While preparing for a children’s message this week, I noticed something in a familiar scripture I had not noticed before. I love how scripture does that, reveals something new to you amidst the familiar. I was reading Matthew 13 to talk to our kiddos about the Parable of the Weeds. Tucked into the middle of this story is a subplot having to do with the servants of the Sower.
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” Matthew 13:24-30
Right in the middle of this story we see the Sower’s servants get snarky with Him, “didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?” I can actually hear the voice of my youngest son here. Sarcastically stating, “mom what did you do, cause this is not what’s supposed to happen.”
Like a spoiled child, when something happens that was not expected…weeds growing in the midst of the crop, we blame the Sower. We doubt Him who promises us everything, who is always faithful and who always keeps His word. When something unexpected or unpleasant happens, we assume it must be God that caused it through His action or inaction.
The Sowers response is simply, “An enemy did this.”
How often do we attribute the bad things in our lives to Him who saves and provides for us in all things? When situations arise in our lives, why is our immediate response to blame God? Why to do exclaim, “why did You do this to me?” or “Why did you allow this to happen?”
An enemy did this. Why is it easier for us to believe that our loving God would respond or act in an unloving way as opposed to believe that the evil one who comes to steal and destroy would be responsible for our troubles (that is who he is), or that indeed we are responsible for them ourselves?
The scripture states, “But while he was sleeping, his enemy came and also sowed weeds among the wheat, and went on his way.” Matt 13:25 Unlike God, Satan can’t be all places at once, he sneaks around when we aren’t paying attention and sows weeds in the middle of our fields, then runs away to do more elsewhere. He sows discord, hatred, malice, envy, and jealousy. These sprout up with the good fruits of our labor, but often we don’t seem them right away, we don’t see them until it’s too late.
After the Sower responds that an enemy has sown the bad seed, the servants immediate response is, ‘how can we fix it?’ They jump to the conclusion that these shoots should be torn out. I like the way the Amplified Bible states the Sower’s response, “But he said, No, lest in gathering the wild wheat (weeds resembling wheat), you root up the [true] wheat along with it.” Matt 13:29
Wow! God’s grace here is so humbling. God hates sin, can’t bear to be near it, sent His son to bear it, but in this instance He allows it to sprout up, making sure that in the process of weeding, He doesn’t loose any of His harvest. He didn’t sow the weeds. He didn’t create the problems. However, he will always give us what we need to endure till the harvest.
“No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].” 1 Corinthians 10:13
Weeds will be sown in life. Our loving and gracious Father will never let them destroy us. He will always provide a way for us to endure and grow and flourish among the weeds and thorns of life. Satan may sow discord, Christ will not allow it to destroy us. In the end He will send His angels to reap the harvest, first taking the weeds and burning them, then bringing us into His barn.
God will not give up His people. He may allow weeds to shoot up and try us, but He will not prematurely weed us out along with our troubles. He will provide us all we need to endure until the proper time, then our troubles will cease and we will be with our Savior.
God is not the cause of our troubles, He is the solution to them.
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It occurred to me when I was thinking of my role in God’s family, how I still too often struggle with wanting to have my way. I get cranky when I don’t get the recognition I feel I deserve. I feel put upon when my advice is not heeded or listened too. Notice how both these sentences begin with ‘I’? The Apostle Paul was not being figurative when he said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
We are raised in this world to believe we come first. The truth we’re taught by God is shifted just enough to make it believable, and yet completely off the mark, “we are better able to help others if we help ourselves first.” Can you imagine any teaching more in conflict with what God calls us to?
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of the others.” (Philippians 2:1-4)
praying through these early morning thoughts, while baking cookies with my son, a scripture came to mind. John states that in order for God to become greater, he (John) must become less…yes pause to ponder. No, that is not actually what it says, but that is what is so often quoted. No surprise, this ‘tweaked’ version makes the statement based on John’s actions not God’s character.
John was being confronted by individuals questioning his relevance, and Jesus’s authority. They wanted to know why John was OK with Jesus taking more and more of his fame, his popularity, his business? “To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3: 27-30)
We don’t have to humble ourselves in order for God’s greatness to be realized, we humble ourselves because God is great. God is God, He is unchangeable, immutable and sovereign. None of that depends upon us, nor anything we chose to do. God is not somehow less great because we chose to humble ourselves and follow him or not. This contrary concept is born of a world where self comes before anything else. The misquoting of this scripture is yet one more symptom of the world we live in. Satan tweaking truth just enough to corrupt it completely.
Dear ones, lets face it head on. Our salvation is not for us alone, our salvation is made complete when we share it with the purpose of helping others to realize it. Our lives exit to serve God and others. Like Paul, we must die to ourselves daily. The single biggest obstacle to our relationship with God is ourselves.
I have not right to recognition for anything I do, because it is Christ in me that accomplishes everything. I have no right to be upset when people don’t listen to me, because it is the Holy Spirit working in and through my words to accomplish His purpose. Everything good in our lives comes from God. What John was referring to in this passage of scripture is that his role served an ordained purpose, Jesus is the one in whom all glory dwells. John’s role was complete, now all focus needed to be on the Son of Man. It was His time to fulfill His role, ordained from the beginning of time.
God is God and God is good. His plan is fulfilled and complete. He must become greater, (not that His greatness is changeable, but our limited view of Him must increase) as is His station and right, we must become less because the story is about Him not us.
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Your identity is in Christ.
That statement in and of its self is HUGE; however, we still fight the concept. Our work has become our identity. Our happiness is based on our work status and whether or not our job fulfills us. We want to find a partner who is as ‘dedicated to their work’ as we are. We talk about finding ‘work life balance’ not ‘life work balance’.
In a world where we are inundated day in and out on TV, social media, news, virtually every media outlet you can think of with finding and elevating our career satisfaction, it’s no wonder that so few do. After all, if hundreds of people can make millions of dollars teaching others how to be happy in their jobs, there must be a lot of unhappy employees out there. Work, job, career, vocation have taken the place of the only thing that can truly fulfill our lives…Christ.
No I am not saying that you shouldn’t work or that you shouldn’t want to be happy with the work you do. I’m saying that we should not be spending disproportionate amounts of time worrying, being anxious and crying over our jobs.
Recently I’ve had several individuals come to me with challenges that are rooted in their job satisfaction. They don’t feel appreciated, valued or perhaps challenged. They don’t feel they get paid enough or that the stress their job creates is wearing on them. I too have had some doubts recently about where my ‘career’ fits into my life. Then I read something that began to alter my perception of my job.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23
It doesn’t say work heartily for the things you like to do, or are fun to do, it says ‘whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men.’ It doesn’t matter if I’m at home folding socks (which I HATE doing) or weeding my garden (which I LOVE doing) I am called to work heartily as if I’m doing it for God Himself. If we begin, just begin to start seeing our jobs as something we do for the Lord, not something we do that takes the place of the Lord, our feelings might change.
God does not want you to hate your job. Yes, that is another truth. God has given you the work you have to do, regardless of what it is, He can bring amazing things forth from it.
“I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor – it is the gift of God” Ecclesiastes 3:12-13
The Lord blesses us with employment so that we have meaningful work, to provide for our families (2 Thess 3:10-13), to provide for those in need (Eph 4:28), and to live as part of the body of Christ (Eph 4:11-16) He does not provide us this work so that we become the work, or so that work becomes our life.
All the labor of man is for this mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied. Ecclesiastes 6:7
I have spent the better part of my adult life striving to be the best at whatever I do. Early on I discovered that I could receive all kinds of positive reinforcement, awards, accolades and advancement if I worked harder, smarter and longer than anyone else. I achieved great success in the world…at what cost? I had a fancy office on the Potomac, traveling 3-weeks a month away from my family. I would introduce myself to people I met using my title as if it were my last name. I could never just be Betsy Stuetze; no, my true identity was found in what I did, my job title, not who I was. For the record; I was lonely, sad, scared, and desperately empty, and none of this could be cured by my job, my office, or my expense account.
Over the past year, some of which I’ve been serving as a bi-vocational pastor, I have learned that when you keep your (secular) work in its proper place, it can be incredibly satisfying. Our work can be a blessing to our families, others and ourselves. Our work can glorify God. Our work can have far reaching impact on those around us, however, it is not supposed to define you.
“Let every detail in your lives – words, actions, whatever – be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” Colossians 3:17