A Spiritual Harvest Stands Ready

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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.

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God Provides Oases – Part 1

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Have you been in that place where you say to God, “Enough Lord!  I don’t think I can take any more of this?”  You feel like the hard-road journey you are on is never going to end.  It can take many forms: financial pressures, bad relationships, chronic health issues, or any number of other stressors that seem to be an endless painful journey.

Now normally I do not like to pass on silly sayings, but it is kind of cute when someone says, “Do you know what are the most encouraging words in Scripture?  They are, ‘And it came to pass.’  That means that bad times will not stay with us; they come, and then they will pass on by.'”  I wish it were that easy to say that if we just wait a short while, everything will get better.  In fact, things may stay bad, or even get worse, for a much longer period of time.

But don’t let this get you super discouraged or depressed, for even during the worst periods of our lives there will be moments of great joy and periods of relief from the things that press down on us.  Our author that we are following, Mark Atteberry, who wrote “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel“, has some wise words to say, and then gives us some very good points to talk about in Chapter 8.

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Consider this quote on page 99:

Maybe you’re just getting started on your hard road and you’re deeply discouraged.  Perhaps your first steps have been agonizingly difficult and you feel you’re not going to be able to endure.  Well, cheer up!  Every desert has some oases, and sooner or later you’re going to come to one.  It’s true!  Even on the hardest roads, there are wonderful pleasures to be found.

Atteberry goes on in the rest of this chapter to explain that there are at least four excellent sources from which we can draw upon and be refreshed.  I will reflect on two of these sources in this article, and then two weeks from now I will reflect on the other two sources of encouragement and spiritual refreshment.

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1.  “Refreshing Seasons”.  It is very normal for most people to talk about the weather.  Even if the person is a complete stranger, it is not unusual to make casual comments like “Looks like it’s going to rain again,” or to say, “Man, it sure is cold today!  I just about froze my fingers off walking out there today!”  And if after a long period of such bad weather we finally get a good change, like the sun shining  in the midst of a clear blue sky, or a warm wind coming to break the cold spell, then we feel such a sense of relief.  Even if it is only for one day, that good weather is enough to help us go forward and to continue enduring the bad weather.

I think it was kind of like that when our older boy, Eric, went through his cancer journey.  That first year of the aggressive drugs he took to battle against the leukemia seemed to stretch on forever for us.  Week after week he endured his chemotherapy, and there were a few times when we were very worried for him, and with good reason.  We did make it to the end of the aggressive year, and continued on with other regular but milder drugs for another 18 months.

It certainly was a difficult road for every one in the family.  But God was good, and He provided some wonderful refreshing moments throughout the 30 months of treatment.  Eric was chosen as a cancer “spokes’ kid” for one year and had a blast meeting famous athletes, radio announcers and got a special private dress rehearsal concert with his favorite Christian rock band.  These islands of pleasurable and memorable experiences made the hard-road journey more bearable for all of us.  Thank you God.

2.  “Refreshing Servants”.  There is a little spot in northern Ontario (Canada) that may not be on every road map, but one spot that Jill and I will never forget.  It’s called Agawa Bay.  I mentioned in another article about how sick I was in Ontario in 1989, and this prompted us to leave Toronto in January to pull a U-haul 3,300 kilometers across Canada while Jill was 6 months pregnant and I was lying on a mattress in the back of our station wagon.  (Read that story here.)

When we got to Agawa Bay, after fighting our way through a Canadian blizzard and snow squall conditions, we stopped to get a bite to eat and to gas up as there would be no more restaurant or gas station for at least 150 more miles.  We went to start the car, and the battery was dead.  But even if we could go, the Mounted Police just put up a barricade to stop traffic from entering deeper into the forest wilderness of northern Ontario.

So what were we to do in this little place that had only a restaurant, a gas station and garage, and a couple of houses for staff to sleep in.  And a dead car.  We needed a miracle, and He sent us a refreshing “servant-hearted man”.  The car mechanic on duty heard about our dead car, and that the road was closed.  So he helped us push the car into the garage and hoisted it up and started working on it.

He figured that with the roads closed and nowhere to go, he might at well make himself useful.  So through half the night he fixed our battery engine problem and also found that our timing belt at the back of the engine was actually half chewed through and worn down.  If we had continued past Agawa Gay, there would have been a good chance we would have broken down literally in the middle of nowhere.

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So what is the point of these two stories?  Namely this:  life is full of difficulties that can seem endless and may go from bad to worse.  But if we have the eyes to see it and discern it, we will often notice how God actually was there with us through the difficulties and in one way or another, He provided a short season or a person with a servant heart to bless us and to give us refreshment so that we can carry on down our hard-road journey.