can’t make me feel guilty if I don’t have anything to say. If you were to ask me a question right now and I just honestly had no idea, I wouldn’t feel guilty about it. Hopefully I would know how to keep my mouth totally shut rather than to speak out of nonsense, out of just words. Hopefully, I would know that lesson. But the other lesson beyond that is not to care if you think I’m stupid, because Jesus is the wisdom and the revelation of God. I care whether I know Him well enough that I can be a vessel, but that’s between Him and me.
If I can’t be a vessel for Him, you can’t make me feel guilty. He can convict me: “You could have been a little bit more diligent in sowing good seeds six months ago. So get on it.” OK. Conviction comes and, with it, a new direction. That’s necessary when I find myself coming up empty-handed in situations where I didn’t before. That concerns me, and I am convicted about that. And you can help be a catalyst for that conviction, but you can’t make me feel stupid because it’s simply not between you and me when I don’t know something or when I can’t accomplish something.
It’s between God and me, and I’m going to work it out with Him. And I may have things to work out with you along the way and you may be able to help me work something out with Him. You can be a vessel for Him to let me know that I’m off track, but I don’t have anything invested in trying to please men (very, very little anyway—anybody can be tempted).
The reason guilt doesn’t even enter into the picture is that before I do it, while I’m doing it, and after I do it, I’m working it through with Him. “Whatever you do, do all to the Glory of God.” I’m asking Jesus: “Is this a gift that You can accept? Is it something You desire? If not, I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to be anybody’s hero. If it is something that You can accept, I want to do it for You. The ramifications (good or bad), and whether or not anybody notices, are immaterial. But what can I do for You, Jesus? Jesus, what can I do for You? How would this affect You? What do You think of this thing I’m about to do? Is it wasted effort? Is it macho? Or is it a fragrant offering to You? What do You think about this?”
By the time I get that answered, it doesn’t matter to me how it turns out. It could be a total failure, but my conscience is clear because it was a vertical transaction between Him and me. If it failed, if it blew up in my face and was totally misunderstood, I still don’t have to feel guilty. He knows that I offered the gift to Him. Now if I’m just trying to do good things, I am going to be in a lot of trouble when I mess some of them up. Because I’m going to get the idea: “Well, I must be stupid. I must not be spiritual. I must need to try harder. Maybe I didn’t give my best.” I’m always going to be churning over any failures. They’ll crush me because my identity is in the thing that I’m doing for God rather than in God Himself.
But if it’s a gift that I’ve given to Him and then let go of, I don’t need to be affirmed for it. And I won’t be crushed by bad results either. Now I may need to retrace my steps. I may need to humble myself and ask for forgiveness. I may need to find out why six months ago I sowed the bad seed that put me in this situation. But that’s still all between Him and me, so guilt has no hold on me. It’s actually a good thing. I can actually be crushed and at the same time have the corner of my mouth turned up with a grin.
I can be excited—“God, I have the fear of God! Hallelujah! He’s not turned me over. I’m not so hard that I don’t feel this thing. Thank God I’m convicted for this!” That’s a gift (Php. 4:14-19). Guilt just doesn’t have a place when it’s a vertical transaction rather than stuff for Him.
Jesus Didn’t Come to Simply “Meet Needs”
Now here’s a similar trap of the devil. I know I can’t be controlled by the desires and expectations placed on me by other people. But usually the needs are so real and I just hate to say no. So I end up being driven by other people’s needs rather than, like Jesus, only doing what I see the Father doing and saying what I hear Him saying (Jn. 5:19, 14:10, 24). That can’t be right, either!
Well, let me tell you something you probably already know. If you function in order to meet needs or to please people, to earn their favor, you will be one miserable bambino. You don’t have a chance. You will be crushed if you function to meet people’s expectations or to be viewed as spiritual in their sight—even if you simply respond because there’s a need. The poor you will always have among you, Jesus said. There will always be needs. You can’t outrun the needs. But if you check out Jesus’ life pretty carefully, you’ll notice that He walked right past an awful lot of needs. And He didn’t experience any guilt over it!
I say that cautiously because if you let your flesh be lazy and have its own way, then you will be crushed—guaranteed. If you put yourself on that little pedestal of hyper-spiritualism that says, “I don’t have to please anybody. I’m too spiritual for that. I don’t care what anybody thinks of me; I only get my divine will from God…” then you’re also going to be crushed. You are going to find yourself to be very lonely and very fruitless. And this fruitlessness is the proof and the mark—the stamp—of your deception. Fruitless.
The fact is, if I ask you to do something, I have got to give you the ability to pursue God on it. I can’t just expect you to do it. And likewise, you can’t expect those that labor hard among you (1Thes. 5:12) to do anything. Are there people you know who labor hard among you, who pour themselves out? Are there some people that you yourself have called at two in the morning after five other people probably just did the same thing? Please, honor those people. In the name of Jesus, according to the Scriptures, show honor to those who are over you in the Lord and who labor hard among you.
Part of that honoring process is allowing them to follow God, rather than needs. Yes, you have needs, they have needs, everybody has needs. But you can’t always expect people to jump when you say jump. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask, but part of our responsibility to each other is to give each other the freedom to follow God. Now that doesn’t mean the freedom to gratify the flesh. If you sense someone is being lazy or irresponsible—ask about it. If that is the case, if they’re being lazy and irresponsible, you might have saved them a lot of trouble later on in their life. Moses got a little haughty when he struck that rock. He ruined his whole life because he got haughty. All of a sudden these people were a big bunch of trouble to him. God judged him as surely as He has judged anybody: “Oh, Moses, you’re a big shot now are you? Ok, you can’t go into the Promised Land. You get to watch from the mountain and you’re going to die there.” God loved Moses, but He couldn’t let him get away with that nonsense of being over God’s people in a haughty way. If He didn’t let Moses get away with it, He’s not going to let any of us, either. So if you sense people being lazy or presumptuous, arrogant or prejudiced, ask and you may spare them a permanent trip to Mount Nebo. You might actually save their future by asking them that. Don’t accuse…just ask.
But what if that’s not the case, and the reason they are “holding back on you” is because they just can’t find freedom in Christ to do it? God just doesn’t allow them to function in this thing that you have asked them to do, whatever it may be. Can you give them the freedom to follow God? You ask them to come pray for your sick, even dying, child and they say: “No, I’m sorry, but I just can’t.” Can you give them the freedom to do that? Can you give them the freedom to follow God? That happened to Jesus, didn’t it? “Come pray for Lazarus…”
“Can’t do it.”
“Where were you, Jesus? You could have healed him.”
“I couldn’t do it.”
Something spectacular happened. Lots of people were healed, but not many were raised from the dead. Lazarus was a man of great influence and a lot of Jews were really shaken when he was raised from the dead. They might have thought he wasn’t really all that sick if he happened to get well, but the man “stinketh”! He was in the grave a long time. If he wasn’t dead before he went in, he was dead from being mummified for over three days in a stinky cavern.
The point is, not everything we expect people to do is really the right thing for them to do. You’ve got to give your brothers and sisters the opportunity to say no to you and accept it graciously, knowing that possibly God has some other plans. So what do you do when there are so many needs and expectations all around you? Well, you seek God on it, and you do what God wants you to do.
Now don’t hide behind that as an excuse. If you’re not bearing much fruit to the Father’s glory, then you’re not abiding in Him. So if the end result of your picking and choosing is that nothing ever comes of it, then you’re deceived. If lives are not changing as a result of your life, then you’re not abiding in Him as you could and you’re not sowing the seeds that produce a harvest. But the seeds come from God’s voice, from our real-time relationship with Him.
We must give each other the same freedom to pursue that as Paul gave to Apollos in 1 Corinthians 16:12. Paul said, “I saw the needs in Corinth. You guys were having some big problems and I pleaded with Apollos to come, but he could not. He would not. He adamantly refused.” So Paul said, “Well, maybe next time.” He didn’t hold it against Apollos. He didn’t curse Apollos or talk about him behind his back. Paul’s thinking seems to have been that either it wasn’t God’s will or Apollos made a mistake (in that case, God would work all things together for the good). But the theme of Paul’s response was, “I trust God. I’ve challenged Apollos, and to the best of his ability he seems to be functioning with a clear conscience by not going to meet your great need. But, I trust God with the results. Whether he’s right, whether he’s wrong—I trust God to work this together for the good. So, he’ll come when he can.”
That’s the attitude we all have to have. In fact, we need to expect it. If you ask somebody to come pray for you (or for your child) and they show up, you ought to look them in the eye and say: “Did God send you here or did you just come because I called? If God didn’t send you here, your prayers are not going to do all that much good anyway, so go on back out the door.” Now, I’m exaggerating a little, obviously, but the point is that we shouldn’t be asking people to meet our needs, nor should we run to meet other people’s needs. We ought to be seeking God on each new situation.
Here’s one last example. Someone says to you: “Come and help my family situation.” Well, maybe God wants it to reach a point of crisis before dealing with the situation at a different level, one that’s far more humbling. Maybe there’s another agenda that God wants to accomplish and if we just rush in ahead of God to fix it, saying our magic words over the situation, it will just be perpetuated. The real issues will never be addressed and the real problems will never be solved.
If a person is just wanting some attention rather than willing to hear and obey the word of God, it is sin for you to give them that attention. Carnal sympathy, guilt trips and expectations from others are terrible reasons to do anything. You’ll find yourself running around in circles like a little dog, with satan holding you by the tail, if you’re not seeking God in a vertical way on every issue. You’ll feel guilty when you fail (“I guess I’m just not good enough.”) and prideful when you succeed (“Aren’t I a great counselor?” or “Don’t I pray good?”). If all this stuff is coming from you, you’re going to end up making a mess of everything and satan will end up turning you into an emotional wreck.
So make sure that your center of gravity in every issue of life is a fellowship with Jesus Christ. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be hearing audible voices all the time, but if you don’t seek Him (you just run off doing good or stay back waiting in some unproductive mode), then God isn’t going to bless it and your life will be spent just spinning your wheels in the mud.
Bad Seeds—Rip Them Out With a Fury
I don’t want you to end up someplace God doesn’t want you to go just because you are ignorant of the law of sowing and reaping. “I don’t know how I got here, why I fell into this mess of sin. I don’t know why I’m not bearing any fruit.” Yes, you do know. You do now: bad seeds, acts to gratify the flesh, temper tantrums. “Well, it was justified. It was their fault. If they hadn’t done thus and such.” Hey, that’s not what it’s about. The things that come out of your mouth are the overflow of your heart—no matter what anybody else does. So if you sow the seeds of allowing those things, without repenting very quickly, they will come back to haunt you.
Don’t think you can just gloss over it. “Well, I feel better now. It’s over with now.” Wrong! You’ve just sown a seed. Nothing bad happened yet. But how often do you know a seed to grow up and bear fruit in one day? If you don’t repent today, that seed still may not affect you tomorrow, but it will affect you six months from now. How could it? Because it’s an inescapable law in the unseen, spiritual world. If you don’t repent of it now, it will affect you six months from now. If you have a little tiff, a little temper tantrum, a little frustrating moment when you decide to go ahead and gratify your flesh by kicking the cat (or whatever you do), don’t think that you can get away with it. You won’t. It will raise its ugly head and bite you six months from now. It will rob you of life six months from now. It may not seem to have a big effect on your today or tomorrow (maybe it will have some effect) but the major effect of any sin that’s unrepented of comes to the surface six months from now.
Deal with it violently and radically. Rip out the weed before it germinates and grows, before it ends up choking the life out of something valuable. Maybe for you it’s the lust for material things. You find yourself flipping through catalogs or drooling as you walk through the mall, looking at the wares in some clothing store, computer shop or office supply house. You had better shut it down in your head, your eyes and your heart. Cast it down! Crush it!
“Well, I was just looking. I didn’t actually spend any money.” That’s not the issue. We’re talking about issues of the heart. David had a lot of stuff, billions of dollars, but it didn’t mean anything to him. He was able to walk out of the palace with bare feet and leave it all behind. It didn’t matter to him. God blessed him with material wealth, but it didn’t have his heart.
So it’s not the stuff that’s the issue. Don’t you dare make an excuse out of that—“Well, my stuff doesn’t hurt me any because, after all, David had a lot of stuff.” If you’re saying that, it probably does hurt you. If you don’t have the fear of God in you about your stuff, then it probably does hurt you, just like the rich young ruler. Just the thought about it, just drooling over it, is the seed that will destroy you. You are sowing to please the sinful nature if you let that thing sit there in your heart rather than saying, “No, God, No! I don’t want to value that thing (what a neat color, neat house, neat dog, neat…!). Whatever that thing is, you had better get control of it and learn to see it exactly the way God sees it so you can uproot any affection in your heart for stuff. Whatever it is, you had better make sure it’s under God’s righteousness. Do not judge according to the flesh!
God Wants Your Heart!
Now that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate a rainbow or a landscape. You can appreciate, and even enjoy them. But there is a line you can cross in your heart. God knows where that line is for you, and if you are listening to Him and you care, you’ll know too. You’ll sense that you just prostituted yourself, you just became a whore, for that thing. Maybe you didn’t even buy it, but you sold your affections to it when you walked by and looked at it. If you didn’t crush it, and repent of that thought, then you just sowed a seed that will rip you off later.
Have you ever seen something that you wanted, but you couldn’t afford it at the time? You knew you probably didn’t even need it, but you still wanted it. And you let that thought just sit there. You said to yourself, “Well, I can’t have it anyway.” Do you know what? I’ll bet you had that thing six months later, didn’t you?! Am I right? You sowed a seed and you didn’t deal with it properly—you just allowed it to sit there. You knew it wasn’t from God, and that it was your own flesh screaming. But you couldn’t have it anyway, so you just allowed the fleshly seed to sit there.
In fact, you really didn’t have the guts to buy it anyway. But slowly your conscience became hardened to that thing, because of the seed you planted, and eventually it was no contest. You weren’t even convicted anymore. There was no more challenge at all in your heart about it. That thing was yours, buddy! You saved your money…you earned the right to have it…and you got it!
Can you see what happened? You restrain nothing from yourself when you refuse to deal with the seeds and judge them righteously from the very beginning. Eventually you will have just what you want.
Do You Rob God?
“Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever” (Philippians 4:15-20).
You can hear Paul exploding into worship in that last sentence. Why? Because he’s seen the law of sowing and reaping! They met his needs when he was in trouble in the material world—because they saw God and responded to Him in faith. They amply supplied his needs to overflowing with sacrificial hearts, and this has been credited to their account in the heavens. Because of that, Paul knows that God will amply supply all of their needs according to His glorious riches out of His storehouses. Praise be to the God and Father of us all! He saw the law of sowing and reaping and it excited him. Because they sowed in faith, God Himself would enter into their personal lives and change things according to their sacrificial giving.
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: ‘He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever’” (2 Corinthians 9:6-9).
Again, Paul is talking about financial areas. A very good barometer of how you’re doing spiritually is how you’re doing financially with giving to God. If there is always a “better” thing to do, or a more “urgent” need than to give the first fruits to God, then something is wrong. And that is a pretty good barometer of where you are at spiritually.
“Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11).
What you sow is what you reap. Sow generously and you will reap a bountiful harvest. Sow sparingly (just scrape a little bit off the top in order to have your spiritual parking ticket validated) and you will reap sparingly. This is a promise from God, and we’d better take it very seriously!
“‘I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty. But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’” (Malachi 3:6-7).
How do I come back to God if I find that I’m not near God? Well, here’s how God says to return: “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings, You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me” (Mal. 3:8-9). Now that’s God’s view of not being sacrificial with the first fruits of all that He brings into your house. If Uncle Sam is your god, then he gets the first fruits, somebody else gets the extra and whatever is left belongs to God. Whoever or whatever your god might be, that is where the first fruits go. That’s a fact.
So what do you do if you feel like you’ve drifted far away from God? “Well, here’s the place to start,” He says. “Consider the fact that you’re robbing Me by not giving Me your first fruits. You’re stealing from Me.” If someone steals money from a drug addict, he might spend a little time behind bars. But when he steals out of the governor’s pocket, he’s in big trouble. And when you steal from God, you’ve got yourself in a real jam.
I’m not just talking about money (although that is the context here), but about all these other areas we’ve covered. What is your life about? Who exactly are you? Why do you do what you do?
As for guilt and being driven by needs, the same principle applies to finances as to everything else. Make each situation a vertical transaction with God. “God, I can’t meet every need. I’ll do absolutely anything You want me to do. I won’t be motivated by fear (‘If I give sacrificially here then what will happen to me down the road?’), but I’m not going to be motivated by ambition, pride or zealousness either.”
Be motivated by the current Word of God. Find out what pleases the Lord (Eph. 5:10). If you don’t know exactly what that is, give it your best shot and then talk to Him about it. Don’t just do it and then zone out. “God, You know I’ve wrestled through this thing with You and I don’t know exactly what to say or what to do—I just don’t know. But here’s my best shot at it. Hopefully I’m not motivated by fear or guilt. I’ve rooted out any worries about how I’ll look to others. I’ve rooted out any kind of lust for things that would treat You like a genie in the bottle (if I do this then God will give me that). As far as I know, I’m an empty, clean vessel before You as I offer You this gift. It’s a stupid gift, because I don’t even know for sure that it’s the right thing, but to the best of my ability my heart is pure before You. Will You please receive my gift?”
It’s your best, not because you couldn’t have given any more, but because you’ve dealt with any false motives for giving or not giving and you’re willing to do anything. Now He’ll receive that! And guilt is out of the picture because it’s a vertical transaction with Him. It’s from Him and through Him and to Him.
It’s the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that says it’s always good to do this and it’s always bad to do that. You’ve got to do all these things to please God, but all those other things will never please God. That’s the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. No matter how accurate you may think your tree is, on the day you eat from that tree you shall surely die. You will be dark and empty inside.
It’s the Tree of Life that brings fruit into our lives. Jesus referred to it in John 5 when He said, in effect, “You’ve listened to the prophets, you’ve memorized My commands, but they all point to Me. Now, why won’t you come to Me? My commands about tithing—come to Me about those things. They’re not an end in themselves. They’re to draw you to Me. They’re to humble you so you will need Me. That’s what it’s all about. I don’t need your money—I need your heart!”
If we don’t deal with Him, we miss all that. It ends up just being religious junk—legalism. It just makes us more and more empty rather than more and more full.
A Harvest IS Being Reaped
“‘You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Malachi 3:9-12).
In other words, there will be great things happening! God doesn’t want you to be under this big, heavy weight all the time that’s crushing your bones and making you walk beneath a cloud of despair. He wants to bring you into a delightful land, free from guilt and all the pressures that drive you insane. He does need to refine you to get you there though. He means to free you from all the false motives that have separated you from Him.
“‘You have said harsh things against me,’ says the Lord. Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’ You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape’” (Malachi 3:13-15).
That’s where the mocking comes in. “Look at all these sinful people. They’re blessed. Nothing ever happens to them. And what do I get for all the good things I do? It seems like I get away with most of the bad things I do, and so does everybody else. So what difference does it make anyway?”
But God said, “You’re mocking Me.” Be not deceived: God won’t be mocked. You may not see it in your lifetime. You may not see it when God is causing a wicked man to rot away on the inside, or someone else to just be ready to commit suicide. Lives are falling apart all around you—there is total unhappiness, no peace whatsoever. Yet they smile at you the whole time, looking like they have it all together. They look like successful businessmen, great athletes, the life of the party. But inside they’re rotting away. So don’t be so sure that they are not reaping what they are sowing. In fact, I guarantee you they are. Hour by hour and minute by minute, a harvest is being reaped.
God Invites Us to Test Him
“Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name. ‘They will be mine,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not’” (Malachi 3:16-18).
I guarantee you that distinction will be made. This brings us right back to the law of sowing and reaping. They asked what they could do about being so far away from God. He said: “Make choices that honor Me. Sow good seed. Test Me. Stop pleasing your flesh and sow to please the Spirit. If you’ll do that, you will reap eternal life rather than destruction. Test Me! I will bring blessings—pressed down, shaken together and flowing over! Your storehouses won’t even be able to contain it.”
“Well, I don’t think it’s really such a big deal,” someone might say. “Nothing bad is happening to me now.” That day will come when God will make His distinction between the righteous and the unrighteous. On the authority of the Lord God Almighty, that day is coming quickly and He hears those who fear Him. He hears the voice of their cry. He has inclined His ear toward them and determined to make them His treasured possession. He will bring them to Himself so the world will know that these chose, from a pure heart, to sow to please the Spirit rather than themselves. Be not deceived: God is not mocked.
Did You Really Give it Up?
No one, Jesus said, not one person who has ever really given up lands, possessions, homes and relatives has failed to receive a hundred times as much in this age, and in the age to come—eternal life (Mark 10:30). Now, it’s possible to think you’ve given up these things just because your environment has changed. For example, just because you’re not hanging around all your old immediate family at the moment, doesn’t mean you have “given them up.” You are still yoked to them if they still control your life, and if your allegiance to them could actually maneuver you into doing things that don’t please the Lord. You don’t even have to be in the same location as they are to still be “hanging on.” If your heart is still yoked to that which is not God, then you haven’t given them up and you will fail to receive anything in this life from God.
Now, I’m not advocating cutting yourself off from your parents. But if you are yoked to those who are not living for Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind and strength—you won’t reap God’s fruit. I don’t mean that you should dishonor them, but any yoke of affection, any yoke of drawing and control where you’re still hanging onto the apron strings in your heart, is going to affect you. If you are hanging on to them in your spirit, even though physically you might not be right there with them, you will reap a bad harvest. Anything in you that allows them to have more sway over you than the righteousness and the truth of Jesus of Nazareth is going to reap bad fruit in your life. I’m just giving that as an illustration because sometimes it looks like we’ve given things up, when we never really did.
When I left Rand McNally to go off into the “mission field,” I thought I was giving up everything. But, I found out two years later that I really had never given up anything. I gave up 70% of my salary, and that seemed significant to me at the time. But the truth is, two years later, I found out that it was very easy for me to pull out that old résumé, update it a little bit, and jump right back in. I could plead insanity to the next company I went to work for and just keep right on going. When I saw that, it crushed me! I finally threw all my résumés into a grill and burned them because I realized they still had a hold on me.
So, you see, I thought I gave it up. Anyone in the world would say, “Yeah, you gave it up.” They’d examine the evidence and say, “Look he gave it up—70% cut in pay, gave away all the credentials, blew his future and the hope of worldly ambitions…” But I never gave it up.
What I want to say to you is that just because something’s not in your face right now, doesn’t mean you’ve given it up. If you used to be addicted to something that you’re not doing right now, but in your heart it still owns you (if nobody else was around and nobody was saying anything to you about it and no one could ever possibly catch you at it, you would be right there in the middle of it again), then you never gave it up at all. God never saw it. He never even witnessed this great sacrificial act of yours—because it’s the heart He’s looking for.
He wants your heart! He doesn’t just want your stuff; He doesn’t need your stuff. He wants your heart. The stuff will take care of itself, if He has your heart.
No Excuses—Bear Fruit!
If you’re not hearing this, I don’t know what else to say. When you’ve done it all, what else can you do? God said: “What more could have been done for My vineyard than what’s already been done?” (Isa. 5:4). If you’re not hearing it and it doesn’t provoke you to change, if it doesn’t apply to you because you’re above all that, then the fear of God is not in your heart. The awe of God isn’t there.
“Well that was an interesting teaching—that certainly was food for thought.” If it doesn’t mean any more to you than that, I don’t know what else to do. You’re going to continue to justify yourself by your own foolish standards rather than the standard of Jesus of Nazareth. You’re going to try to pretend you’re not doing anything different from anyone else, so what’s the problem? If there’s no fear of God in your heart and there’s no everlasting fruit to show for your life, what else is there? Who cares what anybody else is doing? Don’t you dare compare yourself to how you used to be or to what you think is happening in other people’s lives. You don’t even know what that is. Maybe, in fact, they are sowing to please the Spirit a thousand times more often than you’ll ever notice.
Don’t you dare compare yourself to what you think the accepted norm of activity is or what you think you can get away with doing. If you are not bearing everlasting fruit to the Glory of God, then you are not abiding in Him. Period. If nobody else in the whole assembly of believers is bearing fruit, that’s still no excuse for you. And if everyone around you is bearing fruit, Jesus didn’t say that if everybody else is doing well, you’ll bear much fruit too. He said, “If you abide in Me, you will bear much fruit.” That applies to you and to me on a personal basis. If I live in Him and make my home in Him, (if I live and move and have my being in Him) and His Word makes its home in me, I will bear much fruit, showing myself to be His follower to the Father’s Glory. That’s a fact—regardless of what anybody else around me does.
The standard for our lives is JESUS. If you lower the standard from Jesus to what you see around you (or think you see around you), you’re making a huge mistake. First, you’re probably not seeing it right, and second, the people around you have never been, nor shall ever be, the standard. Jesus is the standard. And He’s called you as a person to stand up and give an account. He’s given you everything that pertains to life and godliness. He’s given you every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. He spilled blood so you could live and so you could walk in His life, His liberty and His peace. It cost Him His blood! And when you’re standing all by yourself in front of Him, you won’t be able to say, “Well I wasn’t any worse than anybody around me.” That isn’t what He wants to hear.
Stop reading right now, would you, and please just make sure that even this is vertical. All right? This has nothing to do with guilt. This is an opportunity. This is a threshold of opportunity wherever you are in your walk with Jesus—high, low, middle. You don’t even know where you are anyway. : ) Who cares where you think you are or where other people think you are? The truth is that if you’ll sow better seed more bountifully and quit sowing weeds (and uproot the weeds that are there now by confession and repentance), it doesn’t matter who or what you are now. In six months you will be unrecognizable! Regardless of where you are in your walk with Jesus, there’s not a single person reading this who couldn’t be ten times further than where they are right now.
That goes right back to the law of sowing and reaping. Do not wait for God to zap you. He isn’t pulling rabbits out of a hat. He’s asking you to sow good seed bountifully, to make your home in Him. Even as you read this, understand that you have an opportunity for a rich, rich, rich, rich, rich future (in the things that money can’t buy). Wherever you are spiritually, that’s where you are. Fine, you’re there. It doesn’t make any difference where you are, the only thing that matters is where you could be six months from now.
Here are some seeds that will produce bad fruit six months from now if you don’t see them and deal with them properly. As you read these things, look to God and ask Him if this is something you’ve made any room for in your heart: Boasting. Jealousy. Lust. Complaining (whining and moaning). Hypocrisy (acting one way and then changing into someone else as soon as the show is over…saying something or pretending to be somebody in one setting then as you walk into the next room [or in the inner chambers], you have a different opinion, a different evaluation…having a judgment about someone that you never let that person know you had when you were face to face. That kind of stuff infuriates God.). Selfishness. Murmuring about others (“I can’t believe they…”).
Or what about neutral seeds like wasting time on computers, hobbies or news? “…So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). What is the spiritual value of this thing? If you’re going to spend yourself, make sure you’re spending yourself on something that has value. Redeem the time, Paul also said. Don’t fight as one beating the air. Don’t run the race as one running in circles. Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. The neutral stuff is sin if it isn’t to the Glory of God. How do I know that? Because God commanded that whatever we do, do all to the Glory of God.
If you can’t figure out how this thing glorifies God without stretching yourself into some realm of insidious imagination to get there, if it has no value to the Glory of God, then it is sin. He gave that absurd example of food and drink—do not even eat unless it’s to the Glory of God. Unless you can somehow bring this thing together so that it has spiritual value, you’re just feeding your own flesh and making your god your belly. (I’m not just talking about sweets, either, but all food. You can make food your god by letting it control you. Whatever determines how you go about making your decisions is your god, and only One—Jesus—deserves to have that kind of sway over your life. Anything else is an idol and it cuts you off from Life.) If this thing, whatever it is, brings you to a place of separation, isolation, independence, enmity or judgment of others, then it is wicked. It’s wisdom from below that’s unspiritual and of the devil (Jas. 3:15). It’s not to the Glory of God if it doesn’t draw you closer into the image and likeness of God and help you to change other people’s lives. Everything should draw you into the fellowship of believers, rather than outside of the fellowship of believers. Otherwise it’s from the devil and it can’t bear eternal fruit.
Now here are some seeds that will produce good fruit six months from now if you’ll only see with the eyes of faith, even when things appear to be falling apart all around you: Acts of sacrifice and uncompromised obedience to please God. Acts of self-control, like turning away from lust. Acts of forgiveness.
Here again, this is something that has to be done vertically. If you choose not to lust when you have an opportunity to lust, don’t you dare stop at that. That’s just religion. What you need to do is turn toward Jesus with a heart that cries: “Jesus, I’ve chosen to live for you because You died for me. I know this thing is not in Your heart. I know it defiles my person—it defiles my heart. I know it opens the door for the pit of hell to lodge itself in there, for satan to build a stronghold so that later he might destroy me. And so I’ve chosen not to lust for Your sake, because I love You.”
Now if you decide not to lust just because the Bible says not to lust, then you’re making a mistake. You’re losing 99.9% of the value of even resisting sin. God doesn’t place any real benefit or premium on self-control if it isn’t unto Jesus. If it’s just religion, it will make you prideful—“Well, I overcame this and that, so why can’t you?” It will make you judgmental or prejudiced against others who have fallen into that sin. It will destroy you. It won’t bring you into the fullness of Christ.
If it’s just religion, then even your good acts will later on destroy you. They’ll be bad seed, not good seed, unless they’re unto Jesus. If you can’t commune with Him over it, it’s religion and it has very little real value. There are lots of moral people around who have good family values but are going to hell. Why? Because what they did was not done “as unto the Lord.” Rather, it was simply their own self-righteousness, which God sees as filthy rags. He’s not impressed by our righteousness. All He cares about is communion with us. These things only have value as avenues for communion with God.
Every temptation you encounter is an avenue for communion with God. It all works together for the good. If you draw near to God, He will draw near to you. See, all these things are channels, avenues, opportunities. Don’t just close your eyes real tight and try somehow to barely make it through life surviving all the temptations of the enemy! These are all opportunities to offer gifts to Jesus and to draw closer to Him. These are for your life, your future, not for your destruction. Though satan means them for your harm, God means them for your good. He means to bring you into the fullness of the pleasures of His house and His land.
So don’t view all this as some heavy burden. These are great opportunities that God gives us: to choose to forgive; to decide not to internalize or retaliate against a personal injury, but rather to loose on earth what’s been loosed in heaven; to sacrifice material things for the Kingdom of God (However, let me say again that it’s not about trading God—“If you do this for me, I’ll do that for you.” God doesn’t barter with us. He wants our lives: heart, soul, mind and strength); to crucify temper rather than making excuses; to refuse to prop ourselves up with stories, like “Here’s something I did—now aren’t you impressed with me?” So look for the opportunities to sow bountifully in your life.
Harvest Comes in Due Season—Faint Not
Here are some principles governing the harvest that should help you along the way. First, the harvest is always later than when the seeds were sown. If you sow good seeds now, the harvest will probably not be today or tomorrow. It comes in due time, in the proper season. So today you are building your future. You are not solving today’s problems. You are building your character and capacity for God’s love, for God’s righteousness, for fellowship with the Holy Spirit. You are building your future capacity today.
It’s like building a big reservoir. The things you do today are like a spade for digging a reservoir to hold the rains that fall sometime later. It’s an opportunity to capture the fullness of God into your vessel. So hang in there! There are no instant crops. Don’t grow weary in well doing. Keep on going. Don’t faint. If you don’t see immediate results, so what? The farmer, James said, is that patient man who waits for the harvest to come, and God honors the sort of patience that doesn’t demand something from Him instantly. The demand for instant gratification just indicates a selfish heart. It’s bad seed, not good seed.
“Well God, I did this thing thinking that You would redeem me from this other situation. I thought if only I would do this, then You would…” That wasn’t good seed—it was selfish. You were trying to trade God. The way He tests our hearts to show whether it’s really for Him or whether it’s for ourselves is by making it happen in due season, if we faint not. He tests our hearts by allowing some lag time between sowing good seed and finding a good harvest.
Sow an Apple Seed and Reap an Apple Tree
Another principle is that the harvest is always of the same kind, good or bad, as the seed that was sown. It’s your choice, according to Galatians 6. Apple trees grow from apple seeds, and orange trees grow from orange seeds. There’s no way you can end up with a different kind of tree than the seeds you planted. So I can guarantee that if you sow to please yourself, you will reap destruction—not only because God said so, but because that’s the only thing that can grow from it. It’s impossible for anything to grow up from a cruddy, worldly seed other than cruddy worldliness.
You can’t grow to be more like Jesus sowing even neutral seed. It doesn’t help; in fact, it gets in the way. There’s only so much room in your heart. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You haven’t made room in your heart for My word. Therefore you are a child of the devil. Your father is the father of lies” (Jn. 8:37-44).
Now why was their father the devil? Because they didn’t make room in their hearts for His Word. You’ve only got so much capacity in your heart and in your head, so if you choke the word by filling up your head even with neutral stuff, you are going to have a crummy harvest unto destruction. The Word of God clearly decrees it.
Your Capacity is Unlimited!
Here’s a third principle: the harvest is always in proportion to how much seed was put out. When you sow bountifully, you reap bountifully. When you sow sparingly, you reap sparingly. Keep putting it out there. Keep throwing seed out there again and again and again and again and again. If you sow sparingly (a little bit of seed here, a little bit of seed there), then you’re going to have a field that’s almost empty when the fall comes. The more seed you sow, the more harvest you’ll have six months from now. The same will be true in a year, in five years, in ten years, and in twenty years. As you’re reading this, chances are that you will have at least twenty years left to live. A lot of you will. A lot of people who read this are going to have twenty years of opportunity to sow good seed. But if you put it off now, you’re going to blow the whole deal.
If you’ll sow bountifully now, the things in life that will happen to you, around you and through you will boggle your mind. Yes, little ol’ you! Even with your limited intellect, your limited commitment, and your limited ability to be holy all the time. Yes, even with your limited ability to worship and love God, to speak His word or to live it out. Whatever limitations you may feel like you have right now, little ol’ you, I guarantee that your capacity is as broad as the universe because the Son of the Living God promised that you will reap in accordance with what you sow. It’s not in your mom and dad’s genes, but in direct proportion to how you sow to Him as a person. That’s your capacity—and it’s unlimited. More than you could ask or even imagine in your wildest dreams. Yes, you! This isn’t just for everyone else. This is you! Unlimited capacity and mind-boggling possibilities in the next five, ten or twenty years. Unbelievable potential!
The Great Redwood
How do you tap that potential? You sow bountifully now, and faint not. Seeds seem too small to matter, but God says they do matter (Heb. 11:6, Lk. 17:6, Mk. 11:22-25). How could a tiny seed grow a redwood tree? Do you know what? A TINY seed is the only kind of seed that can grow a redwood tree! There’s no other kind of redwood tree. You don’t bring in a 14-pound watermelon and plant it to grow a redwood tree. The only kind of seed that can grow a redwood tree is a tiny seed. All the capacity for infinite life is in this little dinky seed. It seems unbelievable that for a small act of kindness—just a cup of water—you’ll not lose your reward (Mk. 9:41). Unbelievable. But small seeds matter.
Granted, they are very small. There’s not much you can do. I understand that. There’s not much I can do. I don’t have that much to offer. I can’t figure out how to save the world. I don’t know. But I can sow tiny seeds that seem too small to matter. Jesus said to be faithful with the little things, with a few things, and you’ll be granted much. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings. Seeds don’t seem to really have any life in them, but God calls things that are not as though they are (Rom. 4:17). Faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the substance of things unseen (Heb. 11:1). And nations are subdued. Children are raised from the dead and given back to their mothers. Things unseen, things only hoped for, things that don’t seem to have any life in them, little specks of dirt called seeds, grow up into redwood trees so large that you can drive a truck through them. You can build a highway right through the middle of that thing!
That tree came from a dead piece of wood, so it seemed. Do you realize that God created seeds all the way back in Genesis for this purpose—to show us the nature of the Word of God? Jesus said it again and again and again, “The seed is the Word.” The seed is the Word. And the Word of God sown in your heart, with good soil and a willingness to keep rooting out the weeds, allows this tiny, meaningless piece of dirt to grow into a redwood tree, an awesome thing that reaches farther than you can see.
That’s your capacity if you’ll demand from yourself that you will not allow any junk to sit in your heart and crowd out the Word of God. Make room in your heart for Him and get all the junk, neutral or otherwise, out of your heart. Now, that’s your potential based on this silly thing that God invented to show us the type of His Word planted in a fruitful and fertile heart.
That’s why He created seeds—to show you that point. A meaningless nothing—just a cup of water. A meaningless nothing—“No, I’m not going to look.” A meaningless nothing—“Yes, I’m going to ask forgiveness”…“No, I’m not going to allow even the slightest temper”…“Yes, I’d be glad to come over, I don’t care if it’s convenient for me or not.” You probably wouldn’t say all that out loud, but in your heart you’re saying, “for Jesus, for Jesus.”
Many Small Seeds
You ask, “What difference does it make? No one will really care. They probably won’t even appreciate it. So why do it?” It’s a seed that grows a redwood tree, that’s why! It seems so foolish, but I guarantee you that the only fool is the one who does not do it. That’s foolish. The kind of heart that says, “I don’t see what difference this is going to make anyway,” will yield a very spare harvest.
Don’t concentrate on big seeds, but many small ones. Don’t worry about trying to plant a huge seed, always trying to accomplish some massive undertaking and telling yourself that if you can’t do it you’re not worth anything. That’s not what it’s about. Don’t even worry about planting big seeds. If God grants you that opportunity, thank Him for it, but you don’t have to be any kind of hero. Thank God you don’t have to be a hero! Plant the little seeds, but plant them bountifully. God will take care of the rest in your life.
Turn Bad Seed Into Good Seed
Do you want to know how to change bad seeds into good seeds? Confession changes bad seeds into good seeds (Rom. 8:28). If you are willing to call sin what God calls it (the true meaning of the Greek word), if you’re willing to deal with it, then God can take a bad seed and turn it into a good seed. Maybe I make a baboon of myself with you because I have some resentment in my heart toward you or something like that. (From the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks, and something bubbled out that showed me what was in my heart.) I didn’t even know I resented you for whatever reason. But suddenly I found myself in a precarious situation and something happened. I got a little riled, a little impatient. I withdrew from you or I didn’t want to look at you. But if I go to you and make it right, then what satan meant to destroy me, God works together for the good. Now, all of a sudden, God can bless this relationship we never had before! He can bring a loyalty and a commonness of heart, mind and purpose into our lives that was never there before—all because we were willing to take the bad seed and confess it, crush it, even at the expense of humiliating ourselves if necessary. God takes that seed of humility, sacrifice and confession and makes it work together for the good.
So what satan meant to destroy us and divide us ended up building something spectacular. A cord of three strands is not easily broken. God builds with the thing that was originally our biggest fear, our worst enemy, our greatest failure. It becomes a matter of strength that’s been tested and tried and now can withstand anything (read 1 John 1:9, James 5:16, Colossians 2:15). Water the seeds with your tears (1Cor. 3:6, Ps. 126:5-6). In other words, care about it! If you will sow in tears, you’ll bring in a harvest. You will be dancing when you come in with your harvest. But it takes sowing in tears; it takes caring. “I will be found by them that search for me with all their hearts.” God tells the man who cares. He empowers the man who spends himself for Him. That’s what it’s about.
Now Determines My Future
Now, we know that the past does not predict our future. Today’s a new day and the blood of Jesus is more than sufficient. But how does all that fit in with the Law of Sowing and Reaping?
That’s exactly the point, really. Your past doesn’t determine your future. Your NOW determines your future. That’s why there is hope. The old season is past and today is a new day. Great is His faithfulness. Our opportunities are right in front of us, right now! I’ll never be depressed or discouraged over last year’s bad harvest or even my current bad harvest. I can fail infinitely right before your eyes, but I’m not worried. You might be worried about me, you may even judge me for that (I hope you wouldn’t). But, you see, my future doesn’t depend on my past. My future depends on my decision to follow Jesus, and to humble myself before Him. I have an infinite future and an infinite hope, regardless of anything that’s ever happened to me in my life.
No past failure determines my future. What I sow now determines my future. I am not a product of my parents, my upbringing, my limited IQ, my limited willpower, my limited memory or my limited personality. That’s not my limit. I’m only limited by my own attitude.
“Well, I know I’m all those things because look how crummy I’ve been doing…I don’t have any friends…I don’t have any fruit…” That has nothing whatsoever to do with anything! Your past does not predict your future. What you sow now determines your future, so your potential is limitless. The only thing that determines your limit is your willingness to sow good seed and your refusal to sow bad or neutral seed.
Your potential is wide open, no matter how bad you are: Mary the prostitute; Matthew and Zacchaeus the tax collectors; Simon the murderous, hateful, prejudiced zealot. Just go right down the list of anybody who ever was—Bathsheba—David—Abraham. You’ll see one common thread, which is the fact that their past didn’t determine their future, and their hope was in a living God—I AM. It had nothing to do with the mistakes they made. As they humbled themselves before Him, His forgiveness was as deep as the ocean and their potential was only limited by their willingness to humble themselves and to sow good seed.
So, I’m not whoever I was. I am who I will be, depending on how I see God and how I respond to Him at this moment in my life. Think of me what you will, but I know where I’m going. And by God’s grace I’m going to sow good seed, and my potential in so doing is limitless. Whatever and wherever you’ve been (it doesn’t matter “who made your bed”), God is going to draw you to Himself. That’s the mystery of His grace, His faithfulness. All this is dependent on how you see Him in His forgiveness and the potential that’s in Him, as well as your willingness to submit yourself into His hands. Just care for the future and do not crowd Him out, but make room for Him in your heart. Make all this vertical, rather than just religion.
No Fear—I’m Free
Now, that is not to say that there won’t be ramifications from past choices. What happened when Moses struck the rock? He didn’t get to go into the Promised Land. And God told David that the sword would never leave his house. How do you turn your heart toward God and say: “OK, I know I blew it. Now what are the ramifications in my life, and how do I deal with it from here?”
Keep this in mind: where do you see Moses after Nebo? After he died on the mountain, where does he show up next? He’s on a different mountain, and he’s doing OK. Now, there were ramifications—He didn’t get to go into the Promised Land. But he wasn’t looking for a nation or a city built by men’s hands, anyway! See? Now, there were ramifications. I know he would have loved to have gone in, and it broke his heart. There were ramifications for David, too—his child died. The sword never left his house. His son had to build the House of God and David never got to see it. Although he gathered the materials for it, he couldn’t build it.
There were ramifications. But, David was free—Moses was free. They accepted the ramifications as due course. David didn’t whine and complain about it, nor did Moses. They acknowledged the God who was and is and shall be, and they humbled themselves before Him, accepted the ramifications and the discipline of the Lord, because discipline speaks of His love. But they never lost their identity. There was no fear. Moses wasn’t whining and complaining on the Mount of Transfiguration, and God brags on Moses so much it’s unbelievable. All the way through the Scriptures you hear it—Moses, My man. David, a man after My own heart. Again and again and again. These guys do stupid “bozo” things but in their hearts they were free. They did reap what they sowed and there were ramifications, but because they came forward before God, they were free. While they never saw Mount Zion on the right side of the river, they saw the Mount of Transfiguration (which is where it really counts, anyway).
So that’s something that can never be taken from us. It’s like the words of a song—“I’m free, they can’t take away my destiny, because the greatest Love of all is inside of me. Whether I fail, whether I succeed, I’m free.” It doesn’t matter. I will accept, even glory in, the ramifications. Hopefully some of God’s people can learn by revelation, rather than by fire, from my mistakes. If I have to become a vessel of wrath in that area, a vessel of dishonor in the household rather than honor, I’m still in the household. I’m still being used by God. Moses wasn’t insecure on the mountain that he died on, and David wasn’t insecure when the sword stayed in his house. It was disappointing to him; it was heartbreaking. He realized he blew it when he took a census and 18,000 people died because of his stupidity. But he didn’t curl up in a little ball and die. He was still free. When his child died, what did he do? He washed his face, got up and went back to the Father’s business. When Peter failed miserably, just totally blew it in utter humiliation, what did he do? He went right back into the Father’s house.
“All right,” he must have said to himself, “I’ll be a doorkeeper in the house, then. I don’t care. I wish I hadn’t done that—AAHH!” But it wasn’t wrapped in fear. It wasn’t guilt that drove him. These men didn’t curl up in the fetal position and die. They saw God’s grace, received it and went forward, regardless of the failures. They accepted the ramifications, but they weren’t destroyed.
That’s where God’s called us to be, if we live by faith and not by sight. There’s no fear there, even if there are certain ramifications in the physical world. What do you think happened to Ananias and Sapphira, or to the people who died in 1 Corinthians 11 because of their sinful presumption, their arrogance and their selfish factions? God even brought physical death in those cases, but it was all unto His honor. It wasn’t as if some big failure just crushed them so that they fell apart eternally. It wasn’t like that. It was a process of building, building, and more building. A process of seeing things through eyes of faith, not through the natural eyes of 72.4 years.
It’s Only Caterpillar Skin
“Well,” you say, “that’s all I have. If I blow my 72 years, I guess that’s it.” Not when you see things through the spectrum of “if a man believes in Me, he shall never die!” When you look at a believer, a true-hearted disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, you only see the caterpillar skin. You see that ugly old thing that we just carry around for a little while until the tent of this physical body is set free into a glorious body, transformed in the twinkling of an eye. Transfigured! That’s what we’re called unto.
As you look with your natural eyes, right now, you’re seeing physical bodies. But that is not what’s there. Stop seeing that, if that’s all you see! That’s not what’s really there. That’s just a shell of the eternal thing that’s fashioned in the image of the Godhead, living inside, behind those little ol’ eyeballs. If you don’t see it very well just yet, it’s probably just been choked quite a bit by worldliness. But, given the process you’ve been reading about, that Glory of the Godhead is going to emerge with ever-increasing measure in your brothers and sisters all over the world. And it’s going to be spectacular. Spectacular!
Again, there are ramifications along the way, but those are just temporary setbacks. So I have a wart on my caterpillar skin! I’ve got a little cut from a rock or a spider bite on my caterpillar skin. Well, there’s a butterfly inside here! It’s only a temporary setback to die on Mt. Nebo. Moses didn’t die. He didn’t die! His body fell away, but he didn’t die. It wasn’t a permanent setback.
Jesus is Lord—Hallelujah!
Father, grant us understanding. Take anything the enemy would want to do (to turn opportunity into unhealthy fear or guilt) and slap it back into his face. God, we know that You love us, that You have plans to prosper us and not to harm us. You’ve opened a door for us. You brought us this far, and You’re not going to leave us now. We are not orphans. You are our Father—You love us, care for us, nurture us, help us. You sustain us and we are counting on You. We know that if we’ll sow seeds, then we can go to sleep and wake up to find that those seeds have somehow germinated and grown. We know not how. That’s Your awesome plan. We need to plant and we need to water with our tears, but You give increase, to the praise of Your name. And taking that nothing, little ol’ seed, You bring life out of that thing. Once that corn of wheat grows, it becomes a stalk and a head and then a full kernel in the head that’s capable of reproducing again and again. Father, we want Your Glory to fill the earth, and we know this is how. Count us in. Amen.