As I’ve been contemplating ‘Truth’ in the midst of these disturbing times, I’ve been reminded to keep my eyes on Jesus – the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6); to spend time with Him – in prayer, worship, and the Word, and to continue to join with other believers, whether in person (my preference) or through technology (sadly, my main option at the moment, though I’m grateful for that). Our hearts are revived and encouraged when we keep our eyes and hearts on the Creator and Saviour, the One who has all the answers. His truth trumps every other thing we read or hear. Even God places His Word higher than anything else!
“… For You have exalted Your word above all Your Name.”
Psalm 138:2 (MEV)
Such an incredible verse! His promises are backed by the honour of His Name. (NLT)
In Part 1 of this series, I discussed how we see ourselves, and God, and why we think the way we do. Where we get our information from is critical. Truth is so important. It effects the path our lives take. You can read Part 1 here –
How we engage with His word and the way wereceive that Truth, will make a critical difference to how our life looks. This is described by Jesus in the Parable of the Sower.
“Some fell on rocky places where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.”
Jesus goes on to explain, “The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word they quickly fall away.” (v 20-21)
Rocky ground doesn’t have enough soil or moisture to sustain growth in a plant. It needs soil and compost to be added. It needs a source of water, and the rocks need to be removed for the garden to flourish, so the seeds can grow without hindrance.
It’s easy to see how this relates to our lives:
We might feel drained, like dry ground, and need a refreshing from Jesus, our Living Water, from the Word, or just some encouragement from a friend. Our hard journeys might need some TLC to keep us going – a revelation from Jesus, some worship, a fun activity that acts like ‘compost’ to boost us, or some counselling that is like fresh soil to our hard ground. Maybe poor decisions or life’s circumstances have you living on ‘rocky ground’ – distractions, hurt, sin, or unforgiveness. These may need to be attended to, put aside, removed, or forgiven, as a gardener would remove the rocks.
Or we may be living shallow lives – lukewarm, inattentive to Christ.
“But don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.”
James 1 :22
We want to be authentic, not living in legalism or religious habits that have no lasting effect, not holding to traditions that bind us to the world, instead of setting us into God’s freedom. Nobody wants to be called ‘shallow’. Having a deep, authentic faith not only helps our lives grow, but it is also what the world needs to see and experience. Religious traditions that have outlived their ‘use by’ date, words without actions, preaching without truth and love – these ‘rocks’ need to be put aside for a true following of Christ and His Word.
“Thus, you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.”
Mark 7:13 (NIV)
Sin, of course, is another rock to remove, along with the shame and guilt that comes with it. But how easy this is when we go to Jesus, the One who forgives, and bring our lives to Him, receiving in turn His mercy, grace, forgiveness and assurance.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9 (NIV)
“…Instead with a sensitive spirit we absorb God’s Word, which has been implanted within our nature, for the Word of Life has power to continually deliver us.”
James 1:21 (TPT)
“Prepare the way for the people, build up, build up the highway! Take out he stones, lift up a banner for the peoples.”
And what of our friends who are new to faith? We can be people who remove the ‘rocks’ which hinder their growth. We can speak words of hope to those who need encouragement, truth to those who are struggling with their self-image, like giving water to the thirsty. We can be forgiving, generous, and gracious to those who have a poor image of Jesus and His church, or do our best to remove offenses that block ears to the gospel. Just maybe, our love will gently remove a rock of condemnation in another’s heart, instead of having it hurled at us by someone who has only seen hypocrisy. (And sometimes they will be thrown in any case.) As believers, we want to bring a confident, trustworthy faith to those around us – to help build their own faith and trust, and to give them time to develop a deep, strong root in their hearts. This will help keep them grounded even in a time of testing, instead of withering or being scorched. We have an enemy and so do our new friends. Let’s help protect them.
It’s easy in these times to hear God’s Word and be encouraged for a moment – “it sprang up quickly… and at once received it with joy” – but unless we allow those truths deep in our heart, we may not see the changes we want. Jesus has asked us to act on His Word, to walk it out by faith, to allow it to renew our minds and transform our lives. What a privilege, and what a gift we have in His Word, the seed of God, that can do this.
I don’t want to just hear the Word once a week, ‘receiving it with joy’, but then do nothing to allow the seed to get planted deep in my heart. It takes time and tending, sun and water, protection from harsh elements for a seed to grow and flourish. Let’s protect the seed of God’s Word by meditating on it, speaking and praying it, digging deep into its meaning, thanking God for His promises, and responding by faith upon it. And we can help others to do the same through our encouragement, testimony, right living, and blessing upon them.
“Encourage one another and build each other up”
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Ask the Lord who you can encourage today.
Praise and worship Jesus, and allow His Living Water to refresh you.
What truth in God’s Word are you struggling to believe? Where do you have doubt? Meditate on God’s Word in these areas and pray for strength and courage to believe.
Big vistas are spectacular, filling our hearts with joy and wonder, drawing us closer to our Creator. Things in our heart just seem to settle when we see the big picture, giving us hope for the things that trouble us. Times of beauty, inspiration and rest help our minds let go of tension. Creativity is sparked, peace gets a foothold, relationships can grow. Many of us in lockdown are appreciating the beauty in our own backyards as we escape the four walls to find some balance to our unnatural circumstances.
Then there are the little things. They give perspective to the large. I mean, what is ‘large’ if you have nothing to compare it to?
I was wandering in my garden looking at the winter flowers, the dainty, yet so intricate beauty. It gave meaning to the whole. It taught me to honour the ‘small’ in its place, giving contrast and dimension. There’s power in the small things.
“If you are faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in large ones.”
Luke 16:10 (NLT)
When I was unwell in 2016 I was so encouraged by all the little things people did for me. Flowers, visits, gifts, meals, cards, even a hand embroidered gift. And of course, all the prayers and encouraging words sent to me as people surrounded me with faith. It taught me that the little things we do are so valuable in touching another’s life.
“And to one he gave five talents… So when he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'”
Talents were amounts of money, in this case entrusted to his servants to use for his benefit. In this parable, the lord is just as pleased with the faithful servant of two talents as he is with those who had five talents, v22-23. It’s not how much we have that is important, but what we do with what we have been given by God, to use, invest and work with, for His Kingdom.
I was changing the battery inside a clock recently that had been given to our family by two young men from America whom we had hosted. They had come to bring the Gospel to young people through music. Kurtis and Chris had inscribed inside the back, thanking us and reminding us of our small part in changing the lives of many young people. They performed eighteen concerts in eleven days reaching hundreds of students. 271 of those precious young people gave their hearts to the Lord. Our part was small – some bedding on the floor, meals around the table, the craziness of our large family and marshmallows around the fire pit. And yet our small part was important. It was part of the whole picture so that young people could hear about Jesus.
We see this in the Bible: women following Jesus, taking care of His needs, and Joseph of Arimathea risking his position as a member of the high council to ask Pilate for Jesus’ body so he could lay Him to rest – Mark 15:41-46; the Shunamite woman who created an upper room for the prophet, Elisha – 2 Kings 4:8-10; the financial support given to Paul by the Philippians, as he taught them the gospel and then travelled elsewhere to continue in ministry – Philippians 4:5.
Sometimes it feels like there is little we can do. The problems of our world seem so big. We don’t feel we can make a difference. But we can. No one could take away the cancer in my body, but they could surround me with love and care and encouragement. The impact of all those little acts of kindness was so profound. Our small acts of love, generosity, obedience, forgiveness, acceptance, help, and hospitality are vital in these days!
You have been given something from God to work with, to invest, to make a difference in someone’s life here on earth. And such joy that brings. To the person you bless, to Jesus, to you. Your little adds to the beauty and wonder of the big picture.
“Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.”