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Finding the Rewards and Motivation

Already the reaper draws his wages and gathers a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together.  John 4:36

Here’s my mash up translation of this verse: Even now, the one who is doing the harvesting is receiving his paycheck, and what he’s harvesting is people brought to eternal life, so that the one who plants the seed and the one who harvests the crop can rejoice together.

It’s a pretty cool passage when you break it down.  Jesus speaks of a harvest that’s already taking place. Wait, when did this happen?  We were just reading about Nicodemus.  Now suddenly, we realize that Jesus has brought souls to eternal life!  And what a surprise, they’re Samaritan souls!  The woman at the well believed in Jesus, and spread the good news to her whole town.  They came to believe as well.

“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” . . . And many more believed because of His message. They said to the woman, “We now believe not only because of your words; we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man truly is the Savior of the world.” John 4:39, 41

Jesus also says that the one who does the harvesting is receiving a wage.  We know he’s referring to his disciples as the harvesters, because later in the passage he tells them, “I sent you to reap.”  But what is this compensation he’s talking about?

We can look at some other places in the Bible to give us clues.  In Matthew 10:10, when Jesus sent out his disciples to spread the good news, he told them to not take money to buy food, because “those who work deserve to be fed.”  God would make sure that their needs were provided for by the people they ministered to. So it could be that Jesus was saying that the harvester would be sustained by the providence of God as he did the work, and that would be his reward.

The “pay” also could be an intrensic reward.  It could be the satisfaction of doing the will of God.  This certainly was true for Jesus, as he said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to finish his work.” (John 4:34)

It could be the joy of bringing souls to eternal life. The verse goes on to say that the sower and reaper will rejoice together.  This is backed up when we look in Luke 10 at how the 72 disciples were sent out to minister. They returned with joy in their hearts.  Jesus told them, “do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Two initial takeaways from today’s reading.

What can we take away from today’s red letter passage?  First, will we be harvesters?  Jesus didn’t do much to set this harvest in motion.  He just cared about a woman. He just had a conversation.  We can do that too.

Second, will we see the harvesting process as rewarding?  There’s a reward we can experience now, because Jesus promises that those who seek the kingdom first will have their physical needs met.  (Matt. 6:33)  We can’t take it for granted if we have a place to live, clothes to wear, and food in our bellies!  These are perks we have because God is taking care of us.

But there’s also the reward of having a deep peace and satisfaction that comes from doing God’s will.  And there’s the reward of the joy we experience as our hearts burst in celebration when someone makes a decision for Christ.  Each new soul becomes dear to us, and we take the treasure of them into eternity.

For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?  Indeed, you are our glory and joy.  I Thes 2:20

Having the motivation to put this into practice.

How motivating are these rewards?  In life coaching, when someone wants to change a behavior, they have to have a proper incentive.  They can’t just say, “I’m think I’m going to start waking up early every day and exercizing.”  If they do, they’ll find themselves sleeping in!  Instead, they have to tell themselves, and believe that, “It’s so important to me to get into shape, that I will give up sleep for it.”

Sharing our faith has to become so important to us that we will push through and do it.  The rewards have to be a powerful incentive.  And for me, I admit, they haven’t been. I’m focused on too many other things that seem important to me.  And I don’t realize the magnitude of the reward.

I did a coaching workshop a few days ago, and I asked the participants, “At the end of your life, what would you regret not doing or spending more time on?”  When I asked myself that question, it was sobering.  One of the main things I would regret is not sharing the gospel with more people. That makes me realize that it truly is of top importance to me.  I just get distracted by day to day life.  Or I give into my fear of what people will think, or my love for comfort.

Just as I am trying to open my own eyes, I think that Jesus was trying to open his disciples’ eyes to the enormity of what they were doing.  After centuries of sowing, it was finally time to reap! God was bringing eternal life to souls, and the disciples were part of the process.  They needed to see that the labor of harvest was the best use of their time.  Everything else would fade away, but the work done in God’s field would last forever.

The real motivation and reward goes much deeper.

As I’ve thought of this over several days, I think that the real reward for being a harvester is much more than what I’ve written.  The real reward is that, as a follower of Christ, the harvesters were now living their new identity.

You know, if you don’t live out your identity, you feel unsettled.   You can pretend to be someone else, but sooner or later, you’re miserable.  But when you get your life in line with who you are, and what you value, you’re in the sweet spot.

So I think that living the life they were called to live was the greatest reward of the disciples.   Harvesting was their new groove, and they would feel most alive when they participated in it.  They had an exciting knowledge that was bubbling inside, waiting to be shared with others.  They had a light that was meant to shine, not be hidden under a basket. (Matt. 5:16) And shining for God would feel like the best thing ever.

It will feel like the best thing ever for us as well, if we can push through and live out our identity.  Let’s open our eyes to what’s really important to us.   Let’s realize and be motivated by the amazing rewards that are ours when we do the work.

And one day, we will have the greatest reward of all.  We will have treasures in heaven.  (Matt. 6:19-21) We will rejoice with the sowers over each soul from the field in which we labored.  It will be utterly sweet.

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his soul? (Mark 8:36)  

Do not work for food that spoils; instead, work for the food that lasts for eternal life.  John 6:27b

 

 

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When We’re “Running Out”

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to Him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why does this concern us?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”  (John 2:1-4)

I can relate to this wedding dilemna! For my son’s rehearsal dinner, we put a lot of effort into making it really nice.  We held it at an upscale restaurant.  There were special decorations.  I created a video.  We planned activities.

The price of catering included wine for a certain period of time.  As the event went overtime, the maitre d’ came to my husband and whispered that if anyone wanted another drink, it would incur an extra charge.  It was a moment of counting the cost, because we were already spending a good deal of money.  But my husband was feeling joyful and magnanimous.  He said, “Sure, let them have more if they would like.”  It turned out that everyone had had enough, so it all worked out.

But the point is that we wanted the rehearsal dinner to be super special.  I’m sure the people in charge of the wedding at Cana felt the same.  For them, running out of wine in the middle of the celebration would have been a huge downer.

So it’s no wonder that Jesus’s mom stepped in to try and alleviate the situation.  She knew and cared about the young couple and their families.  She didn’t want them to experience this discouraging failure at the time that should be the biggest celebration of their life.

Mary didn’t think twice about going to Jesus and asking him for help.  And Jesus let her know that this request was uncool.  It was putting him out. It wasn’t his time to do miracles yet.

Yet, if we continue to read the story, we see that Jesus didn’t hold back.  He honored his mother’s request.  He used his powers and saved the day.

This story really helps my heart.   Sometimes I feel like I’m asking Jesus for something that is inappropriate.  I mean, he’s the Son of God.  My request is surely small next to the needs of the world.  It isn’t a salvation issue.  I’m not asking him to alleviate something grave like world hunger.   How can I bother Jesus with my little matter?  He has to have more important things on his agenda.

But this passage reminds me that Jesus cares about the day-to-day things going on in my life.  His heart was moved to help his mother.  I’m loved by him, and his heart can be moved to help me as well.

And in the story, Jesus didn’t just tell them how much he cared, or help in a token way.  He helped in a huge way.  He totally fixed it.

He performed a miracle. I’ve heard it so many times, that I forget how utterly amazing it is that Jesus changed water to wine.    I have a Brita pitcher of water on my kitchen counter right now.  If someone waved their hand over it and then poured me a cup of Burgundy, I would be astounded.  My heart would be racing.

That’s the kind of Savior we go to with our concerns.  We pray to God in his name.  He cares, and he has the power to fix them, no matter how impossible they seem.

So what are you running out of?  Okay, maybe it’s not wine.  But it could be money, or a another resource.  It could be time.   I confess that, lately, I’ve been running out of hope.

Several months ago, I put a situation on my prayer list that had been stuck for years.  For awhile, it got even more stuck.  But then one event occurred that was exactly what was needed to shake things up.  This led to more actions that really got the situation turned around. It has been amazing. The changes are still in progress, but, I’m telling you, it’s a true miracle!

Don’t think twice about taking your depleted situation to Jesus.  He loves you deeply!  You can ask, and his heart will be moved.  You won’t be inconveniencing him.  It’s not too small a request.  And if it’s in the scheme of God’s good will, Jesus won’t hold back. He’ll totally fix it.

Last night at our midweek house church, we ate fresh peach cobbler with ice cream, made from peaches I picked from my tree.  We didn’t study the Bible this time.  We just sat, and were close  and shared our lives with one another.  I felt such an atmosphere of love.

And I knew that this was a thumbnail of the warmth that Jesus has towards us — such a deep, encompassing, nurturing love.

When I think of it like that, I’m like, this is how we’re walking around in life.  We’re cushioned by love.  It’s natural to share our heart and requests with Jesus, and know that they will resonate with him and be honored.

Mary knew that was her reality.  Let’s remember that it’s ours as well.

 

 

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Seeing the Glory

“Rabbi,” Nathanael answered, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus said to him, “Do you believe just because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” Then He declared, “Truly, truly, I tell you, you will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”  John 1:49-51

It seems like I’ve been praying like never before this week.  So many of my friends are going through really tough challenges — marriage difficulties, the death of a family member, a crisis regarding a loved one, impossible situations at work.

I have a little prayer box, and I keep putting more things in it.

Today’s passage speaks to this.  It describes how Nathanael reacted when Jesus told him that he was a true Israelite.   Nathanael could see the divine power behind this statement, and he declared that he believed that Jesus was the Son of God.

What’s really encouraging about this is Jesus’s response.  He told Nathanael that he would see heaven open and the angels going up and coming down.

Well, before we go on, we have to look at this mystifying image of the angels.  What did Jesus mean?  We don’t know.  We don’t have any record of Nathanael actually seeing this in the future.

But we do know that it’s probably a reference to Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28.

He (Jacob) had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and east and north and south. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.” (Genesis 28:12)

The outcome of this story of Jacob was that God was going to bless everyone on earth through Jacob’s descendants.  This is a continuation of the promise God gave to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham.  I believe that this promise is being fulfilled today as the gospel is being made known throughout the world.  Galatians 3 says, “Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” (Galatians 3:7-8)  

Thus, it very well could be that Jesus was telling Nathanael that he would see the miracle of the gospel being spread to all nations.

It could also be a reference to Nathanael’s entrance to heaven when he died.  When Stephen was stoned in Acts 7 and about to perish, he said, “Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56)  Jesus could be telling Nathanael that, as one of the first to have faith in the Son of God, he would have a similar vision when he passed away.

We don’t know.  But we do know that Jesus said that Nathanael would see something great and wonderful.  And I think the principle here is that because Nathanael was able to have faith in a small situation, he was going to see the glory of Christ.

And that is something that can encourage us.  If we can just have faith in the small things, we will be able to see glorious things.

It may be that we will see this glory as we see the gospel being spread in miraculous ways.  We will certainly see it when we get to heaven.

But maybe we will see the glory because faith allows us to live a glorious life.  Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”  (John 14:12) I John 5:4 says, “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”  And I love this verse, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”  (II Cor 2:14)

Just being able to have faith in the small things makes such a difference. It helps us learn to have faith in the big things. And then God works in big ways.  And we see the world in a different way, that we’re not perpetually defeated, but, instead, part of something dynamic and thrilling and hopeful.

Earlier this week, a friend called me to unload about a difficult situation.   After we discussed it, we decided, rather than try and figure out a solution to the problem, to surrender it to God in prayer.  I put it in my “prayer box.”

The next day, she texted me and said that the situation had worked out.  It was a small miracle.

A day later, I heard about something that totally discouraged me.  I got a lump in my throat that was like a huge ugly ball, too big to swallow, too big to fit in my prayer box.

And I had to tell myself, “I believe Jesus is the Son of God.  This belief is my very core.  So I must surrender the unsurrenderable to him.”  And I’m trying to do that.

You know, as I reflect on this now, I realize that God works when we give things to him.  But we expect him to work while we’re still holding onto our concerns!  We have to have the faith to hand it over.

Nathanael took a step of faith. And Jesus said that he would see glory.

We need to take that step of faith, and then the next, and the next, even though they seem huge.  When we do, we will live a glorious life.

As I look over my gratitude journal this week, I see how true this is.  God did some wonderful things this week!  One friend had an amazing breakthrough.  I started studying the Bible with another friend, and it went so well!  God taught me truths that I was able to pass on to others to help them.  I could go on and on.

Jesus is the Son of God.  Our belief in that makes such a difference.

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The One Who Sees Us

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, He said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is no deceit.”

“How do You know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus replied, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”  (John 1:47-48)

What moves my heart about this passage is how Jesus truly saw Nathanael.  He didn’t just check out his appearance.  He saw straight through to the inside of who Nathanael really was.

Jesus saw that Nathanael was a man of integrity, someone with a mindset to do the right thing, no matter what.

When Jesus expressed this, it was a goosebumps moment for Nathanael.  The future apostle realized that Jesus knew his core, the thing that motivated him and made him tick.

There are other instances in the Bible where Jesus was the one who saw.  In the story of the woman at the well, Jesus saw that the woman had gone through multiple marriages.  When Jesus went to the town of Nain, he saw how deep the loss of a son was to a widow, and was moved to help her.  When Jesus was at the Pool of Bethesda, he saw a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years and asked the insightful question, “Do you want to get well?”

Isn’t this what our heart longs for today?  One of my life coach instructors teaches that people are always asking, “Do you see me?”  We all so much want someone to “get” us.  I know when I talk to someone and they lean into me with their listening, it feels like an itch is finally being scratched.

Because sometimes I feel with others like we’re not speaking the same language.  I want to make a connection, but I don’t know the words.  I want to matter, but my efforts fall flat.

We probably all feel that way at times.  That’s why we need Jesus.  He’s the one who can understand our language.  He’s the one who sees straight through to the core of who we really are — what drives us, what we need, what makes our heart sing.  It’s a rare and wonderful thing.

We can realize that we’re not alone.  We’re never an island.

And we can know that because Jesus sees, his heart is moved, and he acts on our behalf.

When we go through inner pain and turmoil, he leans into us, and weeps with us.  There’s a communion that takes place.

I really like what Jeanie Shaw wrote about this in her blog today: “I am learning, in my relationship with God, that there is special sacredness in suffering and intimacy in infirmity.”

There can be intimacy, a closeness, in the midst of that thing that makes us feel most isolated.

Because Jesus is the one who sees.

You know, there’s so much in my life now that’s a testament to Jesus being the one who’s seen me, so many times when I’ve been given exactly what I needed.  Marrying my husband is exactly what I needed, as was joining my church, and having the jobs I’ve had.  Our move to Auburn ten years ago was exactly what I needed.  My recent study of life coaching is exactly what I need.

The question is, what is my response to this?

Here’s what Nathanael’s response was to Jesus: “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus sees us.  His heart is moved.  He acts.  This happens innumerably more times that we perceive.

But maybe, sometimes, we will get goosebumps, like Nathanael, and respond with faith, “You are the son of God.  Only the divine could do this.”

 

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The One Who Finds Us

The next day Jesus decided to set out for Galilee. Finding Philip, He told him, “Follow Me.” (John 1:43)

The cool thing about this passage is that Jesus found Philip.  He didn’t just come across him.  He actively looked for him until he located him.

Isn’t it amazing that we serve a Savior who searches for us?  It’s like we’re living out the story of the shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep on the hill and went after the one who was lost.  (Matt 18:12-14)  I can look back and see how Jesus sought me; how he set up situations so I would encounter him.  One of my favorite verses has been, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”  (John 15:8a)

Does he still look for me?  Does he come to me in my whirlwind of “to-dos” and struggles and side roads, and say to me, “You’re getting off track. Come on. Remember. Follow me.”

I need to stop, and look into his eyes and hear his earnest call again, “I believe in you.  I have a purpose for you.  This is the way.”

Yes!  This is the way.  This is it!  That must be what Philip thought when Jesus called him.  Philip went right away and told his brother, Nathanael, “We have found the One Moses wrote about in the Law, the One the prophets foretold.” (John 1:45)

Philip had the heart to recognize the call, and how momentous it was.  Can we say the same?

This past week the 50 members of our little church gave $14,000 in a special contribution that will enable our ministry to continue.  We were tremendously encouraged.  It is astounding that we were able to give that much.  It says something about the hearts of the members.  They believe in what we’re doing.  It resonates deeply with them.  What they gave was, in a sense, a response to the call of Jesus they heard.

“Follow me.”  When we get it, and do it, it feels glorious!

But many times, we don’t recognize the call.  Many times, we follow imperfectly.

You know, I think the reason Philip responded to the call was because he could see what Jesus was, instead of what Jesus wasn’t.  We know what Nathanael saw at first.  He asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”  All Nathanael could think about was how Nazareth was so sketchy.

And we can be the same way.  We’re supposed to look at who Jesus is, but instead we look at all the things that are sketchy — “My marriage is struggling.  I lost my job.  I don’t have the money to pay my bills.  This didn’t turn out like I expected. That person upset me.”

And we feel muddled.  Sigh.  As I think about it, I know the good news is that Jesus still comes to find us.

I can see the evidence of Jesus’s search for me like a breadcrumb trail through this past week.   My friend, Kenonia, and I got together and prayed, and within a minute, the prayer was answered.  Our friends, the Johnsons, sent an email detailing their plans to come and encourage our church in a couple of weeks.  A young woman I studied the Bible with years ago texted me that she’s now studying the Bible again.  My daughter and her husband successfully navigated together the complicated decision of whether to buy a house.  One friend who has had some challenges told me they are now doing better.  Another friend was on the brink of failing nursing school, and told me she passed.  And, of course, our church raised $14,000!  So many prayers were answered!

It’s not that Jesus at one time went after us to save us, or that he occasionally shows up in our lives.  It’s that Jesus is ALWAYS looking for us and leaving evidence of who he is, and how much he cares.

Then, when he finally gets our attention, he says, “Follow me.” 

Will we hear?  Will we respond?

When we remember who he is, and how momentous is the call, we will.

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Stepping into Your Greatness

Andrew brought his brother to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which is translated as Peter).  (John 1:42)

I LOVE that Jesus said this to Peter.  He sees the best in Peter.  He sees him according to his potential.

There’s a term we use in life coaching.  We help our clients to, “step into their greatness.”  We help them to see that they can do the hard thing.  We help them to realize that they have strengths and abilities that will enable them to have wins.  We believe in them.  It’s similar to what Jesus did with Peter.

This is good for me to think about today, because I’m struggling with this need to be on top of everything.  And I have so many balls in the air, that it’s impossible.

What would God say to me?  How would he tell me to step into my greatness?

As I prayed about it, here’s what I felt he said.  Stepping into my greatness isn’t staying on top of every single thing.  I step into my greatness any time I pray.  I do it when I work in the yard and feel close to Him.  I do it when I meet someone, actively care for someone, or just listen to them.  I do it when I use the small talents he gave me by writing a blog or singing a song on the guitar.

Stepping into my greatness is being the person I was created to be.

I’m also struggling today because I just took had a big life coaching evaluation.  I had to coach another teacher for my final in my class.   I did my best.  I passed.  But I couldn’t help but feel disappointed, because I didn’t do the job I wanted to do.

Maybe that’s a metaphor for my life.  I do my best, and it’s passable.  But I want to do more.  I want to do better.  I want to be great!  Ugh, I know that can be prideful.  But it’s such a strong desire.

So I prayed, and talked to God about my discouragement, and I heard Him tell me that I did achieve greatness with my test today.  He reminded me of how, a year ago, I stepped out and actually started working towards my dream, and began studying coaching.  I took classes, including this last class, which was sometimes very scary.  I had to coach in front of my classmates and receive criticism.  I had to face my insecurities that I would never be good as a coach, and push past them, and resolve to learn and improve.  I had to try to make my business grow.  I went out and met strangers, and networked.  I developed a workshop and put it on for the women at church, and then made it available to other women.  And finally, I studied and did the assessment today, which made me feel nervous and vulnerable.

All of those things were stepping into my greatness.  It wasn’t that I had to do perfectly on the evaluation.

How will you step into your greatness today?  Will you listen to the voices that tell you that you have to be perfect?  Or will you listen to the loving voice of the one who made you, and be the person you were created to be, and know that the small things are actually big things?

Will you care about someone today?  Will you do something that’s courageous for you?  Will you act for God, and not yourself?  All of these things are stepping into greatness.

Jesus believed in Peter.  He believes in you, and your potential.  What name would he say you will be called?  A name that means compassionate, brave, gentle, faithful, leader, encouraging, resourceful, energetic?

He’s equipped you to be that person.  You might feel like you’re just “passable,” or that you don’t look like you think you “should” look.  But Jesus thinks you’re amazing!  You will light the world with who you are, one step at a time.

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The Counterintuitive Law of Productivity

Then I asked,

“How long, O Lord?”

And He replied,

“Until cities lie in ruins

without an inhabitant,

until the houses are left unoccupied,

and the land is desolate and ravaged,

until the LORD has driven men far away,

and the land is utterly forsaken.

And though a tenth remains in the land,

it will be burned again.

As the terebinth and oak leave stumps when felled,

so the holy seed will be a stump in the land.” (Is 6:11-13)

The thing that catches my attention about this prophesy is that it is focuses on the land, more than the people.  I put the word “land” in bold so you can see the emphasis.

Strange.  Why would God care about something inanimate?

But it’s not so strange if we look at Leviticus.  Check out the warning God gave the Israelites at the time of Moses:

But if in spite of all this you do not obey Me, . . . I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out a sword after you as your land becomes desolate . . . . As long as it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not receive during the Sabbaths when you lived in it.  (Lev. 26:27, 33, 35)

God actually wanted the land to have rest.

This is totally interesting.  It reminds us that God set down very specific laws regarding how his people were to treat the land they received.

Then the LORD said to Moses on Mount Sinai, “Speak to the Israelites and say, ‘When you enter the land I am giving you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath to the LORD.  For six years you may sow your field and prune your vineyard and gather its crops. But in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of complete rest for the land—a Sabbath to the LORD. ” Leviticus 25:2-4

What’s so cool about this is that today we have tons of technology that shows us that soil does indeed need a rest.  Farmers often allow their fields to fallow over a season.  And our government pays over a billion dollars to farmers for letting portions of their land lie dormant.  The USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program website says that doing this improves water quality, reduces soil erosion, and increases habitat for endangered and threatened species.

God knows best.

But the Israelites couldn’t wrap their heads around this.  Evidently, they had to be busy.  They had to produce.  They had to be hands on, in control.  They couldn’t slow down.

Does this remind us of something?  Oh yes, we can be that way!

Isaiah 57 defines the problem well:  “Though you tired yourself out by running after idols, you refused to stop. Your desires were so strong that they kept you going.” Is 57:10

We’re frazzled and worn out, but we can’t get ourselves to stop.   We stay up too late.  We pack out our schedules.  We’re driven by our desires, not our faith.

And God wants us to rest, just like he wants the land to rest.

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”  Isa 30:15

It’s so counterintuitive to us.  Doesn’t God want us to work hard, be productive and fruitful, and do the most with what he has given us?

So what is this rest thing?  Busier is better!  Let’s get things accomplished!

We have to get it through our heads that God structured his creation to require both work and a time of replenishment.

We can’t keep depleting ourselves, like Israelites depleted the land.

If we continue to do so, God may take steps to put us in the proper order.

He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, and every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes to make it even more fruitful. . .  Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.”

God wants us to find the source of true replenishment, which is him and Christ.  We have to learn to connect, and stay connected to him.

Rest in God alone, O my soul, for my hope comes from Him. Ps 62:5 

Again, we find this counterintuitive principle.  In pruning, a farmer limits productivity to create productivity.  God limits our productivity at times, so a productivity in him can be achieved.

God teaches us to be still, and drink from the spring that will truly quench our thirst.  (John 4:14)

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul .  . . Ps 23:2-3a

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.  Ex 14:14

Will we still our efforts, and find rest and replenishment in the Lord?

Will we still not only our constant striving, but our constant fretting?

I’m totally guilty of this.  My thoughts can be as busy as my schedule.  My mind whirls with fears and “shoulds.”   I micromanage.  I spin.  I edit.  I keep devising ways for everything to work out.

And the irony is that the only thing that’s going to work out is the thing I put in God’s hands. Because he is the source.

I’m so afraid of a lack of productivity.  I need to work and plan, so things will go right!

Yet I come back to this passage.  God made the land desolate. It seemed like the end.  But he left a “holy seed” that would be a  “stump in the land.”  This is how he achieved his purpose.

You know, growth is so crazy.  I have plants in my yard that look dead all winter, but with the spring, they are leafy and blooming again.  I have trees I’ve cut down, and you would think that would be the end of them.  But before long, shoots grow out of the cut wood.

And the last verse of Isaiah 6 foretells this kind of growth — a seed planted in a ravaged land, a hewn tree that still has life in it.

God specializes in the circle of life.  The season of inactivity leads to a season of abundance.  It isn’t the end.  It is, in fact, necessary.

God wants the land to rest, so it will be more productive.  God wants us to rest in him, so we will be more productive.

Will we listen to him, or will we be like the Israelites, endlessly toiling?

It’s counterintuitive.  Everything in us screams to stay in control, to make things happen.

But the efforts that are fruitful spring from the seed that sits quietly in the soil and connects to the nutrients.

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