Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gardened for God

“Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God” (Hebrews 6:7).

I have not had much experience with farming, but I know enough about gardening to see an interesting lesson for myself in this verse.

If the “land” of my life is going to produce crops, it must first be tilled. This involves using sharp tools, such as my pain and illnesses, to dig up and remove anything that would hinder my spiritual growth. I do not enjoy the process of being tilled and hoed, but God knows what needs to be removed, including the idol I sometimes make of good health. He then plants His seeds of perseverance, joy, patience, thanksgiving, faith, and others.

Once God plants these seeds, I face other challenges in order to grow. The rains do not always come in gentle showers but may also come in heavy floods, taking days to absorb. The sun does not always shine with comforting warmth but with an intense and scorching heat. Soft breezes can become fierce gales. Yet God controls the elements in my life just as He controls the elements in nature. He knows that by His power I am capable of producing these crops of fruit for Him, even in weakness and pain. If I allow whatever wind, sun, and rain He sends to bring growth, God will honor and bless that. Perhaps the blessing will not be in the form of my choosing at this moment, but He will bring it.

The Lord has called each of us to bear fruit that will last (John 15:16). The blessing that comes from being obedient to that calling, regardless of the obstacles we face, includes a peace and contentment that the world can neither give nor understand. He will sustain us through any conditions until He harvests us home.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, may I willingly allow You to be my life’s gardener. Use my weaknesses to produce fruit for You as I abide in You. Amen.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Fragrant Sacrifice of Praise through Pain

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him” (II Corinthians 2:14).

I recently re-read the New Testament story of Mary of Bethany (John 12:8), who annointed Jesus with expensive perfume before His death. I began thinking of how much I wanted to offer a gift to the Lord that would be as touchingly beautiful and fragrant as Mary’s was.

I thought of Mary’s gift. It was a sacrifice in several respects. The expense alone was worth a year’s salary. I imagine she had to give up some wants and perhaps even some needs to pay for it. Although our giving may not be of great monetary value, those of us with chronic health problems are continually giving up activities, hopes, desires, and dreams. We can give them up grudgingly and despairingly, or we can yield them willingly and gladly, even though our hearts are breaking in the process.

Mary also faced criticism and misunderstanding from those around her for her extravagant gift. We sometimes face the insensitivities and criticisms of those who do not understand our limitations. We do not need to feel guilty for what we cannot give. God knows our limitations. Praying for others, keeping positive attitudes, and having thankful hearts even as we are suffering are as honoring and significant to Him as the physical acts of service that healthier people may give.

When Mary poured out the fragrant perfume, the aroma spread to all those present. As we offer our willingness and perseverance to praise God through our pain, the fragrance of that sacrifice can reach others. They are able to see God’s faithfulness to His children through all circumstances as the mighty power of His Spirit works in us, bringing us comfort, peace, and strength. Pouring out our lives of suffering as a gift of love to the Lord may be as sacrificial to Him as the gift Mary gave.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, give me a willing heart to offer my sacrifice of praise through pain. May it become the fragrance of Christ to those around me. Amen.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

God Meant It for Good

"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good"
(Genesis 50:20 NASB).

I currently volunteer with an English for Speakers of Other Languages program. I am thankful that I am physically able to do this despite my health problems. Communication, however, has been quite challenging. I questioned why the Tower of Babel had to result in language barriers. Couldn’t God have used another way to deal with man’s pride and arrogance? Then I realized that because of this language barrier, I have the opportunity to show God’s love and minister to other people, just as missionaries all over the world are doing. Joseph spoke the words in the above verse to his brothers after his years of enslavement and subsequent rise to power in Egypt. His wisdom brought Egypt through a devastating famine. In both of these examples, we see God bringing good out of what appeared to be bad situations.

I applied this concept to my health struggles. Satan has meant them for evil, knowing that they negatively affect my faith, hope, and trust in God. Yet God can use these trials for my good if I will allow Him to do so. This quote expresses that fact: “There is no situation so chaotic that God cannot from that situation create something that is surpassingly good. He did it at creation. He did it at the cross. He is doing it today” (Bishop Glyn Moule). I can also say He is doing it in my life. I am not the same person physically that I was twenty-five years ago, but I am not the same person spiritually either. I have a dependency on God and a depth to my faith that I might not have experienced were it not for my physical problems.

When I become discouraged, believing that my sufferings are victories for the enemy, I need to remember that nothing is ever a lost cause with God. Perhaps He is even using these struggles to help others, just as He did with Joseph.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to embrace the truth that everything You allow in my life is for my good and for Your glory. Amen.