A Spiritual Harvest Stands Ready

Leave a comment

John 4:27, 31 – 38

27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 

35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

                                

In the middle of the story about the conversation Jesus has with the Samaritan woman in John chapter 4, we see the disciples have returned from buying food in the nearby city.  Their entrance on to the scene interrupts the conversation, but the woman has come to understand enough about who Jesus is that she runs off back to town to tell her friends about Him.

It is not unusual for anyone to be a bit confused as to what is really going on when that person comes into the middle or end of a conversation between other people.  Our passage here though says that the disciples “marvelled” when they saw Jesus talking with the woman.  It is doubtful they marvelled because Jesus was talking to a woman, for He had done that on previous occasions.  Rather, as Jews, they would have been very surprised that Jesus was talking to a Samaritan.

(Read “Jesus, Giver of Living Water” to understand the negative attitude that existed between Jews and Samaritans in the time of Jesus.)

    

Now that the disciples have come back with food, they urge Jesus to eat some.  We know from chapter four that Jesus and the disciples are weary from their long journey walking from the Judean countryside to the Province of Samaria.  But Jesus confounds them when He says he has food to eat of which they do not know.

The disciples wrongly assume that someone has come and given Jesus some physical food to eat.  But as is so often true with Jesus, He is talking about spiritual food.  What He is really saying is that doing the will of God, or obeying whatever God has said to do, is so rewarding that it is just as if He had been filled and satisfied with physical bread.

I would venture to say that this concept would be very hard for any one of us to understand.  We are all so caught up and bound by our physical world and attachment to it, that we can hardly see how doing God’s will can satisfy us physically.  But there really is a great connection between the physical and the spiritual realms.  I can say from my own experiences after preaching a powerful sermon, or sharing intently the Good News of Jesus with another person, that I find I lose track of time and I feel little need or craving for food at that time.  God really is enough in these kinds of situations.

    

Going on to verses 35 – 38, Jesus presents at least a couple more spiritual truths that I want to make sure that we do not miss.  I do find it amazing how Jesus can use so many ordinary day-to-day events and make spiritual applications out of them.  In these final verses of this passage, Jesus uses the normal activity of sowing and harvesting of a crop to teach us important truths.

The first thing that we can learn from this analogy is that there is a natural process that we should expect from sowing and reaping.  Just as a farmer will expect a harvest in his field to appear after four months of working and waiting, so we too should expect after a time that all the spiritual work that we have been doing should at some point produce a spiritual harvest.

Now some of us may be the actual spiritual sowers who plant the Word of God into the hearts and lives of others, or we may be those who tend and care for spiritually that which has been sown either in our lives or in someone else’s life.  The reward will ultimately be eternal life for those who have believed.  And those who sowed the seed of Life, and those who nurture that seed and see it grow, will both rejoice when that soul is ushered one day into the great eternal City of God.

    

But there is one more spiritual truth here that goes beyond the natural order of life.  A farmer may have to wait four months for his harvest.  But Jesus implies that the spiritual seed which is sown could produce even at that very moment a new spiritual birth.  What a wonderful hope and promise, that we may be privileged to see God’s Word take root right away with positive eternal consequences.

This is what we will see in the next article as we pick up the story again of the Samaritan woman.  Let us have the same kind of work ethic and faith as Jesus had.  Serving God is real nourishment for our bodies and our souls.  And if we do God’s work and will, we may even see the fruit of our labours happen right in front of our eyes.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Advertisements

Humbled By God

4 Comments

Who Am I?  Part 16

The last “Who Am I?” article left off with Jill and the boys in Prince Edward Island (PEI), while I closed out my time of ministry in the Manitoba church.  Even though in my heart I did not believe that I was a failure, it still felt like I was one as I drove the U-Haul truck alone across Canada while pulling our car behind on a trailer bed.  I had experienced two poor church ministries in a row, and now I was heading east to no job, and an unclear future with respects to ministry or mission work.

Mile after mile I contemplated what had gone wrong, and what could have been done differently.  Things didn’t look good, and so I also wondered what else might go wrong.  Well, let me tell you.  In the early evening while driving alone on an empty highway in northern Ontario, I looked back in my side mirror and all of a sudden I saw flames coming out of the right side tire of the trailer.  I immediately pulled over and saw nothing except some loose sand to throw at the fire.

Somehow the brake on the trailer tire had seized up and I had been driving for miles with a locked tire without knowing it.  The rubber burst into flames and I stood there helplessly as I saw the tongues of the fire start to go up towards my car on top of the trailer bed.  YIKES!!  And wouldn’t you know it, a car came around the bend and it “just happened” to be a Forest Ranger in his jeep.  He put out the fire with his extinguisher and was able to help me change the tire and unlock the seized brake.  (Needless to say I got a new trailer from U-Haul at the next town.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

That was the most exciting thing that happened along the way, so I won’t bore you with the details of getting a leak in my truck radiator in New Brunswick, or how I had to stop every 10 miles or so to top up the rad, and that part of that required me to keep going down the steep road side ditch to fill my 2 Liter Coke bottle with the trickling ditch water.

I think the trip took me 5 days to get to PEI, but it felt like a month of doing hard labor.  In the two months that Jill and the boys had been back in PEI (where almost all of her living relatives were at the time), she had found a job at a senior care home, and the boys had been enrolled in a very good preschool day care.  They had set up a family routine without me, and I wondered at first where I even fit anymore, even within the family.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I realize now that was my human mind speaking, plus I’m sure the Devil was having a great time dragging me down further and further into depression and self-incrimination.  But God would not have me stay in that place.  We had begun to attend a church there in Charlottetown, and there was a minister (Pastor Terry) who saw me, and us, not as failures in ministry, but as “wounded soldiers”.  He introduced us to the church in that way, and asked them to love us back into good spiritual health.

What a gift that church and that minister were to me and my family.  But I wanted to do my part of paying our monthly expenses, and so I asked God to guide me into a good job that could provide for us financially.  A possible Associate Pastor position came open, but God (through Pastor Terry) let me know I was not ready yet.  I tried to get other jobs that sounded good, and paid well, but nothing came of them either.

What God did provide in the end was definitely not something I would have chosen normally.  But the only job I could get at the time, was to be a general “clean-up boy” for a construction company doing renovations to a condo building.  At first, my pride got in the way as I felt embarrassed to tell people what I was doing.  But then I slowly came to realize that there were some real blessings to doing this job.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

In my youth, somehow I had picked up the work ethics of 1) work hard, and 2) work diligently to please your employer, and go the extra mile if that is what is necessary to get the job done well.  After about a month of cleaning up the rubbish when the construction people were done, my employer had noticed how good a job I was doing and he gave me a raise.  In fact, in the 10 months I worked with him, he gave me four pay raises.

This helped tremendously to provide for our family.  But there was an even better blessing that came to me.  The boss came to trust my work so much, that he gave me a number of tough final cleaning jobs like stripping and rewaxing 18 stairwells by hand while crawling up and down the stairs on your knees.  That job alone took six months to do.  But the new fast equipment could not do the same kind of job a person could do by hand alone.

And it was during these six months of crawling up and down stairs on my knees, that I was able to spend time alone in prayer with God.  I literally was on my knees before God.  And He spoke to me through this period about the importance of being a person of humility and integrity.  These were qualities I had not learned well before, or during my previous ministry positions.

How I thank God now that He truly humbled me during that year off from ministry work.  And by the time I was finished being the building janitor and clean-up boy, God was ready to send us forward into the next phase of our Christian lives and our ministry experiences.  Stay tuned, there are lots of good stories ahead.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

“Get Dirty for God!”

6 Comments

Teen Missions International

This is the symbol that changed my life.  As you can see on top, they have a great logo: Training Tomorrow’s Missionary Today. This ministry, Teen Missions International , has literally trained and sent thousands of teenagers around the world to do missionary work.  It was the belief of the early founders of TMI, such as Bob & Bernie Bland, Gayle “Widder” Will, and Bob & Betty Lane, along with others, that it was not necessary for young people to finish college before God could use them in His Kingdom Work.

And so TMI was born in 1970, and within a couple of years, the first team of a few leaders and about 15-20 teenagers went down to Mexico for a summer and did a construction project to help the local missionaries and nationals living there.  And God blessed Teen Missions so much, that by the time I went on my first summer mission with TMI, they were sending out about 50 teams made of up usually 5 leaders and up to 30 teenagers to places of ministry all over the world.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

It was 1979 when I decided to go on a Teen Missions team.  I was only 18 at the time, and I wanted to go on a construction team to Brazil.  (You can read about how my faith grew even before I started the trip in the article “God Will Supply.“)  As much as the logo mentioned above caught my attention, i.e. “Hey, I’m a teenager and yet I can still go do mission work,” it was their other more famous motto that sold me on wanting to be involved.

The motto was, and still is, “Get Dirty For God“.  And every teen who went on a team received at least one T-shirt with this motto printed on it and would wear it proudly.  Now whether a person who saw this was just curious or possibly offended by this saying, one thing for sure, it caught everyone’s attention.

My understanding was that this motto had two mains ideas within it.  First, it was saying that there is work for God to be done, and we all must roll up our sleeves and pitch in and get the work done.  And then secondly, the isolated locations and the hard work involved in most of the projects resulted in each and everyone getting dirty from head to toe.  And as budding and growing Christians, we did not mind “getting dirty for God”, as we saw churches, orphanages, airstrips, etc. been built and lives changed through the evangelistic outreach which TMI also promoted on all of its teams.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I need to back up though and tell you more about the beginning of each summer mission experience.  And after you read this part of the story, then you will understand even more how appropriate is their motto, “Get Dirty For God.”  Each teenager and leader must first go down to the swamplands of the Florida Everglades and make it through the two week Boot Camp orientation training.

Everyone lived in little two-men pup tents in their team designated area of the swampland.  That wasn’t too bad….until it rained and soaked everything and everyone.  (I actually saw one tent that had been set up on a 4′ x 8′ plywood board float part way though the Boot Camp.)  Revile was announced with a bugle over the loud speaker and you immediately got up and got ready to run the obstacle course.

There were the tires to jump through (the plagues of Egypt), a mountain of tires to climb (Mt. Sinai), go over a small end of a little lake on a rope netting (crossing the Red Sea), climb straight up and down a rope net that was about 30 feet off the ground (Jacob’s Ladder), swing across a moat, into which many fell in (the Slough of Despond), and other bizarre challenges.  The most daunting one was the last one, climbing over the “Walls of Despair”.  They were 12 feet high and you had to just use your bodies to get your entire team over the wall.  It was to help teach “teamwork”.


We found that the Obstacle Course developed team building, team bonding, and trust, as well as got out of shape teenagers back into shape.  There were of course many other courses given during these two weeks.  We learned how to have a Quiet Time with God, and were taught great spiritual truths by fantastic youth speakers and preachers.

The other main things that we learned were specific skills related to the work we would do for the other mission once we got to the field.  These included classes like steel tying (to make the reinforcement bars hold a shape until concrete was poured over them).  There was also wood-building classes, cement class, and other ones that gave the basic understanding of how to do construction.

Probably the most exciting part of Boot Camp was the evening rallies.  After we had cleaned up for the day, all the teams and leaders, plus staff members and visiting family would gather under the giant circus big top tent.  We were able a few times to pack almost 2,000 people in that tent, 1,500 of them being teenagers who were jumping up and down with joy as they worshiped God, and counted down the days until their team would leave and go fly to their country where they would work.

I’ll never forget those wonderful days when I was a kid and worked hard, and “got dirty for God”.  I had the privilege to do this four times: Brazil-Amazon guest house construction in ’79, Honduras-Country hospital wing extension in ’80, Dominican Republic-church building project in ’84, and Mexico-Christian camp expansion project in ’85.

What can I say to God except, “Thank You”.  Yes, thank you God for granting me these experiences and in each experience I found myself growing more in my faith and in the depth of my understanding of who God is.  Those commissioning services that sent us out from the Big Top Tents in Florida truly sent us with the power of God’s Spirit so that we were able to do some great Kingdom work in all different corners of the world.

Pictures Taken from TMI Official Website:  http://www.teenmissions.org