My sister, Sharon, had a dog called Chester. This was before she was married. I’m not sure what breed of dog he was – probably the usual Heinz variety. He was very lively. He didn’t walk – he bounced!
He was a stick chasing dog! However, he had a curious habit when it came to retrieving sticks. My sister would start off throwing a reasonable sized stick, and Chester would obligingly run and fetch it. If he saw a slightly bigger stick, he would pick that one up instead. He would not a pick up a very big stick – just something a little big bigger. When the “slightly bigger” stick was thrown, Chester would pick up another one that was slightly bigger than that. As the walk progressed, the sticks would get bigger and bigger, until Chester was hauling half a tree back to my sister!
The stick that Chester had started with had been abandoned in favour of something bigger each time. The stick he had been given, had been dropped in favour of something else.
In a study last night, I breezed past a verse taken from the parable of the Sower. Speaking of the good seed, it reads “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” The Message puts it this way, “But the seed in the good earth – these were the good hearts, who seize the word and hold on no matter what, sticking with it until there is a harvest.”
I stopped breezing and went back for a good look. I just knew that the good soil produced a harvest. Looking closely at the four conditions for producing the harvest was quite a revelation and quite convicting!
A noble and good heart
Time and time again, it is not about what you do on the outside that counts but what you are on the inside. Jesus told the Pharisees and the teachers of the law that it wasn’t what went into a man that made him corrupt but what came out of him. I ought to be more shocked at what comes out of me – in terms of what I say, or how I say it. Perhaps I ought to be more shocked with what doesn’t come out of me that should. The things that aren’t there, that can’t come out, because I didn’t put them there in the first place – that is something to consider.
Hearing or seizing the word
I often accuse my students of allowing things to go through one ear and out of the other. When I think of all the sermons I have listened to, all the books I have read, the quiet times I have spent – I wonder how much has gone through one ear and out of the other. I can remember buying a second hand book “The Bourne Identity”. I read the blurb on the back cover and decided it was my kind of book. Taking the book home to show Joe, he told me that we already have a copy and I have already read it! I argued my case – as I do, but then he disappeared upstairs for just a moment and returned holding the book we already had. My name was faithfully inscribed on the back of the cover!
To seize is very aggressive almost. You can’t passively seize something! I need to do a bit of seizing!
Retaining it, or holding on no matter what
Chester dropped the stick he was carrying because he saw a bigger one. Reading back through the story of the sower there are other kinds of soil. There’s the path. The seed doesn’t even get picked up at all. It is snatched away before it can get picked up. It is not seized. The second one is the thin soil over rock. The seed is seized “with joy”. When “the hot winds of testing blow”, that seed is probably dropped! There is nothing worse than carrying something, or holding onto something when things get hot. You want to shed things in the heat, not hold on to them. The other soil, the thistles and thorns – again the seed is seized, but later surrendered because something more appealing come along.
I think for me, the problem is not so much holding on to things, but knowing when it’s time to let go. It reminds me of the Ecclesiastes passage – a time for everything. There is a time to keep and a time to throw away.
Lying in bed this morning, God said to me that it was time to shed the winter coat. You know how some animals during winter grow a thicker coat to protect them from the bitter cold? I do something similar. I dislike winter – I miss the sunlight and I drop into a pessimistic mindset. I grab a whole load of God’s promises and I repeat them like mantras throughout the winter months, I suppose to sustain my faith. That way I don’t drop too far!
It is not winter anymore though – and I feel like I am still in hibernation. I am still repeating my mantras, instead of looking for fresh food! In the middle of Jesus’ story of the sower, he says, “You have been permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God.” I have a back stage pass, not to be tucked away in a pocket, but to be used. God has opened the door and invited me in to come and, not just look around, but to take whatever I need for life and godliness.
Persevering or sticking with it until there is a harvest
I once told the gospel outreach team I was on that one of my weaknesses was giving up half way through. You just needed to look at my knitting basket to see the truth of that. I get disheartened when I don’t see something visible. Way back in September when I first joined Weight Watchers, I wouldn’t say the pounds dropped off – but there was significant weight loss. Nine months down the line, the body is fighting me for every pound – and winning! I think if I hadn’t paid for six months in advance I just might give in! My husband – bless him – on giving me a cuddle, told me he had discovered bones! There is not longer a layer – a very thick layer – of padding around some parts of my anatomy. It is persistence that is winning the way.
Am I persisting in the things that God has given me to do? In some area – most definitely. But I am not up to scratch in others.
Martin Luther King in one of his speeches said, “I need some victories!” – me too, MLK!
I don’t mean to write a sermon here. Just some thoughts. I have encouraged myself tremendously.